jude’s culinary journey

Carpaccio—raw what?

Posted 3/26/24

My sister Janet and I have found that we are the perfect traveling companions. This cannot be said of just anyone. My first trip to Europe was with my friend Katie, whom I had known since I was 10 …

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jude’s culinary journey

Carpaccio—raw what?


My sister Janet and I have found that we are the perfect traveling companions. This cannot be said of just anyone. My first trip to Europe was with my friend Katie, whom I had known since I was 10 years old. Great friends, I found, don’t necessarily make great traveling companions. Not only were our interests and approach to traveling totally different, but we got along so badly that one afternoon Katie smacked me in the face, right in the middle of the post office in Nice. She threw the map at me before running out the door. Great memory of my stay on the French Riviera.

The reason Janet and I do so well together is that neither of us feels that we’re compromising during the trip. We tend to appreciate the same things. We are not tremendous history buffs, but we love art and museums. We enjoy a bit of shopping, but not too much, and we always stop during our day to sit in cafes, write in our travel journals, and get a feel for the locale. We want a nap in the afternoon and a cocktail before dinner. 

Perhaps the most important factor for us is that we divvy up the responsibilities. Janet likes to read up on an area more than I do, and then, looking at a map, she loosely plans our day’s activities, which we might or might not follow, depending on what we run into on the way to a specific location. I carry the language phrase book and do all the talking, asking for directions, and ordering meals and tickets for us; and I hold onto the money.

I became the spokesperson mainly because I have a decent ear and good pronunciation—not because I can speak any foreign language fluently. Unfortunately, I more often than not have trouble understanding the response I get. It’s one thing to look up and memorize how to ask in Italian where the bathroom is, but it can get pretty complicated if the response is to walk down a corridor, up two flights of stairs, make a left, and then it’s the third door on your right.

On our first trip to Italy, we went one evening to a lovely family-owned trattoria. “Oh, they have carpaccio on the menu,” I happily informed Janet. She had never had it, but I had recently been to a restaurant in Manhattan where I’d had an exceptional appetizer of raw, thinly sliced tuna carpaccio, garnished with scallions, capers and lemon slices. We decided we’d share an order before moving on to our entrees, so I gave the waiter our order and Janet and I chatted, waiting expectantly. A huge plate, totally covered with deep red slices, soon arrived. Interestingly, it was garnished with chopped arugula leaves and paper-thin shavings of Parmesan cheese. I’d never seen cheese used with fish.

The waiter drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil over the top and indicated that we should toss it and dig in. I took a large slice and put it in my mouth. It was like nothing I had ever had before. “What kind of fish do you think it is?” I asked Janet. “I can’t tell. Tuna, maybe?” I beckoned for our waiter, who happened to be the owner’s sweet and helpful son. “Che cos’ e questo?” (“What do you call this?”) I asked, then added, guessing, “Tonno?” (“Tuna?”). 

I didn’t understand his one-word reply. “No capisco” (“I don’t understand”), I told him.

“Moo!” was his retort. I looked at Janet, whose eyes were popping out of her head. I had not eaten a piece of meat in nearly 20 years. I ate only chicken and fish. And here I was chomping on a slab of raw beef, of all things.

“No carne!” I said, by way of an explanation for our shocked expressions. “No carne?” he asked, now also looking quite alarmed.

Luckily, Janet, who is a major carnivore, adored the carpaccio. The owner’s son was nice enough to bring me a bowl of warm cannelloni beans with tuna, so I’d have an appetizer as well. The rest of the meal was perfect—and meatless.

judes culinary journey, Salmon, carpaccio,


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