As I may have previously mentioned, we try to have a taste of regional specialties when we travel. While on Easter Island several years ago, the proprietress of the tiny restaurant in which we found ourselves asked, “What would you like for a drink?” Sally responded, “Well, what do the people here usually have?” Mariel paused thoughtfully for a moment and then replied, “Coca-Cola.” Since we’d already sampled that elsewhere, we went with a Pisco Sour instead. For dinner I had something which was a local favorite: chorillana is a mélange of scrambled eggs, onions, chunks of what may have been beef, and cheese — all served on a bed of french fries.
However that may sound, I found it tastier than the kangaroo meat I managed to choke down in Australia. But you have to try the local fare, right? If you’re in Scotland, you have to try the Scotch. And if you’re in Pennsylvania or Delaware, I recommend you order the smallest portion of Scrapple you can get and split it with as many diners as possible.
In case you haven’t encountered Scrapple yet, you should be forewarned that it is made from pork scraps, in combination with corn meal, spices, and (I suspect) pillow ticking. That mush is allowed to solidify, and then is tossed into a frying pan. Mmm, just like grandma used to make, until her coronary thrombosis.
A more delicious way to clog your arteries can be found in New Orleans. Beignets (pronounced, more or less, “bain-yays”) are a staple of the diet in Louisiana — so much so that in 1986, they became the official state doughnut. They lack the holes we traditionally associate with doughnuts; New Orleans beignets are typically triangular or square pastries, deep-fried and smothered in powdered sugar. Inevitably the powdered sugar migrates, so the floor and tables at Café du Monde in the French Quarter appear to have a light dusting of snow.
Opinions are divided on ribollita, a Tuscan specialty. It can be quite good, or it can be… something for which you won’t want the recipe. The reason is that the recipe varies widely depending on what last night’s leftovers were. Basically, ribollita is a thick soup, originally devised by Italian peasants. They reheated yesterday’s minestrone, and embellished it by adding leftover bread, as well as beans and carrots and onions. The trick, I suppose, is getting the consistency right — I had some ribollita in Florence that could have been used to patch plaster. On another occasion, though, I had some that was quite good.
A waiter in Paris once informed me that there are four hundred varieties of cheese in France, and I’ve tried only a tiny fraction of them. Perhaps that’s a challenge I’ll pass along to you: go to France and experience them all. Some will undoubtedly taste like sweat socks (or Scrapple), but some will make you exclaim, “oh, yeah!” In the meantime, I welcome your comments about local delicacies you have tried — where were you, what did you eat, and how was it?