Tonight, I gambled and lost. When I travel to a country where the “local language” (that’s how many Montenegrins identify Serbian…the language they speak…they don’t acknowledge their connection with Serbia…but I digress)….. When the menu isn’t in English, I practice “blind dining” which means, I order something and expect the best when my surprise meal is delivered. (Once in Munich, a friend was served pickled fish in sour cream; I got pork roast with crackling skin, and roasted apples.) Until tonight, after doing this for 10 years, I had a perfect record of meal satisfaction. Sometimes the food was unusual but it was always good. Tonight, in Café Piccadilly, my dinner plate-sized Piccadilly Pizza (recommended enthusiastically by my waiter) contained anchovies. And not just one or two but seven. I like sardines and could have handled one or two anchovies but seven was a little more than I wanted. Even after I scrapped away most of the fish, some grains of the coarse salt they had been packed in added a distinctive crunch to my pizza.
The good news is that I need to drop a few kilos so leaving some of the pizza on my plate wasn’t a bad thing. I also had a Greek salad that contained some of the best green olives I’ve ever eaten. I ate more than a dozen olives and still left nearly that many. There were black olives also but they’re not as tasty.
A friend emailed to ask about food preparation and hygiene standards. As a transitional country, I would say that food sanitation practices in Montenegro appear very good. More expensive restaurants probably have better sanitation practices—though not always. Usually I order a shopska salad, it’s made with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Sometimes a little parsley is added, as well. The salad is dressed with a little vinegar and olive oil and topped with shredded white cheese. It’s very good and I really want vegetables when I travel. The carbs from pizza or fat from heavy meat dishes are too much for me. I also figure the shopska is better than ordering a green salad, with lettuce washed in tap water. Tonight’s Greek salad contained lettuce but also had a tart vinegar dressing.
A few days ago in my entry covering Quirky Observations, I mentioned not buying any smoked meats. Many of the grocery stores have racks full of smoked meats behind the counter. It just hangs, preserved by smoke and salt, until sold. I’m sure the microbes are part of the local digestive systems and present no problems. And, when I’ve eaten the smoked ham at breakfast at a hotel, I was probably eating meat similar to what I saw hanging.
I saw an American, whom I recently met, drink a glass of tap water after finishing his espresso. When I want water, I order sparking water—water with carbonation. It’s an easy way to know that I’m not drinking tap water. In 2000, while on a trip to Bulgaria, I got sick from something. Maybe from water? Probably, a marinated, roasted pepper salad. It was delicious at the time. If someone else is paying my travel tab so that I can conduct a workshop, I can’t afford to call in sick.
Being adventurous is one thing. Being dumb is another. By the way, if you’re in a part of the world where you have concerns about water or hygiene practices, DO NOT rinse your toothbrush under the tap in your hotel room. A couple of years ago I was chatting with a guy on a flight from Kenya to Minneapolis (I was coming back from Uganda but had connected in Nairobi). He told me the trip had been miserable….stomach troubles…he said he watched what he ate and drank only bottled water. I asked him if he’s rinsed his toothbrush under the tap and he almost got sick again.Find a kiosk or "mini mart" (small shops that sell cigarettes, newspapers and bottled water) and stock up so you're not at the mercy of your hotel, where a bottle of water costs $2-3 for 300 ml, about 11 ounces. Usually for the equivalent of .50-.70 cents U.S., you can buy a 1.5 or 2 liter bottle of water at one of the shops next to your hotel.
One more thing, it was another rainy day in Podgorica. My boots kept my feet dry and I didn't get splashed by a passing car.