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Saparmurat Niyazov, once the dictator of Turkmenistan, was known for enacting laws based on his whims, such as demanding that the word for “bread” be changed to “Gurbansoltan,” the name of his late mother. Niyazov died in 2006, but his bread law is far from the only odd food- or drink-related statute to be passed. Here are 17 food and drink laws from around the world that will certainly make you raise an eyebrow or two.
17 Odd Food and Drink Laws from Around the World (Slideshow)
To write this list, we expanded on our previous list of Wacky and Weird Food and Drink Laws Around the World, which includes the law stating that you cannot chew gum in Singapore without a prescription — and as for gum in Thailand, litter at your own risk. The Internet is full of fun factoids, so we chose a few that we found some evidence for, either in official government documents or other publications.
You might be surprised to find that many of these wacky laws are not far from home. For example, in Wisconsin, they respect the quality of butter so much that the use of margarine is regulated and often discriminated against. In other words, expect a dirty look from a waiter if you ask for fake butter at a restaurant in the Badger State.
While many of these laws are ones enacted a few hundred years ago that have yet to be amended, others are results of the practices of our modern world. See the gum laws indicated above, and read more about them by clicking through our slideshow.
Additional reporting by Nikkitha Bakshani.
Be Careful of How You Crush Your Beer Cans in Australia
Photo Modified: Flickr / Joe Loong
Next time you’re out in Western Australia, remember that crushing a can of beer between your breasts, should you wish to do so, can land you in jail. No, this isn’t a joke. A bartender (or barmaid, as they say in Australia) was arrested, tried, and fined for flaunting her crushing talent.
Beer and Seek
Photo Modified: Flickr / Andrew Moore
Nigeria has a law that makes imported beer illegal. So does that mean it’s illegal to drink in Nigeria? Not exactly. It’s OK to purchase and drink local beer if you can find it, as long as you’re 21. This is not the case in some religious Northern states, where alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited, yet secret drinking dens thrive.
Martha Stewart published this video item, entitled “Martha Stewart’s Lemon Meringue Cupcakes | Martha Bakes Recipes” – below is their description. Inspired by Martha Stewart’s signature lemon meringue pie, these lemon meringue cupcakes taste just as good as they look! Delicate lemon cake is topped with tart lemon curd and lightly browned peaks of meringue … Read more Martha Stewart’s Lemon Meringue Cupcakes | Martha Bakes Recipes
10 Odd Cases of Food Poisoning
In 2011 a novel strain of Escherichia coli or E coli bacteria caused a serious outbreak of food borne illness focused mostly in northern Germany. It took months before authorities were able to track the source of the contamination to the seeds of fenugreek imported from Egypt and used in brussels sprout production. Almost 4,000 people became ill and 53 died. This is just one of the latest and most newsworthy cases of food poisoning to strike without warning, around the world. Here are ten more examples you may not have heard about.
Though it comprises just 0.2% of the United States population, the state of Alaska accounts for 50% of its food-related botulism poisoning. Most cases are related to the eating of native food dishes. Arctic explorers gave accounts of entire villages dying of botulism poisoning from eating contaminated meat. Prior to the 1960s when education programs taught Native Alaskans how to identify the early symptoms of botulism, so as to receive the antitoxin in time, the death rate for those who contracted the disease was more than 50%.
Most people today think of botulism as &ldquoBotox&rdquo injections used for cosmetic application for wrinkles. Droves of celebrities now have their faces permanently frozen by repeated injections of detoxified botulism. But botulism is an ancient and deadly food poison caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The bacteria creates a toxin in the body which can cause muscle paralysis, breathing difficulties, loss of sensation to the skin, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, paralysis, and death.
In July 2002 two people from a Yup&rsquoik village in western Alaska came across the remains of a beached beluga whale that appeared to have died in the spring. They cut the tail fluke into pieces, and put the pieces in sealable plastic bags. They then shared the whale meat with family and friends. Within days of eating the whale meat, a local physician reported three suspected cases of botulism poisoning. A total of eight Alaskan Natives were confirmed to have botulism and they were treated successfully with antitoxin, No one died.
In one of the strangest cases of recent food poisoning, 13 people in China were hospitalized after eating snake. However, it was not the snake that (directly) caused them to become ill. It was what the snakes had eaten. The snakes had eaten frogs, which had been fed clenbuterol. All 13 people had eaten snake on September 1 and 2, 2010 at a local restaurant and had developed symptoms such as flushing, headache, chest tightness, palpitations, trembling, etc. These are common symptoms of clenbuterol poisoning. The cooking of the snake was not enough to rid it of residual clenbuterol that had built up from ingesting the contaminated frogs. Clenbuterol is approved for use as a bronchodilator for asthma patients and is also used by athletes as a performance-enhancing drug. Though it is prohibited, Clenbuterol can be added to animal feeds to obtain leaner meat. The frogs had been &ldquojuiced&rdquo, fed to the snakes, and the snakes poisoned the humans.
&ldquoPruno&rdquo is prison lingo for &ldquohooch&rdquo or any kind of homebrew made from whatever prisoners can lay their hands on. Some fruit, water, and sugar and &ldquopruno!&rdquo, you have yourself a party! But sometimes you just can&rsquot get any fruit, so if not, potatoes will do just fine. As in the case of a group of 2006 Utah prison inmates who laid their hands on weeks old baked potatoes for their pruno batch. Unfortunately for the prisoners, Clostridium botulinum bacteria which causes botulism, likes to live on the roots of potatoes. Eight prisoners developed botulism when they all drank the same pruno batch made from the potatoes. All developed classic symptoms of botulism poisoning&mdashdifficulty swallowing, vomiting, double vision and muscle weakness. Several had to be put on ventilators. One inmate who was spared took one sip of the pruno and spit it out it was so foul tasting.
Just two cyanide-contaminated grapes caused a nation wide &ldquogrape scare&rdquo in the United States in 1989. On March 2, 1989 an individual called the US Embassy in Santiago Chile and warned that some fruit being exported to the United States and Japan had been poisoned with cyanide. The terrorist claimed this was done to draw attention to the plight of the poor in his country. US officials took the threat seriously. Only seven years before, the United States had been rocked by the Tylenol scare when cyanide contaminated Tylenol led to the deaths of several people and all of the Tylenol in the country was recalled. The US FDA launched the most intensive food safety investigation in its history to determine if there was a threat to the American food supply.
Seasonal export of fruit is the second largest export industry in Chile. Thousands of tons of fruit are shipped from Chile and to ports around the world. Some of the grapes that arrived at the port in Philadelphia, PA appeared suspicious and were tested. Two grapes were found to contain a small level of cyanide. Based on these tests, the US FDA warned the public not to eat grapes and banned the import of fruit from Chile. This caused a &ldquogrape scare&rdquo in which Americans refused to buy or eat grapes. However, the FDA ban only lasted a few days and fruit from Chile was allowed to return to American ports and grocery stores. But in that time it is estimated Chile lost upwards of $330 million in exports. This caused a second crisis&mdashthis time a diplomatic one, when the government of Chile accused the United States of over reacting or even, deliberately tampering with the grapes.
Food safety organizations and agencies around the world test for contamination and sometimes they find it before mass outbreaks of disease or illness occur. Once such case occurred in 2004 when the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) detected, during routine food testing, the contamination of egg custard with lead. The health authorities determined the lead was in a shipment of corn (maize) imported into the country and then made into about 100 tons of cornflour. The cornflour was thus contaminated with lead when it was used in the making of other products. Some of the contaminated cornflour was shipped to Australia and Fiji and New Zealand authorities notified these countries of the danger. Products made with the cornflour were recalled.
