Book Review: Michele Morris’s “A Taste of Washington”

There are a lot of cookbooks out there. And a lot of them write about Washington and the Pacific Northwest “cuisine”. I should know; I have several of them. But sometimes, one book stands out among the scads on the local bookstore’s shelves.

Michele Morris’s A Taste of Washington: Favorite Recipes from the Evergreen State is that book.

Michele Morris's A Taste of Washington cookbook

Michele Morris’s A Taste of Washington cookbook

A Taste of Washington combines recipes from Michele’s own repertoire with others from restaurants around the state. I was over-the-moon thrilled to see that she managed to finagle the Wild Iris Inn‘s fiesta frittata recipe out of them – now if only I could get that cookie recipe … *plots* :D

I’ve already tried three recipes from the book, and while my Grand Marnier prawns still need a little work to get the sauce to the right consistency, everything has been extremely tasty, runny sauce notwithstanding. The Swedish pancakes were my favorite, and the first I’ve found that can almost rival my mother’s. :)

Swedish pancakes from A Taste of Washington.

Swedish pancakes from A Taste of Washington.

I’m eager to try more of the breakfast and brunch recipes – especially the marionberry pancakes and orange butter croissant French toast. (And who can resist Oranges Chardonnay?!)

Michele also highlights the best of the Pacific Northwest – Walla Walla sweet onions, in her crispy fried sweet onion recipe; and of course Dungeness crab cakes. Northwest oysters, lobster, scallops, and more round out the seafood; she also features a recipe for warm cinnamon applesauce, that blessedly references some of the key Northwest strains of cooking apple (most notably my well-documented obsession, Gravenstein). Michele – that alone would make for a five-star review from me … ha! Easily pleased, but abjectly opinionated – that’s me. Really, though – Gravensteins mush appropriately, which is what you really need when making applesauce, no?

From comfort food (chicken pot pie) to haute cuisine (ossobuco with salt-roasted fingerling potatoes, or of course the black cod with fingerlings and Manila clams), Michele covers it all in A Taste of Washington, and admirably so. The recipes are drool-worthy (two kinds of bisque! What shall I do?!), and the pictures only enhance that. She took many of the photos herself, and they are truly fantastic, whether full-page or 2×3″.

I’m excited to continue working my way through the cookbook, especially as the calendar keeps trotting on toward fall and winter. Michele – congratulations on a job very, very well done. I highly recommend A Taste of Washington!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of A Taste of Washington in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Movie Review: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”

Image from MillionairesConcierge.com.

Image from MillionairesConcierge.com.

Don’t go to this movie hungry. I mean it.

Because if you do, you’ll be starving five minutes in.

… especially if you like Indian food.

The Hundred-Foot Journey, based on Richard C. Morais’ book of the same name, tells the story of an Indian family who moves to Europe after a fire consumes their livelihood. Through a roadside accident and comedy of errors, they ultimately land in a small French town and set up shop 100 feet away from Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) Michelin-starred French restaurant.

Frustrations abound, tempers flare, and the city mayor is caught in the middle – as is Marguerite, a young chef at Madame Mallory’s. How could it possibly be resolved? And could there possibly be hope for Marguerite and Hassan, the chef behind the magic only 100 feet away?

You’ll have to watch the movie to find out for yourself. :)

(Too bad Helen Mirren doesn’t have pink hair in the movie; that could have made for an entertaining flair.) :)

I ran across this picture at OnSugar.com while searching for Hundred-Foot Journey shots, and couldn’t resist pulling it in here. Oh, Helen!

Pink hair or no, this movie is definitely worth seeing. The music, the colors, the scenery – and the scents of Indian cuisine and spices that you can almost smell through the screen. Garam masala for the win – a beautiful combination of spices, including turmeric, cinnamon, black and white peppercorns, black and white cumin seeds, cloves, and black, brown, and green cardamom pods (and sometimes more/less, depending on the region). It’s one of the most beautiful-smelling spice mixtures in existence, in my very humble opinion!

But we can’t forget about French cuisine, either, nor the classical dishes represented in Hundred-Foot Journey. From partridge to omelets to that pinnacle heralded (rightfully so!) by Julia Child, boeuf bourgignon, your senses will truly be overwhelmed, in the best way. And Helen Mirren is the perfect person to enlighten us; while I thought I caught her native British accent a couple of times, her French and the role she played were enchanting. At once biting and scathing, then turning into all sweetness, her character was complex and endearing.

Image from the NY Post.

