Drinking báijiǔ (白酒) always brings us back to our first illicit taste of hard alcohol – a shock to the system, going down fiery and leaving a shudder-inducing aftertaste on the tongue. And just as many first-time drinkers are left wondering where exactly the attraction lies, the same thing is true for baijiu – at least, until the aftereffects start to kick in. Continue »
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Forget about Christmas. In Greece, Easter is the main event, one where food, naturally, plays a starring role. It is also very much a holiday celebrated in the countryside: most Athenians go back to their villages during the holiday to be with their extended family and enjoy the Easter-related culinary delights of their home region. Continue »
In Barcelona, Valentine’s Day is no big deal. On the other hand, on April 23, you had better remember to buy a flower for your sweetheart. La Diada de Sant Jordi is one of the most important holidays in Catalonia, honoring its patron Saint George. The Catalan tradition – inspired by the legend of Saint George’s chivalrous slaying of a dragon to save a princess – is for men to buy roses for women and, in return, for women to buy books for men. Continue »
Considering Athens’ position as a top tourist destination, it may come as a surprise that it is only recently that local museums have decided to up their game when it comes to their dining offerings. Worldwide, a good restaurant and café are now considered part of the whole museum-going experience, but it took a little time for Athenian museums to catch on to that, though catch on they have. Continue »
In the lead-up to the 2010 World Expo, the government tore down one of Shanghai’s most famous food streets, Wujiang Lu, so the city would appear more “civilized” in the eyes of businesspeople and tourists visiting from around the world. Sparkling cookie-cutter international brands replaced family-run hawker stalls, and Wujiang Lu’s fried bun purveyors and stinky tofu vendors were scattered across the city. Continue »
Editor’s note: This post wraps up “Spring (Food) Break 2013,” our weeklong look at the favorite foods of the spring season in each city Culinary Backstreets covers.
In Spain, preserving the rituals of Lent – historically a period of 40 days of prayer, penance and pious abstinence from eating meat that leads up to Easter – was up until the second half of the 20th century mostly the responsibility of priests. Nowadays, however, it is more often the country’s chefs who are shaping the observance of Lent, by both maintaining and updating its delicious culinary traditions, which are still very much a part of Spain’s contemporary food culture. Continue »
Humanity came from corn, or so says the Mayan creation story, the Popol Vuh. After creating the earth and animals, the story goes, the Maker decided to create beings in his likeness. After failing twice with dirt and wood, the Maker formed man and woman out of the “nourishing life” of ground corn. And so began Mexico’s deep relationship with one of the most widely used crops in human history, one that seems to be present in almost every aspect of Mexican cooking. Continue »
Once a mostly beer-free country, Spain – traditionally a land of wine drinkers – has recently started to develop a taste for the sudsy beverage, and Catalonians seem to have been the main pioneers behind this growing trend. The number of local craft breweries is increasing and so is the number of beer fans, who are also learning how to brew the drink at home. Put it all together and you have a young and adventurous market that is ready to experiment with tastes and textures to create stellar new beers with a distinct Mediterranean flavor. Continue »
In a 2003 TV commercial for Cola Turka, the actor Chevy Chase was seen speaking Turkish and then sporting a moustache, after taking just one sip of the intended challenger of Coke in this country. This sensational ad – which riffed on the old theme of American cultural imperialism through its number-one agent, Coca-Cola – was the first time that Turkish soft drinks caught our attention. Continue »
Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Nicolas Nicolaides, an Istanbul-born Greek who moved to Athens in 1988. Nicolaides is a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Athens whose research focuses on the Karamanlılar (Greeks from Central Anatolia).
Once a resort town on the outskirts of the Greek capital, Phaleron – only a few miles from downtown Athens – is now well incorporated into the city’s urban fabric. Continue »
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