The NZFSA traced the lead contamination to specific ship, the MV Athena which, in 2003, had hauled lead concentrate between ports in Australia. It then went to China to pick up a shipment of maize and carried the maize in the same compartment as that used to hold the lead concentrate. Obviously, the ships crew never cleaned the compartment, thus the maize became cross contaminated with lead.
Polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), is an endocrine disruptor and suspected of being a human carcinogen. PBB&rsquos are one of just six substances&mdashalong with lead and mercury&mdashbanned by the European Union&rsquos Restriction of Hazardous Substances. They were also behind one of the largest agricultural disasters in the history of the United States. In 1973 this manmade chemical, used as a fire-retardant, was mistakenly put into cattle feed, sold, and fed to animals across the state of Michigan. Before the mistake was discovered thousands of cattle and other animals would be destroyed, farmers would march on the state capital and dump the carcasses of their dead cows on the capital steps, and thousands of people would eat the PBB-contaminated milk and meat.
It all began at a company called Michigan Chemical which made both the PBB (sold as a fire retardant under the trade name FireMaster), and magnesium oxide, a cattle feed supplement under the trade name NutriMaster (a great example of non-confusing product naming). Somehow by mistake, 10-20 of the fifty-pound bags of PBB made it to the Michigan Farm Bureau Services operation where it was added to the cattle feed instead of the NutriMaster. The PBB-contaminated feed went to farmers all around the state of Michigan. Quickly, after being fed the PBB-contaminated feed, the cows began to grow weak and their hides grew thick &ldquolike an elephant&rdquo. Veterinarians were puzzled and had no idea what was causing the outbreak of a mysterious disease in cattle all over the state. After nine months, the source of the contamination was identified, but not before 500 farms were quarantined and not allowed to sell milk and thousands of cows were destroyed along with 1.5 million chickens and thousands of pigs, sheep and rabbits.
Today, people who ate the contaminated food feel it is probably the source of elevated cancer rates they feel are taking place all around the state. All across the state, people who live near pits where the contaminated animals were buried fear their water is contaminated with the PBB leaching out of the pits.
In the days before the widespread use of air-conditioning in homes, summer months were often times too hot for cooking of meals. On July 2, 1971, a couple in Westchester County, New York decided it was too hot so they went for a meal of Bon Vivant brand vichyssoise soup. Vichyssoise soup is often served cold and the couple ate the soup right out of the can. It tasted bad so they did not finish the soup, but it was already too late. The soup was contaminated with botulism. The man was dead within a day and the wife poisoned and paralyzed by the botulism toxin. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public warning and recalled all cans of the Bon Vivant vichyssoise soup, 5 more cans were found to contain the botulinum toxin. The FDA shut down the Bon Vivant plant and recalled all of their products. Because Bon Vivant also made generic &ldquostore brands&rdquo of soup as well as their own brand name products, people not only stopped buying Bon Vivant soup, they stopped buying any kind of soup at all. A full &ldquosoup-panic&rdquo was underway in the US. The incident destroyed consumer confidence in Bon Vivant and it soon went into bankruptcy.
One of the largest public health crises and mass food poisoning events occurred in 1971 when seed grain, meant to be planted and used as seeds, was instead used as food. The seed grain had been treated with a fungicide, highly toxic methyl mercury.
The seed grain was shipped to Iraq late in the growing season of 1971 from suppliers in Mexico and the USA. The mercury-treated seed was dyed red as a warming not to eat it, but the Iraqi&rsquos did not know this. In addition, the red dye would wash off, but not the mercury. The bags containing the seeds were labeled in Spanish and English the rural inhabitants of Iraq could not read. The Iraqi&rsquos either did not understand or chose to ignore the skull and crossbones warnings on the bags. The confusion led some to believe it was food, and not seed.
Those who ate the seed suffered muscle paralysis, numbness, loss of vision, and other symptoms typical of mercury poisoning. People were exposed to the mercury when they used the seed in making bread, when they ground the seed and breathed in the dust, and when they fed the seed to animals and then ate the animals. People began to fall ill and die in late 1971 and into 1972. All total it is estimated that at least 650 died from eating or being exposed to the mercury-contaminated seed, but some believe the true number could be ten times that. An estimated 10,000 people suffered permanent brain damage from the mercury.
The story of how more than 200 people in 1858 Bradford England became poisoned by arsenic (20 would die) is an amazing one but which illustrates the need to protect the public with laws to regulate and punish the adulteration of food and drink.
William Hardaker better known as &ldquoHumbug Billy&rdquo sold sweets at the Green Market in Bradford. He purchased his sweets from Joseph Neal who made them himself. The sweets or &ldquolozenges&rdquo were peppermint &ldquohumbugs&rdquo which were supposed to be made using peppermint oil, sugar, and gum. However, to save money, Neal and others who made sweets at that time would insert instead an inert material they called &ldquodaft&rdquo instead of the sugar. Daft could be almost anything, plaster of Paris, limestone, and all manner of appetizing replacements.
For this batch of lozenges, Neal sent a lodger by the name of James Archer to his druggist, a man by the name of Charles Hodgson, to collect his &ldquodaft&rdquo. Archer, not being familiar with the finer points of daft collection, by chance came to the druggist on a day when Mr. Hodgson was to ill to wait on him. So instead of the knowledgeable daft man&mdashHodgson, Archer met a daft-challenged replacement, a Mr. William Goddard. Unsure of where to locate the daft in the store, Goodard asked Hodgson who said it could be found in a cask in the corner of the store. Goddard found the cask and sold Archer 12 pounds of what he though was &ldquodaft&rdquo but what was in fact arsenic trioxide.
Archer returned to Neal with the arsenic trioxide who gave it to his experienced sweet maker James Appleton. Appleton mixed 12 pounds of arsenic trioxide with 40 pounds of sugar and made the lozenges. He thought the finished product looked odd and so did Humbug Billy who demanded a reduced price. Humbug Billy soon became ill himself from eating the arsenic lozenges, but not before he sold enough of them to make over 200 people sick and kill 20 of them. Authorities eventually traced the line of the dead and sick back to Humbug Billy and his sweet stand. After testing, the lozenges were found to have between 0.7 and 1 gram of arsenic (a half a gram is lethal).
The event contributed to the passage of the Pharmacy Act 1868 in the United Kingdom and legislation regulating the adulteration of foodstuffs.
What happened in Pont Saint-Esprit France on August 16, 1951? Over sixty years later, we still do not know the truth. What is known is that on that day over 250 residents of this small French village were overcome with hallucinations and madness, which resulted in 7 deaths and 50 people being sent to asylums. Authorities claimed it was a mass-poisoning event caused by a food borne illness, probably ergot poisoning of rye bread. Ergot is a type of psychedelic fungus (Claviceps purpurea) that can naturally occur in rye. Once eaten, the alkaloids produced by the fungus can cause hallucinogenic effects.
There is no doubt the people were experiencing severe hallucinations. Victims recalled feeling as though &ldquoserpents were coiling up my arms&rdquo, that &ldquothey were on fire&rdquo, and that they were &ldquoshrinking&rdquo. Some victims threw themselves out windows, others injured themselves by trying to claw and cut out insects they believed were inside their bodies. People were put into straightjackets and chained to beds.
