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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Eating Europe FAQ

August 16, 2011

I am about to embark on a yearlong journey to Europe. My wife, 14 year-old daughter, 10 year-old son, and I will travel to 30 countries over 12 months. I am writing two books, blogging for various newspapers, gathering recipes and culinary contacts, and writing this weekly column.

The trip has been 30 months in the making. Here are the answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions I’ve been fielding during the past two years:

Q: How does one pack for an entire year?

A: That depends on which member of the family you are asking. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I’m basically packing for two weeks, adding a few layers, and making sure that everything can be washed in a sink. If you’re asking my son, he could care less.

If one is asking my wife or daughter, there’s an entirely different story. Whereas he and I are packing light, using very sturdy and mobile luggage, the girls look like they are embarking on a 19th century voyage overseas with trunks and trousseaus and such.

This will be a huge challenge. Sometimes we are staying in a villa for a few weeks, though at other times we are moving at a good clip and hitting a different hotel or B&B every night. The rule— everyone has to carry his or her own luggage.

My prediction— three months into the trip, I’ll be buying new luggage, and the girls will be packing lightly.

Q: What will you do with your residence while you are away”

A: There is a big man living there. He is a Libertarian, and he owns many firearms. Seriously.

Q: How will you get around in Europe?

A: When I am asked this, I think most people are remembering back to the six weeks after college that they backpacked across Europe. I would imagine that there is someone out there who has backpacked across a continent with a 10 and 14 year-old, and an air-conditioning-loving wife, but not here.

I bought a car, which we will pick up over there, and we’ll drive around in it. My wife would like to warn any Europeans who might be reading this to beware and be on the lookout, as I will be behind the wheel in a foreign country.

I would warn all Europeans to be on the lookout for the Volvo with the trunks and trousseaus strapped to the top of the car.

Q: What are your kids doing about school?

A: They are homeschooling with their mother. They actually started the program four weeks ago.

Q: How’s it going?

A: My wife has only cried twice in three weeks. She is the teacher and I have quickly become the principal—never would have seen that one coming.

Q: Which countries will you be visiting?

A: In order: Greece, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, San Marino, Italy, Vatican City, Monaco, Spain, Morocco, Portugal, France, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Great Britain, and Ireland.

Q: What countries are you most excited about visiting?

A: There’s not an easy answer to this one because I’m looking forward to different countries for different reasons. I’m excited about Italy because we’ve just opened a new Italian restaurant and I plan to delve deeper into the food and culture. I’m also in the process of writing an Italian cookbook, so where better to do research. Additionally, my buddy and co-collaborator, Wyatt will be with us the entire time.

I have always wanted to go to Spain, so that will be a kick. I love Spanish tapas, but don’t know if I’ll be able to stay up late enough to eat with the locals.

Other potential highlights: seeing the Northern lights from an igloo in Finland, living for a week on a working farm in Sicily, riding a camel in the Sahara desert, ham in Spain, pizza in Naples, pastries in Lyon, Thanksgiving on Lake Como, and having my picture taken walking across Abbey Road. Did I mention pastries in Lyon?

Summer Garden Dip

Not a dish for leftovers, use the freshest vegetables available. Must be served within two days.

1 cup cottage cheese
1 /2 cup mayonnaise
1 /2 cup sour cream
1 /4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp poultry seasoning, recipe page xxx
1 /2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
1 /2 tsp salt
2 Tbl green onions, minced
2 Tbl red bell pepper, chopped fine
2 Tbl carrot, coarsely grated
1 /4 cup fresh tomato, seeds removed, diced
1 /4 cup zucchini, finely shredded
1 /4 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob, cooked (use frozen if fresh is not available)
2 Tbl frozen spinach, thawed, excess moisture removed

Blend together the cottage cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, Dijon, hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice, lemon pepper, poultry seasoning, pepper, dill, and salt. Mix well.

Fold in the vegetables.

Refrigerate for four hours before serving.

Yield: 1 quart

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