Hundred-Foot Journey is a great movie to see in the theatre, with all the spectacular food and scenery; a perfect way to spend a three-day weekend (because you’ll spend the rest of it cooking!).

The one downside to seeing Hundred-Foot Journey in the theatre is that it was prefaced by a trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey. I don’t know if this is the case in every theatre; I went to Cinebarre, which is 21+ only and may have contributed. However, to put a Fifty Shades trailer in front of a PG, family-friendly movie was a poor choice, in my humble opinion. Yes, the preview could have been (much) worse. Parents, please just be advised that this preview may be shown in front of Hundred-Foot Journey.

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Book Release Party: Kathleen Flinn’s “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good”

It’s finally here! Kathleen Flinn (author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School) has released her latest book, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good. It’s a memoir of growing up in the Midwest, of family, food, life, death, and just plain living. I’m only midway through the book, but absolutely love it so far. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will crave home-style cooking. (I’m hungry just thinking about it.)

And the book release party was absolutely fantastic!

The Swedish Cultural Center on South Lake Union hosted the party; while the weather was overcast, the rain held off and we enjoyed great views of the city.

Views from the Swedish Cultural Center. Image (c) The Curried Nut, 2014.

Views from the Swedish Cultural Center. Image (c) The Curried Nut, 2014.

There was live music …

Live music at the Swedish Cultural Center. Image (c) The Curried Nut, 2014.

Live music at the Swedish Cultural Center. Image (c) The Curried Nut, 2014.

… and of course, we heard from Kathleen herself! She did not read from the book, but did do several giveaways of books, and movie tickets to an advance screening of “The Trip To Italy” with Steve Coogan. Believe it or not, I actually won some of the movie tickets!

It was great to hear from Kathleen; she shared about the writing of the book, and noted that much of the food being served was from the book. Two highlights included chicken and biscuits, and chili (which you could make chili dogs out of, if you so desired). Dessert was pie from a local pie company, and I do believe I have found someone who can make nearly as good a lemon meringue pie as one of my dear church ladies. :) (Now if only I could remember what company it was … sigh. That’s what happens when you wait two weeks to do an event write-up.)

Kathleen Flinn at the release party. Image (c) The Curried Nut.

Kathleen Flinn at the release party. Image (c) The Curried Nut.

I was so excited to meet Kathleen and get my copy of the book signed. My book club read “The Sharper Your Knife” a while back, so I was even more excited to get the book and attend the party.

Kathleen is just a peach – very down to earth and genuine, as is her husband; I actually stood next to him in line for food and didn’t even know it! (I even ribbed him a bit for leaving his drink unattended. We got a good laugh out of that – and I turned bright red when Kathleen announced him later as her husband. Who knew!)

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This entry was posted in Books.

School House Craft’s 2014 Annual Conference + Giveaway!

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

Ah, fall … that wonderful time of year. Back to school sales (how I love school supply shopping – it doesn’t go away, even ten years out of college!), leaves changing color, cooler weather, crock-pot meals … and School House Craft’s annual conference!

Need some inspiration to kick-start a craft project, or even a craft business? Got questions on how to sell your pieces online, write a book about your craft/hobby/artwork, art licensing, and more? Look no further than this conference. Want to go? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end to win a ticket to an individual class, or apply the $35 toward a one- or two-day ticket.

The 2014 School House Craft annual fall conference will be held September 27th & 28th at the Sunset Hill Community Club in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

They have a huge range of classes, an amazing line up of teachers, an exciting new round table event, a happy hour soiree and a book signing and crafting social. The one- and two-day tickets include daily inspirational keynote addresses and over 17 classes and events, as well as lunch and snacks. One day tickets are available for $85, two day tickets for $155 and individual classes for just $35.

I haven’t scrapbooked in far too long, but I’m just excited to go and sit at the feet of some incredibly talented entrepreneurs. This may well be the jump start I needed to get back into crafting! Not to mention, some of the classes are just all-around practical. My favorite one – on title alone – is “Non–Icky Marketing to get the Word Out with Ease”. That just has me pegged, hehe!

Find out more about the event or check out the class list! They even have a two for one offer going now through Sept 15th. Offer details here.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

Image courtesy of Andrea Porter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Review: Another Summer | Rebecca Stevenson

Have you ever been to Maine?

To date, I have not, but after reading Rebecca Stevenson’s Another Summer, I can tell you that the destination is quickly moving up on my US “to-visit” list.

