I am not a finicky eater. For me, it’s a great pleasure to sample new foods in new places.
I get travel-cranky when I hear people complain about food just because it’s different from what they eat at home. So it’s hard for me – very, very hard – to admit that I can’t eat fish for breakfast.
I knew I had a problem years ago when I started traveling to New York for business. Those were bagel bonanza days for me. I was giddy for schmear. I wanted to nosh like a local, but I could not conquer lox.
Lox, lox, lox. How could a pink fish with such a catchy name ruin my morning?
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE fish. I just don’t wake up in the morning hungry for it. I don’t wake up hungry for broccoli either, but I’m not ashamed because I don’t order broccoli on my bagel. It’s different with fish. I feel like I should want it with my coffee.
When I visited Denmark, I began to hone my breakfast fish avoidance tactics. I felt safe in restaurants, where I could always find an egg alternative on the menu. But hotel breakfasts were different. What if my small hotel offered only those lovely platters of chilled fish, sliced thinly and layered just so? What if my only choice was that mysterious fish in a tube?
Just in case, I began to horde fruit.
By the time I got to Sweden, I was sneaking a small cornucopia of fruit into breakfast each morning. It made me feel better to have a back-up plan. But I was still self-conscious about my breakfast fish phobia.
This was about the time that the herring started to heckle me. I could hear it in my head. Do you know what a sarcastic, heckling herring sounds like? It sounds like ABBA with an attitude.
Mamma mia, here I am again
My my, how can you resist me?
I tried to demonstrate my affection for Sweden in spite of my breakfast fish aversion. I gobbled lingonberries. I resolved to shop at IKEA more often. But the herring still mocked me.
If you change your mind, you can get back in line
Honey I’m still free
Take a chance on me
Even the salmon taunted me, but it didn’t sound as snippy as the herring. It had a lower voice. And a lisp. “You don’t know what you’re mithing,” it said.
But I do know what I’m missing! I know it is all delicious because I have eaten it for lunch and dinner! But before noon? No way.
By the time I arrived in Finland, I had settled into an uneasy detente with the herring and salmon. I admitted that I would have been a miserable Viking, and they ridiculed me a little less. But I still felt like a Scandinavian culinary outcast.
Then, walking near the outdoor harbor market in Helsinki, I spied the bright orange “Lappland Food” tents selling reindeer meatballs. Instantly, I felt like a flexible food traveler again. I don’t want fish for breakfast – but a reindeer meatball? I am totally up for that.