The ergot poisoning explanation is one of several possible causes of this mass hallucinogenic event including exposure to mercury, nitrogen trichloride, or other fungi. However the explanation that may make the most sense is the town people were deliberately dosed with a hallucinogenic substance&mdashLSD. In his fantastic book on the history of the secret LSD program operated by the CIA called &ldquoA Terrible Mistake&rdquo, author Hank Albarelli puts forth a convincing series of arguments, backed by declassified documents, suggesting the CIA was behind the Pont-Saint-Esprit event.
A CIA scientist named Frank Olson traveled to this little town not long before the event happened. Olson was one of the CIA scientists involved in &ldquoMKULTRA&rdquo, the secret LSD experiments conducted by CIA operatives and doctors, on unsuspecting victims. Some of the evidence Albarelli found included a document referencing Olson and Pont-Saint-Esprit which was ordered to be &ldquoburied&rdquo by David Belin. Belin was the executive director of the US government commission investigating CIA misdeeds in 1975. Another declassified report was of an interview with a representative of the Sandoz Chemical Company in Switzerland. In 1951, the Sandoz pharmaceutical plant was not only located a few hundred miles from Pont-Saint-Esprit, it was also the only laboratory in the world, at that time, manufacturing LSD. The Sandoz representative admitted, &ldquoThe Pont-Saint-Esprit &lsquosecret&rsquo is that it was not the bread at all&hellip It was not grain ergot.&rdquo
To Evade Pre-Prohibition Drinking Laws, New Yorkers Created the World’s Worst Sandwich
The Wishbones of McSorley's Old Ale House
New York State
Near the end of the 19th century, New Yorkers out for a drink partook in one of the more unusual rituals in the annals of hospitality. When they ordered an ale or whisky, the waiter or bartender would bring it out with a sandwich. Generally speaking, the sandwich was not edible. It was “an old desiccated ruin of dust-laden bread and mummified ham or cheese,” wrote the playwright Eugene O’Neill. Other times it was made of rubber. Bar staff would commonly take the sandwich back seconds after it had arrived, pair it with the next beverage order, and whisk it over to another patron’s table. Some sandwiches were kept in circulation for a week or more.
Bar owners insisted on this bizarre charade to avoid breaking the law—specifically, the excise law of 1896, which restricted how and when drinks could be served in New York State. The so-called Raines Law was a combination of good intentions, unstated prejudices, and unforeseen consequences, among them the comically unsavory Raines sandwich.
The new law did not come out of nowhere. Republican reformers, many of them based far upstate in Albany, had been trying for years to curb public drunkenness. They were also frustrated about New York City’s lax enforcement of so-called Sabbath laws, which included a ban on Sunday boozing. New York Republicans spoke for a constituency largely comprised of rural and small-town churchgoers. But the party had also gained a foothold in Democratic New York City, where a 37-year-old firebrand named Theodore Roosevelt had been pushing a law-and-order agenda as president of the city’s newly organized police commission. Roosevelt, a supporter of the Raines Law, predicted that it would “solve whatever remained of the problem of Sunday closing.”
In his crackdown on vice in New York, Theodore Roosevelt supported the Raines Law. MPI/Getty Images
New York City at the time was home to some 8,000 saloons. The seediest among them were “dimly lit, foul-smelling, rickety-chaired, stale-beer dives” that catered to “vagrants, shipless sailors, incompetent thieves, [and] aging streetwalkers,” Richard Zacks writes in Island of Vice, his book-length account of Roosevelt’s reform campaign.
The 1896 Raines Law was designed to put dreary watering holes like these out of business. It raised the cost of an annual liquor license to $800, three times what it had cost before and a tenfold increase for beer-only taverns. It stipulated that saloons could not open within 200 feet of a school or church, and raised the drinking age from 16 to 18. In addition, it banned one of the late 19th-century saloon’s most potent enticements: the free lunch. At McSorley’s, for example, cheese, soda bread, and raw onions were on the house. (The 160-year-old bar still sells a tongue-in-cheek version of this today.) Most controversial of all was the law’s renewed assault on Sunday drinking. Its author, Finger Lakes region senator John W. Raines, eliminated the “golden hour” grace period that followed the stroke of midnight on Saturday. His law also forced saloon owners to keep their curtains open on Sunday, making it considerably harder for patrolmen to turn a blind eye.
The Raines Law took effect on April 1, 1896. Progressives scored its first weekend in action a bone-dry success. Bars closed Saturday at midnight the liquor flow on Sunday slowed to a trickle. RAINES MAKES A THIRST, a New York World headline quipped. But while the teetotalers celebrated over lemonade, plenty of booze-deprived New Yorkers were fuming.
It’s no longer free, but McSorley’s still serves its famed meal of cheese, crackers, and raw onion. endymion120/CC BY 2.0
Behind this lifestyle tug-of-war lay a cultural conflict of national proportions. Those in favor of the Sunday ban, generally middle-class and Protestant, saw it as a cornerstone of social improvement. For those against, including the city’s tide of German and Irish immigrants, it was an act of repression—an especially spiteful one because it limited how the average laborer could enjoy himself on his one day off. The Sunday ban was not popular, to say the least, among the city’s Jews, who’d already observed their Sabbath the day before.
Opponents pointed out that existing Sabbath drinking laws were hypocritical anyway. An explicit loophole had been written into the law itself: it allowed lodging houses with ten rooms or more to serve guests drinks with meals seven days a week. Not incidentally, wealthy New Yorkers tended to dine out at the city’s ritzy hotel restaurants on Sundays, the usual day off for live-in servants.
Intentionally or not, the Raines Law left wiggle room for the rich. But a loophole was a loophole, and Sunday was many a proprietor’s most profitable day of business. By the following weekend, a vanguard of downtown saloon-owners were gleefully testing the law’s limits. A suspicious number of private “clubs” were founded that April, and saloons started handing out membership cards to their regulars. Meanwhile, proprietors converted basements and attic spaces into “rooms,” cut hasty deals with neighboring lodging-houses, and threw tablecloths over pool tables. They also started dishing up the easiest, cheapest, most reusable meal they could get away with: the Raines sandwich.
An idyllic scene of a New York bar, pre-Raines law. Public Domain
Law enforcement declared itself satisfied. “I would not say that a cracker is a complete meal in itself, but a sandwich is,” an assistant D.A. in Brooklyn told an assembly of police captains as the first Raines hotels sprouted up. Remarkably, the courts upheld these definitions of “meal” and “guest.” Reformers were understandably flabbergasted. The law itself was sound, Raines complained. It was the police and the courts that had made it laughable. He and his progressive allies had seriously underestimated just how far New Yorkers would go for a drink.
The court decisions were a turning point. With summer approaching, “Raines hotels” sprang up everywhere. By the next year’s election season, there were more than 1,500 of them in New York. Brooklyn, still a separate municipality at this point, went from 13 registered hotels to 800 in six months, and its tally of social clubs grew tenfold.
For the libertines of New York City, Zacks writes, the second half of 1896 was “too good to be true, a drunken daydream.” The hotel carve-out allowed drinks to flow at all hours. There was no obligatory last call, and the city’s liveliest drinking spots now offered cheap beds mere steps away. For Raines and the law’s other architects, this was the most alarming unintended consequence: their efforts to make New Yorkers virtuous had caused a spike in casual sex and prostitution.
On this 1899 map of Broadway, Raines hotels are marked with an “R.” Public Domain
The state government ratified a set of clarifying amendments a year later. The free-for-all atmosphere faded, albeit slowly. Still, for years following the passage of the Raines Law, a general state of confusion and case-by-case dealings reigned. Following a wave of enforcement in 1902, hotel proprietors arrived at a creative solution: charging a premium for the obligatory sandwich. The Waldorf-Astoria went the classy route, offering unwanted meat patties instead, but the result was the same: a 50- or 100-percent markup to each drink ordered. The police seem to have appreciated the clarity of this arrangement. As long as Sunday drinking remained “an expensive luxury,” the Times suggested, its excesses would be tolerated by the average upstanding citizen. And for many a Sunday drinker, even some of the poorer ones, the inflated tab was preferable to risking arrest in an illicit backroom. Raines himself saw this as “the only compromise that is possible in New York.”