I’d not read anything by Rebecca before, and am always up for new material. This one is perfect as summer winds to a close. Big city girl Tracy heads to Wentworth Cove, Maine, for a month’s vacation. She hears murmurings about a mysterious painting that looks uncannily like her; meets some charming (and less than charming) characters in town; and is intrigued by the local writer who, come to find out, writes beautifully eloquent prose for a clothing magazine. (I’d like to read some of that prose, Rebecca. :D)

I’d like to visit Boston one day – where Tracy is from – and thought the frustrations of commuting, even via train, were captured perfectly. Standing room only? Check. Blazing hot, outdoor train stations in summer, and freezing cold, outdoor train stations in winter? Check. (This is sounding all too familiar to my bus commute …!)

In contrast, Wentworth Cove is on the coast of Maine and is the epitome of small beach town. (We already know I love small beach towns, with my love for Cannon Beach!) It’s set outside Kennebunk, which is not to be confused with Kennebunkport, 4.2 miles away. Doesn’t Kennebunk look charming?

Image courtesy of GoKennebunks.com.

Image courtesy of GoKennebunks.com.

Rebecca does a fabulous job of bringing the small cove town – and nearby cities – to life, and characters are developed well. The ending was somewhat abrupt, perhaps because I hadn’t been keeping track of how far along I was; I reached it and just went, “What?! It can’t be over!” :) But I was gratified to note that, despite its surprise, it didn’t tie up all the loose ends perfectly without any question. There’s still an element of ambiguity left to the reader, and unlike many other romance novels – spoiler alert!! - there’s not a marriage proposal. That, for a change, made me very happy; the characters have known each other such a short time that it would have come across contrived and unrealistic.

Much of the book involves discussions about and visits to libraries and bookstores – always up my alley! :) And who wouldn’t want to visit this amazing Kennebunk library?!

Kennebunk Free Library. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

In short – 4.5 stars out of 5. Rebecca draws the reader in and creates a wonderful sense of place, both in Maine and in the characters’ lives. Her Christian faith is infused in the story and comes across as genuine, not preachy; the story is clean, thought-provoking, and well-written.

You can find Rebecca online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Interested in buying the book? Click on the cover picture above or on this link: Another Summer. The Kindle copy is currently only $1.99!

I received a free copy of the book to review and was not paid for this review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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Woodinville Whiskey Co.: A tasting

Some girlfriends and I headed over to Woodinville recently for a series of wine tastings, and finished up with whiskey on a bit of a whim. We’d stopped for lunch next door to the Woodinville Whiskey Co., and decided – why not?! And boy, was it good.

The company has won a series of awards, including:
- Forbes’ Top 10 American Whiskey Distilleries to Tour Now
- Puget Sound Business Journal: Washington State’s #1 Craft Distillery
- Seattle Magazine’s Best Local Distillery
… and more!

Every batch of whiskey is produced from the whole grain (which, naturally, makes it more healthy? Complex carbs and all?), and is aged in handmade oak barrels (made in the USA! Shop local!), which pairs the whiskey with nearly 3 times the amount of wood as a “normal” barrel. This term is known – or at least labeled by Woodinville Whiskey – as “micro barreled”.

Woodinville Whiskey Co. Image courtesy of WoodinvilleWhiskey.com.

For $5, we were able to taste two whiskeys, one vodka, and one barrel-aged maple syrup (really!); while I didn’t buy any, I was pleased to note that the $5 tasting fee applies toward any liquor purchased.

The whiskeys:
- Mash Bill No. 9 Bourbon Whiskey
- 100% Rye Whiskey

Woodinville Whiskey bourbon and rye whiskeys. Image courtesy of WoodinvilleWhiskey.com.

I definitely preferred the bourbon to the rye whiskey – more flavorful, complex, and milder in its alcoholic potency. (You get enough of that with whiskey anyway – in my humble opinion, the rye doesn’t add anything positive to it.)

The vodka:
- Peabody Jones Vodka

I think we were all pleasantly surprised at this vodka – not only that Woodinville Whiskey was producing it, but that it was so good.

It’s distilled from 100% soft winter wheat (also local), and boy, is it fantastic. It was advertised to us as a “sipping vodka” – and I can see why.

The maple syrup:
- Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

Woodinville Whiskey maple syrup. Image courtesy of WoodinvilleWhiskey.com.

I know – what’s maple syrup doing on a whiskey tasting? (Perhaps they were on a roll after the vodka!)

