There are many prejudices when it comes to the americans and their eating habits. Whether they eat healthy or not. But one thing is certain: They do in fact know how to cook delicious and incredibly tasty food!
We have eaten Pretzels, almost like the ones we know (and miss) from Munich. Although they got very close to the “real thing” they only got close. Not because they did a bad job. It was mostly because we believe that the real ones are only made in Munich. We have eaten Mexican, Thai, Japanese (sushi), Italian and of course American food. It’s all really, really tasty and the portions are generous. I guess this is where the real problem is. You pay a very reasonable price for a meal, and mostly there is more food than what is required to satisfy your hunger. This will slowly adjust your stomach to be able to consume more and more food, which is not good! However, if you cannot finish your plate, you can always ask for a bag or box to bring the leftovers home with you. Nobody will ever find that strange.
We have already seen that it is not any cheaper to cook at home than it is to eat out. No wonder most americans eat out then!
However, everything is soaked in sugar! Really everything! During our first 7 months of traveling around the world we have tried to eat a healthy breakfast consisting of muesli, cereals and fresh fruit. In Australia and New Zealand unsweetened muesli was, of course, unsweetened. Here in the US we have so far only been able to find products that contain sugar. Not that it is easy to see, before you taste it. You have to look really carefully to find sugar on the ingredients labels. Also, it rarely tells you exactly how much they have added. But you taste it immediately, if you are used to UNSWEETENED products.
It is also rather common to add flavour and vitamins in milk. Anton wanted to try a milk with strawberry flavour, and with additions of vitamin A and D. In order to make it easier to get children to drink these milk products, the cartons are very bright and colourful. This always works! However, after just one zip, the “milk” was pushed aside, with a wrinkled nose. “This is awful!” he said. Good boy! He does not like some of the precooked, home meals that we have tried just for fun either. He is generally rather picky with his food and a difficult eater. But I am glad that he does not prefer the fastest and easiest solutions all the time.
So, our introduction to the culinary side of America has been a bit mixed. But I must say, that in general they deserve much more credit than their reputation gives them! We have been to the local farmers market several times to buy fruit, vegetables, bread and fish. There is a huge supply of organic produce here. We cannot yet tell if this is also the case in other parts of the US, but here in the State of Washington there is plenty to choose from. The apples and the pears are ENORMOUS - also the organic ones, and the people selling them are genuinely proud of their products, and they will gladly give you a taste before you buy. The baker will tell you about his doe and the baking process if you ask him. By the fish stand you will hardly find anything older than 24 hours. We found a German butcher in Seattle selling the most delicious German sausage specialties. There is a Russian family selling delicious samosas, cinnamon rolls and many other pastry delicacies. Italian, Spanish and Mexican groceries are also found everywhere. And when you ask questions to what the products contain, they will gladly answer. In general, people on the farmers markets take an interest in what they consume. More so, than what I know from my native Denmark.
But you have to constantly “keep the balance” and remind yourself that you must enjoy everything in reasonable amounts here. Because the supply is so huge and easy to access (drive-through counters in many restaurants and Starbucks Cafés so that you will not even have to step out of your car!) you HAVE to pull yourself together and not always go for the fast and easy solution. We now try to remind each other...!
Our trip to Canada was completed with a two-day visit to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. A city with a strong british influence and a most beautiful harbour promenade. Not the classical, touristic scheme with endless rows of overpriced restaurants. No, this is with a nice marina, sailboats and yachts, ferries and even a seaplane terminal, which impressed us. Planes on waterskis arrived and took off throughout the day. Victoria is an important hub for connections to many remote areas in northern Canada. Areas that are otherwise hardly accessible. Especially during winter.
We also went to see the Royal British Columbia Museum, with its large and very engaging exhibition about the history of Canada, ranging from eskimos to english settlers and of course a detailed introduction to the culture of the native indians. All put together in an interesting and entertaining way. Even Anton kept his focus for quite a while. A whole wing was dedicated to the wildlife of Canada. The highlight in this department was the old fashioned “underwater station”. Built in retro Jules Verne / H.G. Wells style, with an early industrial feel. It had plenty of bolts, rivets, copper and glass domes. Very cool! We spent quite a bit of time there!
We stayed in a hotel not far from the inner harbour, near the very city center. In walking distance to everything, which was nice. It is not really common to walk as soon as you get just a little outside the city center of any city here, so we enjoyed our strolls. The hotel was no extravaganza, but the room had two large double beds, and we enjoyed to be able to “wedge out” on plenty of space after so many months in our crammed campervan. The large beds are standard in most hotel rooms in North America. It will be interesting to see just how quickly we will re-define our own idea of “standard” when it comes to comfort!
We took the ferry from Victoria back to the US. A beautiful 90 minute trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Douglas. We enjoyed the dusk and the stunning view from the upper sundeck, although the wind was biting cold. But a sky filled with colours ranging from deep red, to firing orange, to indigo blue is not something you see every night. So in spite of the cold, we remained on deck. We actually almost forgot the cold!
On our way back to Daniela, where we are once again staying for some days, we drove on dark, curvy roads, through mighty woodlands and along windy coastlines. And just as we were driving along a rare, straight part of country road I had my first encounter with the local law enforcement. There are PLENTY of highway patrols around and they are quite visible. Mostly! But not late at night! So as I came speeding down the road, we suddenly passed by a dark car, parked at the roadside. Immediately I stepped down from the pedal and reduced the speed. But in the rearview mirror I saw him start the car and he pursued. With blink and siren! Pull over!
Alexandra reminded me, rather annoyed, that I AM paying ALL potential tickets on this trip by myself. After having driven well over 20.000 kilometers I have not yet gotten any tickets. Only one warning. That was in Cairns, Northern Queensland, Australia. So I feel that things are going pretty well on that front, if I may say so!
We rolled down the windows and the officer came over to ask me, if I had any particular reason to be speeding on such a cold and frosty night. I did not. Apart from the fact that this was a route where the speed limits were changing up and down all the time. So I might have missed a sign. This was of course no excuse at all. He took the papers he needed and went back to his car. For quite a while. It felt like ages! But then he came back, handed back all the papers and asked me to drive more carefully the rest of the trip. No paternal, lifted finger. No lectures about dangers and accidents. Just a friendly reminder and recommendation from a polite officer (with a HUGE flashlight!) to proceed with care. I had expected a ticket, because I must admit that this was a bit above what anyone would call “within reasonable doubt”! But who am I to complain? On the other hand, this appealing to my sense of reason seems to be working quite well on me. Since the incident I have been well aware of my speed at any time. Maybe because I am also well aware that it might cost me quite a bit of money the next time. It will not be EXPENSIVE like in Denmark, but it will be enough money to annoy me just the same. We are still traveling on a budget here!