The Raines Law tussle continued well into the 20th century. The New York Supreme Court ruled in 1907 that a Sunday meal must be ordered and delivered in “good faith” for the accompanying drinks to be legal. Under pressure, brewers started refusing to supply Raines hotels. A new state excise law in 1917 contained a minimum-room requirement that effectively prevented the opening of new ones.
But the Raines Law debacle was merely a prelude for what was to come. New York reformers had long allied themselves with the Anti-Saloon League, a civilian organization with Midwestern origins that would morph into one of the most powerful pressure groups in U.S. history. By 1919, the efforts of the ASL made nationwide Prohibition the law of the land, putting an end to such quaint half-measures as the Raines sandwich and replacing the Raines hotel with the speakeasy.
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Bananas Are Berries, But Strawberries Aren't!
I bet that you didn't know this one. This fact tends to only be known by botanists who apparently get their kicks from misleading the public. Bananas, cucumbers, kiwis are all classed as berries. Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are not. And now you will question everything you thought you knew.
MY LIFE IS A LIE! but then again. Whoever says a tomato is a fruit is a part of this debauchery
From the descriptions, can you name the world food?
1. Found in the USA, firm browned crust and a soft, crumbly interior. Made with baking powder or soda rather than yeast?
2. Middle Eastern eggs baked into tomatoes for breakfast?
3. South American raw fish marinated in citrus juice?
4. American clam soup with a base of cream?
5. American grilled sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut?
6. Indian bread cooked in a Tandoor and yeast leavened?
7. Vietnamese sandwich with pork, veg and liver pate?
8. American Graham crackers with chocolate and marshmallow?
9. Korean clay pot bowl with rice, egg and veg?
10. Caribbean sea escargot?
You shouldn’t litter in any country and it isn’t uncommon for littering to be against the law, but in Singapore, you’ll find yourself paying a $1,000 fine for it.
In Singapore, vandalism can get you both arrested and caned. Singapore’s vandalism laws first shocked the media in 1994, after an American teenager received a caning as punishment for destroying cars and public property. Earlier this year, two men visiting the country also faced prison time and caning for painting graffiti on a public train.
15 Delicious International Holiday Food Traditions
Hanukkah (or Chanukah, also referred to as the "Festival of Lights") is a Jewish holiday that celebrates a miracle documented in the Bible's Old Testament &mdash one night's worth of oil lasted for eight nights. Because of this, many of the foods traditionally eaten during Hanukkah are fried in oil, like the ever-present potato latke, a potato cake fried until golden and crispy. In Israel, latkes are one of many food traditions &mdash fried jelly doughnuts and other rich treats are also served &mdash but potato latkes, sometimes served with applesauce or a similarly sweet topping, are one of the most beloved.
Sufganiyot &mdash fried, jelly-filled doughnuts &mdash are a popular Hanukkah treat in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world. Different countries may call desserts like these by different names (in Russia, ponchik in Poland, pączki), but wherever they're found, sufganiyot are, like many other foods eaten during the Festival of Lights, deep fried in oil. They are a traditional and thoroughly indulgent holiday dessert.
Mince pies have been enjoyed in England at Christmastime since the 13th century, according to BBC America. Fighters returning from the Crusades brought back new and exotic spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon, and British cooks used them in a variety of dishes, including pies filled with mincemeat and dried fruits. Their size and the type of fillings used have changed somewhat over time, but for many centuries now, mince pies have been a beloved Christmas treat. If you're looking to recreate a traditional English Christmas feast, or just want to try your hand at something new, test out our recipe.
Christmas in Sicily and Southern Italy means the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Traditionally, Roman Catholics in the region fast on Christmas Eve, so a feast of seven (or even more) seafood dishes at the end of the day is a true celebration of the area's bounty. On the eves of special holidays, as well as on Fridays and during Lent, many observant Catholics refrain from eating meat or dairy, so these seafood dishes are usually fried or cooked in oil rather than butter. Baccalà, or salted cod fish, fried smelt, and calamari are all popular choices, but the healthier shrimp and cod dishes below, each bursting with classic Italian flavors, would fit in at any holiday table.
The Bûche de Noël, or branch of Christmas, is the French version of a Yule Log. A rich cake filled and rolled to resemble a log, it is often decorated with tiny merinque "mushrooms" or other edible treats made to look like items found on the forest floor. In France, it is traditionally served after the Christmas Eve midnight mass. One of the most common and classic flavors is chestnut, although today you can find them in many flavors at bakeries around France and around the world.
Christmas is a major affair in Greece, and there are many ways in which people celebrate. Many religious Greeks fast before Christmas. When feast day finally arrives, it's a time to go all out. One traditional sweet that still has a place at festive holiday tables is melomakarona, a sweet, honey-soaked cookie topped with ground walnuts and eaten on Christmas Day after breaking fast. If you don't have the time or skill to prepare traditional melomakarona, try our simpler recipe below, which uses the same beloved flavors.
One of several popular holiday desserts in Poland, babka, a kind of sweet bread, is ubiquitous during the Christmas season. Other treats, like cookies made with honey and poppy seeds, are also common, but bread is essential to the Christmas meal in Poland. Traditionally this festive meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, starting with breaking bread after a long day of fasting. Many Polish families set an extra place for a lone wanderer who might happen to pass through during this special dinner, which is usually meatless and composed of other staples like beet soup, boiled potatoes, and herring with sour cream.
On December 13, the official start of the Christmas season in many Nordic countries, citizens of Sweden and other Scandinavian nations celebrate St. Lucia's Day. Tradition dictates that the eldest daughter dress in a white gown tied with a red sash and a crown of lit candles, then wake her parents with hot coffee and a tray of saffron buns, like those pictured here. Swedes also elect a national Lucia every year, and many towns and villages across the country choose a Lucia to represent them as well. To give your holiday some true Swedish flavor, try our recipe for saffron buns this season.
In Ukraine, adherents of the Ukrainian Orthodox church must stick to a strict diet during the Christmas holiday that excludes many items indulged in around the world, like those containing fat, sugar, and meat. Holiday dinner must adhere to those guidelines, including special foods like kutya (pictured), which is sweetened with honey and includes ingredients like wheat, poppy seeds, and nuts. The dish cannot be enjoyed until the first star appears in the night sky. To put a Ukranian-inspired twist on your holiday meal, try our recipe for wheat berries below, adding your favorite combination of natural sweeteners, nuts, and dried or fresh fruits.
Brazil is a largely Catholic nation, but its inhabitants come from many different countries and cultures. Brazil is a true melting pot, and its cuisine reflects that. Though Brazil produces a large percentage of the world's beef, turkey is often the main course served on Christmas. Yet in such a huge nation there are bound to be regional differences, and in certain places fish or pork may be more prevalent. Colored rice is a popular side dish, no matter where in the country you are, and Brazil nuts are also usually served. Dessert is all over the map &mdash everything from Italian panettone to Portuguese rabanada (fried bread sprinkled with sugar) could make an appearance on the holiday table.