No, really, though – Woodinville Whiskey reuses the bourbon and rye whiskey barrels, filling them with eastern-US grade-A dark amber maple syrup and letting them age, and “gracefully”, as the tasting notes aptly put it. The barrels infuse the syrup with wood spice, caramel, vanilla, and of course, a hint of whiskey.

I’m a hardcore Trader Joe’s maple syrup fan, but this syrup is making me rethink that. For only $2 more ($19.95) than the Trader Joe’s price, I could get a lovely bottle of this maple syrup – and if we’re going to spend almost $20 anyways, may as well make it the good stuff.

(Honestly, I haven’t splurged on it yet, but I may do it on my next syrup purchase.)

Find out more about Woodinville Whiskey at their website or on Facebook. You can find their products at Central Market, Metropolitan Markets, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wine World, Total Wine, BevMo!, and most major grocery stores.

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IFBC 2014: Anticipation, tips, and tricks

41 days, folks. 41 days until the 2014 International Food Bloggers’ Conference (IFBC) hits the Westin Hotel.

I’m not sure if I can contain my excitement.

Or pick breakout sessions, for that matter.

So maybe 41 days is a good thing.

Some of the things I easily decided on and am immensely looking forward to at IFBC 2014:

- A pre-conference excursion at Sur La Table’s new corporate test kitchen. KitchenAid and Sur La Table are pairing up for a recipe-development session with a preview of new products. The maker of my favorite mixer, and a Seattle institution? Where do I sign?!

Image courtesy of NewEgg.com.

Image courtesy of NewEgg.com.

- Wine tasting with Bordeaux. Need I say more?

Well, ok, maybe I will! :) I went to this tasting last year and was blown away at the quality of the wines, the knowledge and humor of the hosts, and the generosity of the company. I walked away with several bottles of high-quality wine after that session … (still sealed, have no fear).

And who wouldn’t love trying wine from this place? This girl sure did …

Chateau Carignan. Image courtesy of Chateau-Carignan.com.

Chateau Carignan. Image courtesy of Chateau-Carignan.com.

And I’m hoping they’ll be back this year, along with Chateau Guillou and more.

(I like pretty chateaux … and their wine.)

- Sessions with:
Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers, The Flavor Bible, and more.

Dianne Jacob, the author of Will Write for Food.

Shauna James Ahern, the talented woman behind Gluten-Free Girl.

… and more. I already am hoping to swap notes with everyone else, because there are just too many fabulous sessions to go to! Sheri and Barnaby at Foodista have completely outdone themselves – and we’re still … wait for it … 41 days away.

*grin*

(I just saw Guardians of the Galaxy last night, and I’m sure that my “41 days” theme is up there with Groot’s extremely complicated, insightful, and repeated one liner: “I am Groot”.)

I’m also excited to put into practice things I learned last year, as well as things I don’t have to worry about this year.

- Don’t switch blog hosting from WordPress.com hosting to WordPress.org self-hosting while at the conference. It was great last year to have a live person to help me out, and the WP techies will be there again this year, but I’m looking forward to not doing that again. My site is moved, and I am d-o-n-e done. Much more time to enjoy the conference and not tote around my laptop …

- … Which reminds me. Don’t tote around (let alone bring) your laptop, if you can help it. It’s heavy and distracting; helpful for live tweet sessions, but you can do that just as easily on an iPad, if not more easily and with more focus on what the speakers are actually saying. Focus

- Enjoy the Seattle restaurants. Check out my post from last year if you need some recommendations.

- Bring a good camera, and take lots of pictures. And yet – a lot of mine turned out blurry last year – so I know I’ll be focusing more on good shots and patience over quantity.

- Get a hotel room. If nothing else, the hotel room serves as a dumping ground for the inevitable loads of swag. It also spares locals from driving, parking, and fighting traffic – especially during the 1:25pm Seahawks-Broncos game on Sept. 21. (Ye be warned.)

- For locals: experience the magic of staying at a hotel in your hometown. This has become a bit of a theme for me this year, as I’ve gotten to stay at both the W Hotel and the Edgewater Hotel for work-related functions; I always thought it was a bit silly to stay in a local hotel when I could sleep in my own bed, but it’s insanely fun to be able to kick back, relax, eliminate commuting, and live like a tourist in a city I’ve known my entire life.

The Westin Hotel. Image courtesy of HotelInternetHelp.com.

The Westin Hotel. Image courtesy of HotelInternetHelp.com.

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This entry was posted in Travel and tagged .

Paseo culture: A Spanish snapshot

One of the things I miss about Spain (and it may come as a shock, me missing anything from there!) is the idea of the paseo: a leisurely evening stroll, ending at the Plaza Mayor, and people-watching.

