When travelling, most of us are curious about discovering delicious and exotic food prepared with local ingredients. Of course, also the Azores have plenty of things to discover. It might be surprising that not everything is about seafood, which, being surrounded by the ocean would be first at hand. But being green islands with plenty of cows, seafood is nicely balanced with plenty of delicious beef. Azorean cuisine is relatively simple, no chilli-willy Michelin star minimalistic dishes, rather down to earth, a piece of meat or fish paired with a classical a potato, carrot and cabbage combo. Besides there are hearty stews, in Furnas on São Miguel, you can taste the exotic Cozido, a stew made from beef, pork, chicken, black pudding and even pig’s ears slowly steamed in hot springs. My personal Azorean favourites are besides beef in any form, limpets, aquatic snails and squid, which are by the way the main catch of sperm whales. The best limpets ever, I had in the restaurant O Pescador in Ponta Delgada on Flores, not grilled as usual, but cooked including seaweed and spiced with hot peppers and garlic. But let’s leave the culinary listings to the guidebooks and other bloggers, Azori Vándor – Wanderers of Azores blog (www.wanderersofazores.com) has just started a food series, so you might check it out. But what about food when you are moving here. Coming from another food culture and having other cooking skills you will obviously for most of the time try to reproduce what you are used to. To do so, you will need your ingredients, and here comes the first catch. Not everything is ready at hand, some of it is just unknown, especially if you need special spices or some “special” vegetables. One of our favourites, classical Hungarian meat soup, needs among others parsley root and celery gum, neither of which are standard inventory in the supermarket or at the farmer’s market. Concerning spices, we could somewhat prepare and brought an annual supply of “piros arany”, red gold, spice mix needed for goulash. Concerning the vegetables, the only way to get them is to grow it yourselves, luckily, we just could harvest our first home grown parsley roots.
Another problem, at least on the smaller islands like Faial, is that supply is shipped about every ten days or so. No, constant supply chain of cooling trucks delivering every night to your shop ensuring that you have every day the same goods on offer, with days passing, the choice on the shelves is diminishing. Sour cream, essential in Hungarian cuisine, is luckily pretty similar to crème fraiche, but it does not seem to be too high in demand, so whenever there is, we stock in to be sure that it lasts until the next delivery. On Flores we where stunned by seeing completely empty shelves of dairy products, our host explained how things work, whenever the supply ship arrives, people stock in, buying not four yoghurts, but immediately a box of 24 to be sure that it lasts. As side effect, shelves are emptied fast. A continuously upcoming question, is food expensive? Of course it depends always what are you comparing with, if I compare with Switzerland, everything is cheap, but that is probably true for most places in the world Swiss compare with, compared with Hungary, price levels are rather similar, if you ask locals, they say that everything is much more expensive than a couple of years ago. But I think this answer you will get in most countries, except again for Switzerland, there it was always expensive. One produce which stands out is beef, it is cheaper than pork and depending on the piece even cheaper than poultry. Even the best pieces are not much above 10 € per kilo, and even better, it is not only locally produced from cows that are all year round outside, but it has a really hearty taste. So, what happens to your eating habits when moving here? The answer is probably not only true for food but for culture in general, you are going to adapt. You must start to replace missing items, probably in some years our meat soup will be different, whether it will still deserve the badge of being hungarian meat soup will be decided by our guests. You will be shifting your preferences to new dishes and you will even start to cook some local specialities. I think that is the way humanity evolves in general, cultural exchange enriches our live, and be it as simple starting to barbecue once a week a juicy steak.