In Peru, spiced hot chocolate is a Christmas tradition. In December, churches around the country take donations to make massive quantities of it, as well as panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread. The bread and hot, sweet, spicy drink are served to the less fortunate in the weeks leading up to Christmas. On December 24, also called Noche Beuna, Peruvians have their big holiday meal, often featuring tamales or a roast turkey (as in Brazil), and many families celebrate with a champagne toast.
In the Philippines, a whole roasted pig is often the centerpiece of a fantastically elaborate Christmas meal. The Philippines are known around the world for Christmas festivities that are pretty much unmatched anywhere else. The season officially starts on December 16, when daily dawn masses begin, continuing through Christmas Day. The big holiday meal, served after mass on Christmas Eve, is full of delectable choices. Aside from a main pork dish, the meal often includes other Filippino favorites, like oxtail stew, queso de bolo (a kind of cheese), and flan.
In Italy, New Year's Eve is known as "La Festa di San Silvestro," or St. Sylvester's Feast. The celebration centers around a massive meal with family and friends, and one of the traditional items at the table is a big pot of lentils. Legumes are thought to symbolize money and prosperity, so Italians eat lots of them in hopes of bringing themselves wealth and success in the coming year. For an Italian twist on your New Year's Eve celebration, cook up a big pot of our lentil stew (below) on December 31.
Kimchi is a popular food in Korea at any time of year, but it's impossible to image a holiday feast without it. The New Year, or Soll, is also one of the biggest times of celebration in Korea, as it is in countries across Asia that follow the Chinese calendar. Kimchi is usually made with cabbage, but one of these more modern takes, made with cucumbers or turnips, could also be a fun way to mix a bit of the old with the new &mdash the perfect theme for a New Year's celebration. For a fully festive Korean meal, serve it with rice cake soup (dduk gook) and an array of vegetable sides.
One of the most important foods consumed during New Year's (or Tết) celebrations in Vietnam, bahn chung is a large rice cake with layers of pork, mung bean, and other ingredients encased in a thick layer of soft, sticky rice. The whole packet is usually wrapped in the leaves of a giant type of bamboo called lá dong, though banana leaves might also work well. Bahn chung are square in shape to represent the earth. Bánh dày is a similar type of rice cake eaten during the holidays, but it is round in shape to represent the sky. Often you'll find them served at New Year's celebrations with assorted pickled vegetables, like daikon or shallots. For a different take on a traditional food, try our Crisp Sushi-Rice Cakes as a side or an appetizer in your New Year's meal.
All 48 European Countries, Ranked by Food and Drink
As most of our stories do, this began as an argument. Liz was espousing the virtues of Georgian food, which I had summarily dismissed, and then, during the following geeky discussion of random countries’ cuisines, we began to wonder how each part of Europe stacked up against the others.
And so we dug into the countries (between us, we’ve visited 39 of 48 on the list) and came up with rules: the biggest factor had to be the indigenous cuisine (in other words, Ireland doesn’t get extra credit just because Dublin has a spectacular Indian restaurant), the food and drink culture within its cities and towns, and the variety that exists within each place. Sure, some countries may cook up one thing extraordinarily well, but what else can they do? As my Grandfather used to say, just because you can juggle doesn’t mean you can dance. Gastronomically speaking, we want the places that can juggle AND dance. And maybe cook too.
As with anything that exists on the Internet, we will have missed some dishes or failed to point out a key component in blood soup or made horrible Hungary puns. And we apologize and trust you will keep us honest in the comments. But until then, strap in, because you are about to go on a whirlwind culinary tour. Maybe try and avoid the scurvy grass.
[Editor’s note: These are the countries in Europe, according to the CIA World Factbook.]
48. Vatican City
The one restaurant in Vatican City quickly puts an end to the rumor that you can only eat at Communion, and Rome is sitting there, right outside, waiting with fresh cacio e pepe, but, still… the country has one restaurant. Give Pope Francis some options!
47. Faroe Islands
If you get tired of eating skerpikjøt, they have something called scurvy grass, “whose sour leaves can compensate for the lack of fresh vegetables.”
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
While they do have Njeguška pršuta, which is essentially their version of prosciutto, and is delicious, they’re also big fans of not-so-delicious clear fish soups and smoked bleak, which sounds like a depressing murder mystery, but is actually a fish in the carp family. UNLESS THAT’S JUST WHAT THE REAL MURDERERS WANT YOU TO THINK!
The food here is good! French and Spanish cuisine. Problem is — it’s all imported, and not their own original food, so… you don’t get credit for that.
If you could eat untaxed income, Monaco would be a lot higher on this list. But you can’t, so Monaco is not very high on this list.
I went to this country in 2007 to get the fancy fake passport stamp they make available. And then I ate Thai food. And while Liechtenstein is lovely, mostly all of their food — save hafalaaban (soup with ham and cornmeal dumplings!) — comes from other countries, and so we must invoke a partial Andorra clause.
We really wanted to put Ukraine higher, because we’re full of compassion what with all of the problems with Russia, but all that jellied meat and fermented rye bread kvass and sour milk drinking… we just can’t. I’m sorry.
In the food and drinks section of BeinKosovo.com , under traditional food, there is nothing. Same for drinks. On another site, they point out that people in Kosovo now eat French toast. But they seem to have burek, flija, and all sorts of spinach pies, and Šarski cheese is relatively famous, so we’ll just assume that the web admin for BeinKosovo just got lazy updating the site.
The land of frozen water’s cuisine was made famous by an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations , where he has a very hard time eating that fermented shark. But that’s not all those Icelanders have to dine on! Feast your eyes and mouth on minke whale or air-dried fish & butter… or, um, puffin. And then wash it all down with their unsweetened schnapps beverage Brennivin, Einstök pale ale in cool bottles, and late-night dogs from that one famous hot dog stand often frequented by Americans in bachelor parties.
As they say, “come for the Baltic dwarf herring, stay for the smoked eel and sprats.”
First off, they do make their own wine and have several breweries, so golf-clap for that. But no golf-claps for basically just eating German, French, and Belgian foods, even if they are delicious.
Off the Southern tip of Italy, somewhat close to Tunisia, you would think the flavors of the Mediterranean would push this small island nation up, at least past most of the Eastern European guys. But, for whatever reason, Malta insists on making things like fish pie and filling pastries with mushy peas.
Quick, try and find Moldova on a map! Did you say right between Southwestern Ukraine and Romania. Man, you’re good, so come get your prize: jellied chicken. Or if you don’t want that, maybe you’ll go for mămăligă, essentially the Moldovan polenta, or lots of goat cheese or delicious chicken noodle soup (zeamă de găină). We prefer that to their other favorite: ciorba de burta, aka beef tripe sour cream soup.
You’re getting a lot of the traditional Eastern European favorites here: rye breads, potato dumplings, cold beet soup, BLOOD SOUP, plus so many things made from potatoes and mushrooms, and a somewhat strange fascination with sour things — sour cream butter, sour cheese, etc. Points are awarded, though, for their willingness to make all sorts of buns, pancakes, and smoked meats. And for creating NBA basketball players Arvydas Sabonis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis.
I wish I could just say Romanians eat blood because Dracula is totally real and absolutely from here IT EVEN SAYS IT ON THEIR WEBSITE. But they actually have a culinary mish-mash of Turkish, Saxon, and Hungarian influences combined with a very healthy agro culture — thanks in no small part to the fact that Romania is still developing — meaning paprika and sausages and local cheeses, like the feta-esque urdă. Also, so many sour soups. So many. Everything gets washed down with plum brandy and wine — Romania locks in as the 10th largest wine producer in the world — and, also, maybe blood.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
Yes, we know Nordic food is so hot right now. But I’m sorry, and maybe I’m not very popular or cool, but I just don’t love dried lamb’s ribs steamed over birch branches or lutefisk or stockfish or eating a lamb’s head with the eyeballs too. I’m also not a giant fan of eating sweet brown cheese for breakfast or drinking a lot of aquavit. But before I’m fully denied legal entry into the land of amazing trolls and very comfortable sweaters, I do dig the fact that they LOVE pølse, aka hot dogs (even though they were introduced to them by the Danes), and think it’s quite charming that they sometimes put them in flat potato bread called lompe, which essentially makes it look like everyone is eating hot dogs in tortillas.