If it were a movie, there would be flamenco guitar music playing softly in the background

Image courtesy of JonHumbert.wordpress.com

… the evening light would add an orange glow and bokeh across the Plateresque architecture …

The University of Salamanca | The Curried Nut

The University of Salamanca | The Curried Nut

… and people would walk …

Salamanca | The Curried Nut

Salamanca | The Curried Nut

… until they wind up at the Plaza Mayor. For life revolves around this plaza; this is where the very young to the very old congregate over espresso, wine, gelato, or that blessed drink, Coca-Cola con limon.

Plaza Mayor | The Curried Nut

Plaza Mayor | The Curried Nut

Of course, life is not a movie. But all too often, musicians play outside la Catedral Nueva; las Tunas – post-baccalaureate students in their ceremonial robes – sing in the Plaza for tips on weekends; and the waning sun truly does turn the architecture orange.

Outdoor seating is plentiful; all the restaurateurs ask, if you sit down, is that you order a beverage or tapa. Many families, groups, dates, or the solo wanderer will make an evening of it, snacking on tapas along the Rua Mayor before a late, late dinner on the Plaza. Free concerts are common at either end of the Rua – whether outdoors on the Plaza or indoors at the Catedral with its glorious organ – until the wee hours of the morning. If you are “fortunate” enough to have a balcony hotel room, you don’t even need to leave your room, but can just open the window and enjoy the sometimes wistful, sometimes passionate and fiery musical notes.

Life happens on the paseo, and I have yet to meet its equivalent. This walk is a walk of joy, aches, pains, anger, happiness, sadness, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Would that we could recreate it in our daily lives at home, wherever that may be.

Pull up a chair and order a Coke with lemon! | The Curried Nut

Pull up a chair and order a Coke with lemon! | The Curried Nut

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This entry was posted in Travel.

EVOO Cannon Beach: a cooking love story

My abject apologies for how long it’s taken me to publish this post. Attending EVOO’s market dinner during my last Cannon Beach trip was an absolute highlight, and it well deserves every accolade – not to mention a more timely feature!

(And thanks to my coworker Patrick, who was pestering me this week at our all-staff meetings to get a blog post up! :P)

EVOO is a cooking school located on the south end of Cannon Beach’s main street, Hemlock. It primarily features dinner shows (three courses plus dessert and three wine pairings) and fresh market shows, the latter of which is summer-only and revolves around seasonal produce available at the Cannon Beach Farmer’s Market.

The Rambling Vine‘s Brenna had been raving about EVOO to me for years, and I was thrilled to finally get the chance to attend.

Rather than the hands-on cooking classes one might attend here in Seattle, EVOO produces shows where attendees kick back, relax, and watch husband-and-wife team Bob and Lenore cook fabulous food. They focus less on giving you a recipe up front, and more on demonstrating techniques.

While I still took copious notes, I appreciated not having to write down recipe specifics, and just enjoy the (generous) glass of house red wine – which reminds me, the wine! Fresh market shows’ cost covers the first glass of house red or white wine, and come to find out, EVOO’s own Bob works closely with local vintners to create their own blends. The result is utterly outstanding. (And if you’d like more, you can buy additional glasses for $10 each or a bottle for $24.) You may also browse the shop after the show and receive a 10% discount on your purchase – including the wine.

When attending a show, you quickly realize that Bob and Lenore absolutely love each other and their profession. They egg each other on, play off each other, and are extremely talented at what they do; their love of food spills over to the attendees, and they make each person feel welcome. I was greeted by name, and Bob remembered me the next day when I came in to buy some of the delectable wine (and a few kitchen items – twist my arm!). Both of them are personable and charming, and will also ham it up in front of the camera. (Sorry this one’s blurry; Bob realized I was taking a picture and had to pose with the salmon.)

