What would you consider as the best Country for eating?
Personally, because of the diversity, I'd still rank the US number one, but having lived in various places around the world and travelled in many, I'd have to add few:
1. France, particularly way outside of Paris, where lunch can be incredibly economical and heavenly. As much as i hate to, i have to give them the number one spot
2. Northern Italy, especially Tuscany.
3. Spain, almost anywhere, but you have to find the spots.
4. Barbados......a surprise, and not just among the Caribbean countries! Some are inexpensive, some wildly expensive (especially dinner), but almost consistently good.
5. Taiwan,,,,,i haven't been to China, but in every restaurant I ate in Taiwan.......fancy or austere... the food was fantastic and fresh.
for bonus points, you can also list a few of the worst countries. Can't say i was thriled with Denmark for the price/taste trade-off.
My most haunting international cuisine experience was in Thailand decades ago. I had never ever tasted such flavor combinations and could not get enough and could not figure out what made it so alluring.
Turkey also comes very high on my list. They do things with vegetables, appetizers, grilled meats, phyllo pastry, salads, soups and desserts --- across the board, familiar but also unexpected, excellent quality and variety.
Switzerland for very good, even quality across the board, yet rarely comes in on anyone's list of grand cuisines.
Pakistan, India -again for remarkable and fragrant variety.
A recent cruise had an American buffet and I wondered what on earth they would serve and it all sounded pretty banal, but we really do have a lot of regional cuisine variety and it was my favorite "international" buffet on the entire trip.
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France, because of the emphasis on quality ingredients and taking care in preparation.
Greece, because of the emphasis on healthy ingredients, and putting simple foods and fresh herbs and accents (e.g., lemon) together in loving preparation to create...well, "hyperdeliciousness". :-) The produce is always so incredibly ripe there, and it's the best place I've ever been for the cooking of a simple lamb chop, a piece of freshly caught fish, a pork chop or a little beefsteak that we wreck here. I really don't know of another place I've been where, so consistently, even the most humble country taverna owners can take a lamb chop, a ripe tomato, a cucumber, some olive oil, a lemon and some bread and turn them into meals fit for kings.
Authentic Greek food is like authentic Italian. I don't think we really know it here. If one spends time in Greece, it becomes clear that the cuisine has so little to do with the gloppy, starchy moussaka and pastitsio that pass for Greek cuisine here.
I haven't been to the Middle East, but I think the flavor and perfume combinations of spices, fruits, nuts and legumes and meat are brilliant.
I would agree with you that the United States can represent one of the greatest food experiences, due to our melting pot culture and the instant accessibility of so many cuisines. I wouldn't rank it among the very best, however, because in too many sectors we rely too much on processed foods. I'm not addressing the health issues here; I'm referring to what too many preservatives, too much sodium, too much refined sugar do to taste, texture, and satiety. IMO, our distribution system often sacrifices freshness and quality in exchange for shelf life and, yes, sometimes price. For example, why am I getting oranges that have traveled all the way from South Africa, when we can grow some of the best juice oranges in Florida and absolutely magnificent navel oranges in California?
Now, you can spend time and money to seek out the very best, but I think in some other places fresher, more natural, local food is just the way *everyone* approaches cooking and eating. I've been places where the citizens have such an innate respect for food as a gift of life from their G-d (however G-d is perceived in the culture). Accordingly, they insist it be cultivated properly, and they are diligent in their preparation of it. They put the day aside, too, to give food's consumption, and the communion it provides with family, friends and strangers, too, a corresponding importance. Here, we too often alternatively wolf it down while we're doing something else or look upon it only as one of the many sensory experiences to which we've become addicted. (And of course not all of us, and not all the time). But, to me, food is a gift, and so many people here and throughout the world, go too often without it. So, I wish all those fortunate to have enough to eat would give it the thought it merits as a source of life and a means of cultural and artistic expression do, as CH'ers and folks who share this interest do.
re: Steady Habits
You mentioned the Middle East, so I'll add that Jordan really surprised me. Lovely, lovely food at every meal! Mainly mezze and grilled meat with flat bread. The veg was surprisingly fresh and OK to eat. I tried to recreate it at home but it just doesn't taste as good without the surroundings.
Egypt was a bit harder, mainly because the water is not safe to drink - so no fresh veg there. We still enjoyed our meals, but missed the nice Jordanian salads.
And who can argue with Japan, Italy, France, Belgium (oh! the chocolate! and the beer! and the mussels! more, please!) Thailand, US, UK.....
Three points your post brings to mind, WTBD:
1) When simple, non-processed, well prepared food can be so appealing and satisfying as I find that of Greece, and you, of Jordan, it's a reminder of the importance of technique;
2) Re Egypt, how critical the world's potable water situation is, not only to grow crops, but also because we know how important to health the consumption of vegetables and fruits are;
3) I haven't been to Belgium, but in my limited exposure to authentic Belgian cuisine, including their heavenly frites seasoned with fresh cracked pepper, I found an open door to liberation from my American addiction to over-salted and over-sodium'ed foot. I'm grateful to the Belgians for that alone, but their chocolate only increases my affection. And I don't drink alcohol more than once or twice a year, but I sure do like to cook with a good strong dark ale. ;-D
re: Steady Habits
Fish-based for many, especially flying fish. There is a heavy emphasis on "frying" which although not healthy, tastes marvellous.
Rice and beans predominate along with greens; potatoes are less likely. Lots of fruit. In fact, the grapefruit was actually created in Barbados by crossing two other citrus plants.
Barbados also has a lot of sugarcane that goes primarily into making rum. However, the abundance of sugar, molasses and rum makes for some interesting recipes