Despite having to constantly tell people, “No, no, you’re thinking of Slovakia,” the Slovenians get points for having three wine regions, making delicious local prosciutto (kraški pršut), and putting all sorts of fillings in struklji, or dough rounds. And if you go to Lake Bled, everyone will FREAK OUT if you don’t try the Bled cream cake at Hotel Park, aka kremna rezina, which is a vanilla custard cream cake that actually sounds quite delicious.
The rest of the world should go ahead and adopt Slovakia’s national dish. Bryndzové halušky is made of potato dumplings and bacon and a soft, salty cheese which, yes, just sounds like an even better version of poutine. If Slovaks preferred their hriatô, which is made of damn bacon, bacon fat, honey, and booze, to their true love of sour milk, then we’d love this place even more.
The country’s tourism website introduces its gastronomy game with a story about how, during the Serbian Empire in the 1300s, every meal in the palace was eaten with pure-gold utensils. Which is weird, but maybe spit-roasted game and strudels and cornmeal-potato-feta polenta just tastes better with a hint of gold mixed in. We wouldn’t know. We’re not that fancy. We DO like specialty beef prosciutto though.
Belarus boasts the American lumberjack diet for Europe: all the meat and potatoes. Which is great, but there’s only so many potato dishes (and, truly, they have a lot!) and sausages and pork stews you can get into before you feel like you’re on a Hungry-Man diet.
My only time in Latvia involved wandering around bogs in Kemeri National Park, watching crazy hunter-types look for red deer, boar, and wolves. I was very nervous, but the meal that night of smoked boar was delicious. They also had some pretty incredible honey cakes, pumpkin pancakes, and many shots of Riga Black Balsam, which was a really bitter herbal liqueur that you eventually grow to love. So yes, my specific trip colors my opinion of a country that is also deep into cabbage soup, but it’s certainly enough to push them into the top 30.
Lingonberry jam is EVERYWHERE. I think they might actually stamp it into your passport when you get to Finland. They’ve also got weird stuff like kalakukko (fish pie baked in a rye bread), nakkikastike (hot dog sauce, using onions and frankfurters over boiled potatoes), so many porridges, and leipäjuusto, or bread cheese. It feels a little bit like a more spartan form of Swedish cuisine, just covered in lingonberries.
Albania’s another country with really excellent Mediterranean food: stuffed eggplant, fig preserves, yogurt, sauteed lamb, delicious, salty cheese, buckets of olives, fresh-caught fish. Sound like Greece? Or Turkey? Yep, that’s the issue. But still, it’s great.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
In lieu of making hilariously subtle vodka and caviar jokes, we implore you to read our dear friend Andy Kryza’s piece on the eight essential Russian foods , and then come back for the vodka and caviar.
They’ve got their very own breed of jelly donuts that’re made with extra egg and sugar and have custard fillings, meaning they’re way more delicious and fatty than what you’re used to. But, then, Poland’s also into all those sour soups.
The land of those heavy weapons that knights used to carry around has some damn fine moves, including the delicious but impossible to say pastrmajlija (essentially fried dough topped with cubed, salted meat), ajvar (like a roasted pepper dip), and tavče gravče (beans cooked in a skillet). Their wines — especially from the Tikves area — are no joke either.
22. Czech Republic
While living here in the mid-aughts, I tired rather quickly of the traditional roasted pork knuckle and potato dumpling meal. And I could only eat so many smažený sýr fried cheese sandwiches with mayo. What I didn’t tire of, however, was enjoying some of the best beer I’ve ever had (from one of the 60+ breweries in the country), and then stumbling to the sausage stands to get německé klobásky v housce, which is a sandwich made up of five small sausages and topped with mustard, fried onion, and cherished love. Now if everyone would stop trying to push that dish with beef sirloin in cream sauce, the Czechs could keep moving up.
21. Bosnia and Herzegovina
In addition to having the most fun name to say in Europe, B&H boasts the boldest cup of caffeine on the continent and a social culture that’s centered around it. Bosanska kafa — Bosnian coffee, which is similar to Turkish coffee — is ground finer than espresso, and the tiny cup is bold, thick, and incredibly rich. Meeting a friend for coffee takes hours, and, well, you can’t not drink it here. For having such a unique way of socializing, Bosnia gets points. They lose points for all that grilled lamb, lamb and beef sausages, cheese-filled burek, and baklava, which is really delicious, but is even more similar to Turkish cuisine than perhaps even their coffee.
The Cypriots are the sorcerers behind the most mind-boggling dairy product: halloumi. But besides that cheese that JUST WON’T MELT, the specialties are really just the best of Turkish and Greek foods, like keftedes (fried meatballs!), koupepia (you know them as dolma at that Greek pizza spot your parents always took you to), and hummus (… hummus), which we love but it’s just not enough.
The official website of Sweden declares that back in the “golden age of home baking” coffee parties “turned into orgies of sweet yeast breads, small cookies, cookies with fillings, pastries and cakes.” Also, like that’s not enough, they basically brag about how every Swede eats the equivalent of 316 cinnamon buns every year. So go, have a cinnamon bun orgy, squeeze in a little time with the gravlax and fried Swedish pancakes, and politely excuse your now-chubbier self when the grog and schnapps come out.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
Once you’re done making your potato jokes, just know that any place that does great corned beef, shepherd’s pie, steak & Guinness pie, potato leek soup, fish & chips, delicious boxtys (potato pancakes), essential cheddar cheeses, Dublin coddle filled with sausage, back bacon, and potato, and can wash it all down with the most famous stout and whiskeys in the world PLUS REALLY GOOD TEA deserves to be in the top 20. Oh, and if that doesn’t do it for you, they’ve got a line of biscuits that are called USA. SYNERGY.
17. The Netherlands
Dutch pancakes are legendary. Dutch cheeses — like Gouda and Edam — are slightly less legendary, but nonetheless famous. The Dutch eat stroopwafel cookies, put chocolate sprinkles (aka hagelslag) on bread for some reason, and deep-fry meatballs and serve them with mustard. They dip fries in mayo. They have a crazy-extensive Indonesian food scene, stemming from when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. They have famous beers (Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch, Skol, etc.), and somewhat famous gin (genever). They eat more licorice than anywhere else in the world, which seems like a crazy fact to know. And they might move even higher, if they didn’t also love soused herring with pickles and raw onion so damn much.
Dig into a plate of wienerschnitzel and a stein of Viennese lager and ponder how you could do that while also listening to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” without the country that is definitely not Germany, but speaks German and is also really into beer and sausages. They’ve also got the sexy, lattice-topped, currant preserve-filled Linzer torte. But then the rest is far too similar to Germany, which means it's delicious but… the same.