Bob and Lenore

Bob and Lenore

One of my favorite dishes from the evening was the warm salted new potatoes. This was also one of the easiest! (And I tried it at home recently with resounding success.) Combine 1 1/3 c. salt and a gallon of water; mix to dissolve the salt. Bring to a boil. Scrub and add as many potatoes as you wish and boil for 12 minutes. Drain and serve. (This particularly works well with red, fingerling, or small Yukon Gold potatoes.) Note that the potato skins will look somewhat blanched or whitened.

warm salted new potatoes | The Curried Nut

warm salted new potatoes | The Curried Nut

Our menu included:

Starters
- Homemade bread and sweet butter
- Chop brand salumi
- Pickled spicy cabbage
- Peppered fresh cherries and goat cheese
- (divine) Smoked salmon chowder

EVOO appetizers | The Curried Nut

EVOO appetizers | The Curried Nut

Main Dishes
- Whole roasted chicken
- Grilled wild king salmon

EVOO roast chicken | The Curried Nut

EVOO roast chicken | The Curried Nut

Sides
- Warm salted new potatoes
- Oregon shrimp fried rice
- Broccolini garlic saute
- Poached leeks
- Sautéed kale with shallots/leeks
- Early cabbage fennel slaw
- Mixed greens with shaved cauliflower, carrots, and red beets

Salmon, fingerling potatoes, and sautéed kale | The Curried Nut

Salmon, fingerling potatoes, and sautéed kale | The Curried Nut

Dessert
- Cocoa nib pecan cinnamon-fudge cake
- Fresh cherry gelato
- Salted almond crumble

Drool-worthy dessert | The Curried Nut

Drool-worthy dessert | The Curried Nut

I cannot even tell you how amazing the dessert was. Just look at it!

And then Bob lit candles with a blowtorch.

Blowtorched candles over dessert! | The Curried Nut

Blowtorched candles over dessert! | The Curried Nut

And thus ended our fantastic meal. I already can’t wait to go back, and am fully planning to do the dinner show next time. Thanks to Bob and Lenore for a night to remember, par excellence.

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Lost in translation: traveling in foreign languages

I have a confession to make. When I started planning my Europe trip last year, I didn’t think twice about going to places where I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

Then I got to those places.

Sure, a lot of folks speak English, but much like me, here in Seattle, they appreciate it when foreigners make an effort to say something – anything! – in the local language.

I knew this fact, really. In my head. I also thought that it wouldn’t be that hard to do. (Then I learned that I’d been mispronouncing for years the one German phrase I know; I was mortified. I’m sure everyone I said it to just thought, “Oh, bless your heart.”)

Image courtesy of SomeEcards and cmiller103313′s Pinterest.

Regardless, I tried to extend myself grace. Most folks seemed to appreciate the fact that I tried to speak their language, whether or not it was pronounced perfectly. (I’ve heard that is not the case in Paris; stay tuned.)

SO. The lesson? Study up; learn to pronounce the words – as best you can! – and make the effort to speak a foreign language, even if it’s just “Do you speak English?” or “Where is the bathroom?” These are the two most important phrases you need – and the wherewithal to decipher the answer to the latter.

I am immensely grateful for my Rick Steves foreign language phrase books, and highly recommend them; he has published stand-alone and combination books for the following languages:

  • French
  • Italian
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese

My particular favorite was Rick Steves’ French, Italian & German Phrase Book, as I was visiting Germany and Switzerland. Switzerland, you may know, is a conglomeration of French and German speakers, and I found that there was no distinction between where I might need to speak either French or German. I defaulted to German and found they spoke French, and vice versa; it was sometimes easiest to wait until they spoke first before I commenced my English-language begging. :)

Salzburg, Austria | The Curried Nut

Stiftskeller St. Peter, Salzburg, Austria | The Curried Nut

I was so proud of myself when I walked into a little bakery across the way from Stiftskeller St. Peter, above. This bakery is teeny, so small it only sells a couple varieties of sweet rolls – each for about €1. I was able to successfully order one – in German! – hand over my precious coin, and continue on my very merry way.

It’s the little moments like this that make me feel like I truly experienced Europe – the people, the language, the food. I wouldn’t have gone into that little bakery unless Rick Steves mentioned it on his walking tour; I would have missed out on a Salzburg tradition. We don’t go to Europe to eat at McDonald’s – though they do have one on the ritziest street in Salzburg, the Getreidegasse.

Salzburg's Getreidegasse McDonald's | The Curried Nut

Salzburg’s Getreidegasse McDonald’s | The Curried Nut

No, we go – or at least I go – to Europe to experience something different. To get outside my comfort zone, even if it means mispronouncing “Sprechen” every. time. I say it. (At least I can laugh about it!) To create memories; to connect with people around the world that aren’t that different than I; to eat fondue and chocolate and local Weizen bier in Bern, street vendors’ gingerbread cookies in Salzburg, afternoon tea on a plane to Windsor.

To borrow from Dead Poets’ Society’s John Keating:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

This is why I travel. This is why I write. This is why I study that foreign language. And I encourage you to do the same.

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