They did it, friends. They were the ones who started the New Nordic Cuisine trend. They are the ones who you can blame for seeing things like rødgrød (thickened stewed fruit), sødsuppe (fruit soup), and smorrebrod (open-faced sandwiches) in cool neighborhoods with fixie bikes and people in slim-fitting chambray work shirts all over the U.S. They have what is considered one of the best restaurants in the world in Noma, and many other Michelin-starred spots. And while Carlsberg dominates their macro-beer scene, they also gave us Mikkeller, one of our favorite beer brewers in the world. Plus, they seem to have introduced hot dogs to everyone else in the Nordic world. So yeah, they’re doing pretty well.
Bulgaria’s motto is “unity makes strength,” and nothing makes you stronger than a love of grilled meats (kebapche) and moussaka. Kids eat sandwiches filled with lyutenitsa relish and sirene cheese, adults eat some sort of tripe soup that seems alarming, and everyone eats shopska salata, comparable in simplicity and perfection to the Greek version, plus once you’re done with your salad, you can eat tons of greasy, flaky pastries. It’s as if the foods of Russia, Italy, Greece, and Turkey all had a somewhat hard-to-picture orgy. And despite the weird visual, trust me, that’s not a bad thing.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
13. United Kingdom
Admittedly, the UK gets a bad rap for its food, but this is a nation that breaks for elevenses AND high tea like the goddamn civilized society that it is. And unapologetically calls the morning tea break elevenses. They run the Scotch and gin game and arguably have one of the greatest beer bar cultures in the world. They take thick, rich clotted cream for breakfast, have made sheep stomachs craveable for centuries, and throw together rarebit that can make the cheese-loving Swiss jealous. Also, fish and chips.
12. San Marino
Let’s be clear about the best thing happening here: San Marino is the SECOND country that’s located INSIDE Italy. The teensy place is in the Emilia-Romagna region — the place where prosciutto and Parmesan and Bolognese come from — so it’s surrounded by really amazing food. But unlike boring, wine-hoarding Vatican City, San Marino has its own food culture independent from, but similar to all that jazz. They’ve got a special drying style that San Marino’s pigs go through, which produces extra-sweet prosciutto. Also, there’s passatelli, the pasta made with flour, egg, lemon zest, and Parm that’s cooked in broth. Also the Torta Tre Monti, which you can also call Torta de San Marino because the layers of wafers and hazelnut cream and chocolate dreams ARE ONLY MADE HERE. SM’s also cooking all the lasagna and red sauce and minestrone of its Italian neighbors, but they can sip four of their own vino varietals or Oro dei Goti, their own award-winning Moscato. Be ashamed of your comparative culinary autonomy, Mr. Pope.
So much meze. Feta. Olives. Baklava. Olive oil. Honey. Moussaka. Tzatziki. Gyros. Souvlaki. Lemon potatoes. Spanakopita. A salad that is delicious and mostly associated with Moms opting for a sensible lunch. A style of yogurt that now makes up nearly half of America’s market share. A kind of pizza that dominates suburban Boston and my childhood. Those candy bars with sesame seeds. I could go on and on, but the point is this: Greek food — despite being somewhat typical for Americans — is vastly underrated. It’s flavorful and rich, but doesn’t rely too much on any one focus, as you can tell from that annoying list I made a few sentences above. Their anise-flavored aperitif ouzo, on the other hand, is not my cup of booze.
I am a weak-willed man, and so it’s taking all of my feeble willpower to not make “Are you Hungary yet?” puns. I visited Hungary by myself a couple of years ago, and spent the entire trip sitting by myself at various taverns, reading weird Northern Irish novels, and taking down bowl after bowl of goulash, chicken paprikash, turos csusza (which is essentially cheese noodles made with bacon), rántott sajt (fried cheese), and liptai túró, which is like their version of pimento cheese, and tastes like small spicy angels are resting in your mouth. The beauty of their cuisine is that so much of it is stewed, braised, and — with their generous paprika seasoning — offers up just the right amount of spice. It just feels like everything they make is the best kind of comfort food. And yes, it’s making me very Hungary right now.
Portugal may be piggybacked on to Spain, but it manages to avoid the culinary shadow of its much larger neighbor. Yes, they share coastal traits — SO MUCH SALTED COD — but when about half your border is coastal, you really start to master the fish game, and signature Portuguese dishes, like the aromatic cataplanas (a traditional way of steaming foods together) or flavor-rich caldeiradas (fish stew), flaunt it. There’s also salted cod stew and lemony salted cod fritters. But in case you thought Portugal just rests on its fishy laurels, dig into cozido à Portuguesa: pork, beef, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and rice that varies from region to region of the country but is rich and bold and combines so many of the non-ocean-based culinary prides of the country. Plus, there’s salted cod casserole and salted cod in cream sauce.
Portugal also has a bounty of booze: port, obviously, but also Madeira and Vinho Verde. You know what those taste good with? The other 997 ways you could also eat salted cod in Portugal. Or maybe just some olives.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
As is true of most countries, Switzerland’s culinary traditions developed out of necessity. Just while other places were stuck eating a lifetime supply of potatoes, Switzerland was like, “It’s really cold in these beautiful mountains I bet our stockpiles of cheese would be an excellent way to help consume the bread and pickles we have so we can survive.” Gruyere, Emmentaler, and Vacherin typically get the name calls outside the country, but practically every single town has its own delicious specialty. And while bubbly fondue and oozing raclettes may not be totally substantial for, like, nutrients, there’s also alplermagronen, a rich gratin of potatoes, macaroni, cheese, cream, and onions. You also may have heard that the Swiss make chocolate. That WAS NOT A LIE, and it’s delicious.
Food you haven’t heard of? It’s just as hearty and rich and better than the stuff you’ve been living off of, such as Luzerner Chügelipastete, a puff pastry filled with goddamn meatballs and white sauce, or beef braised in wine and served over slow-cooked polenta that soaks up all those savory juices. Or roti, an iconic dish of salted & fried shredded potatoes that’s basically like hash browns but far better with cheese and bacon in the mix. For that matter, we’re sure there’s SOMETHING boring and bland in the Swiss mix, but then they just add the cheese of the day in, and ALL THE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED.
The mix of influences here — whether they're Italian, Mediterranean, French on the coasts, or Slavic in the interior of the country — helps set up a delicious mish-mash of foods. They have fantastic olive oil, and the oysters in the small town of Ston are considered some of the best in the Adriatic. Their Babić, Malvasia, prosecco, and Vrbnička žlahtina wines used to be underrated, but are getting more international cred each year. And, perhaps their most famous dish — roasted lamb “under the bell” — is worth the hype, considering the meat cooks from both sides (with a domed clay bell covered in hot charcoal on top, and a coal BBQ below) slowly in its own juices.
So much chocolate. So many different kinds of waffles. A vegetable named after one of their major cities that has, in recent years, taken the American restaurant world by sprouted storm. A complex beer scene featuring upwards of 180 breweries dominated by Trappist and Abbey beers. Large, twice-fried, um, fries. Delicious cheeses, including the AOP-protected Herve, which is often eaten on rye bread covered in pear and apple syrup, and paired with some delicious beer. Belgians may not always be able to agree on what language to speak or even whether they should remain a country, but their damn delicious foodstuffs better not go anywhere.
Most of the foods are heavy — the bountiful styles of sausage, from brats and bockwurst, to frankfurters, landjäger, and weisswurst the potatoes, from the pancakes and dumplings (kartoffelklöße) to famous potato salad and whatever schupfnudeln is the spatzle the sauerkraut the krapfen donuts. But they are gloriously heavy — heavy in a way that makes you feel warm and strong. The beers are, of course, world-famous, what with the German Beer Purity Laws ensuring quality, and the widespread popularity of biergarten culture. But head to any cafe around 4pm and you will see the highly underrated kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) culture as well, which is also just a fun thing to say aloud.
Georgia sits in the middle of the ancient spice route between Europe and the Middle East and Asia, so the country’s dishes are imbued with an incredibly rich and unique use of herbs and spices, such as cilantro and dried marigold, that are used in combinations not seen in the other individual regions and are layered for bold, but balanced dishes. And the pinch-hitter of those dishes is khachapuri, a boat-shaped pastry filled with a glorious amount of melted cheese and a raw egg. It’s so popular that the country’s trying to trademark it so places like Panera don’t steal it when they realize HOW MUCH BETTER THE BREAD BOWL CAN BE.
Also in the lineup: khinkali, the twisted dumpling knots filled with pork, beef, or lamb and laden with all those spices, plus onions kuchmachi, which is one of those dishes where you should not ask what’s in it (hearts, gizzards, and the like) and just savor the deep flavor of pork, fried garlic and onions, coriander, and bright pomegranate seeds or chahohbili, a peppery, sweet chicken stew. Cheese is abundant (obviously, they put it in bread boats), and tkemali, a plum sauce, accompanies a slew of meat dishes and is, of course, laden with coriander and cumin and peppery bites.
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
This is a national cuisine that manages to be cheap, yet satisfying bold, yet incredibly simple. The diversity is almost overwhelming, so let’s start with the national star: jamón ibérico, an art form of cured meat production, slices of which are buttery, savory, and cost more than a sandwich at Dean & Deluca. That attention to detail and respect of the product is reflected in bowls of briny olives and small, light ham croquettes, and it shines in giant pans of smoky paella, the proper preparation of which somehow enables vast medleys of very different flavors to simultaneously stand alone and mingle together. Then there's the Spanish tortilla, an onion, potato, and egg omelet that might just be the epitome of filling simplicity. While myriad influences have poured in over the region’s very long history, centuries of cooking have given Spaniards the time to make all of this food very, undeniably Spanish.
It is tough to argue against the culinary charms of France: It is, after all, home to the style of cuisine that everyone — for years and years — considered the only worthy fancy restaurant food. The nation pioneered the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), ensuring that certain foods and drinks could only come from specific parts of France. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization even recognized French FOOD as part of a list of things that show “intangible cultural heritage.” Also, the movie Ratatouille .
We don’t even need to get into specifics, because everyone knows the dominant hold France has in the wine and cheese game. And how the rest of the world uses hors d’oeuvre to describe first courses, and that steak frites, and onion soup, and baguette with really good warm butter and fleur de sel should have their own national day. But the beauty of France comes from the variety: As important as the traditional Parisian dishes are, it's also got oysters from Brittany, Normandy, and Languedoc, the famed quiches of the Lorraine area, and the German-influenced flammekueche in Alsace, plus an extremely underrated beer and cider industry. Je laisse tomber, France. Vous gagnez.
Other countries on this list got docked for lacking enough of their own culinary attributes. Italy is the opposite. Italy’s cuisine has basically been protected by centuries of Grandmothers who refused to take anyone else’s recipes but their own BECAUSE ONLY GRANDMA’S SUNDAY SAUCE IS GOOD ENOUGH.
Sure, Emilia-Romagna is marked by deeply flavored, aromatic lasagna, the Veneto is deeply entrenched in its pea risotto, and Campania boasts Neapolitan crisp-crust pizza. Restaurants in Umbria throw hog heads over their doors when harvests are in during the famous truffle season, and the Tuscans have their simple vegetable and bread ribollita soup. But while the regions are marked by impressively rigid divisions, it’s Italy's passion for its cuisine — not to mention, you know, how great it tastes — that has made it that way and ensured it’s one of the most cooked, transformed, and enjoyed worldwide.
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For those who are looking to discover a new country each month, we recommend subscribing to Countries.
If you love to snack, we recommend Snacks.
Can't make up your mind? Subscribe to both! You will have the option of selecting your payment plan: every month, every six months, or every twelve months. The longer your subscription, the greater the discount!
What will I receive in my box?
Subscribers to Countries receive a box containing varied items that are curated by our cuisine experts who carefully select a collection of unique products from cultures around the world every month.
Subscribers to Snacks will receive a box containing 5 healthy snacks from different countries.
Can I choose which countries are featured in my next box?
Customers who purchase subscriptions or gift packages are currently unable to choose which countries their boxes will feature. If you are interested in purchasing individual items from a specific country, please contact us at [email protected] and we can direct you to the best place to order those specific items.
Can I customize my box for dietary restrictions and food allergies?
At this time, customers are unable to customize boxes for all other dietary restrictions or food allergies. However, we hope to make this option available in the future.
What if I won’t be home this month?
No worries! Pause your subscription at any time on your account dashboard. You can also contact us and we'd be happy to help you!
What if I think Try The World isn’t the right fit?
Did you know? You can switch between Countries or Snack subscriptions at any time on your account dashboard to find the right adventure for you.
Still think we're not the right fit? Cancel your subscription any time on your account dashboard and we'll refund you for the remainder of your journey.
Cancellations must be made at least 5 days prior to your subscription renewal date to avoid being billed. If you complete the cancellation process after the 5 day period, the cancellation will go into effect immediately, but you will still be billed for and receive your last box.
REVIEWS | PRESS | SOCIAL MEDIA
"Try The World gives a true flavor of the city with products that can't be easily picked up at the local store."
"The magic of it is to have this box of items from a far-away place arrive on your doorstep without you shopping for them."
"Each bimonthly box contains a good mix of 'gobble up immediately' snacks/treats and exotic ingredients to try later"
“It’s one of the few food subscription we’re seriously tempted to join because they deliver the world’s delicacies right to our door”
“The number one gift I'd like to see under my tree is a subscription to Try the World. I'm already salivating over the French mustards and Japanese candy.”
“It’s Try the World we’ll turn to for gourmet goods, sourced from around the globe.”
I've been all over trying Spain for two weeks. OMG how did I eat before TryTheWorld happened?
I never thought a crumb cake would change my life. I was wrong. Thank you for correcting me @trytheworld
You officially ROCK! Unboxing has become an office affair. Everyone gets interested when the green box arrives.
Gluten Free Street Food Eating
If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance there's good and bad news about eating gluten free street food. On the positive side, most street food is cooked to order so it can be customized for your needs. Plus, you often have a chance to talk directly with the cook. On the negative side, sometimes street food stands do not speak foreign languages so communication might be difficult. In addition, they may only have one pan to fry and cook foods so you have to be very careful about cross-contamination.
To help you navigate street food so that you can eat local, but also gluten free and with confidence, check out this collection of Gluten Free Restaurant Cards created by our friend, Jodi. These restaurant cards are already in fifteen foreign languages, with more languages being added all the time, so many of the countries and dishes mentioned above are already included. These Gluten Free Restaurant Cards explain in detail, using local food names and language, your needs as a strictly gluten free eater so that you get the meal you want and need.
Jodi has celiac disease herself and is a lover of street food so she understands first-hand the importance of being able to communicate gluten free needs in detail and educate waiters and restaurants on what this means in practice. She created her series of Gluten Free Restaurant Cards in different languages to help celiac and gluten free travelers eat local with confidence, and without communication problems or getting sick.
Note: These gluten free restaurant cards are not part of an affiliate plan or a way for us to make money. We are extremely fortunate that we can eat everything, but we've seen the challenges of others who are celiac or have food intolerances where every meal can potentially make them sick or cause pain. These detailed gluten free cards were created to help prevent that from happening and make eating out fun and enjoyable when traveling.
Now it's your turn. Which street food quests have led you on an adventure?