By Cassidy Campbell |

Two weeks in Budapest quickly passed and when people asked what my favorite thing was in Europe, my answer was almost immediate. The food. My typical meal was pasta, hummus and pita, chicken, sandwiches and salads.  

I realized how Americanized these meals were. I would go to an authentic Hungarian restaurant and order a classic Caesar salad, a chicken wrap, or pesto pasta.  

I would live in a country for five weeks where the food and culture are much different than in the United States, and I was solely ordering meals I ate in my typical American day-to-day.  

I decided I wanted to explore some foods outside of my comfort zone. I obsess over all types of food. I am so passionate about new restaurants and love to write stories on the best restaurants near me. One day, I would love to be a food critic as a side job. 

I wanted to document my new adventure eating out of my comfort zone. This consisted of telling the waiters to order me their favorite dish, pointing to something random on the menu, or eating random foods with no hesitation or fear of food poisoning.  

Here is a daily journal entry from five days of eating out of my comfort zone.  

Day 1 

My friends and I went to an Italian restaurant close to our housing. When the waiter came to our table and I had not even glanced at the menu, I told him to order me his favorite dish. When he pointed to it, I glanced at the name, then told him to put the order in. The dish was called “Tagliolini Venezia.” When he brought the dish out, it was green-ish spaghetti noodles with red sauce, shrimp, and some other fish-looking item. I tried the dish without hesitation and was pleasantly surprised. The sauce almost tasted like a marinara and pesto mix, and the shrimp and other fish added some texture and flavor. Once I finished eating, one of my friends told me the other fish was squid, which did not bother me at all. My day one meal was delicious, and as Stephanie likes to say, “it was fresh from the sea.”  

My rating: 7.5/10. 

Day 2 

We had an early morning this day and a very late lunch at an authentic Renaissance restaurant. We did not get to pick out our meals, and due to the oddness of the dishes, I decided that this would count for day two of my adventure. The waiters brought out a giant bowl of soup, loaves of bread, and some different types of meat. First off, the soup was rabbit soup. I never ever thought I would eat rabbit. Rumors spread around the table that the soup contained chunks of rabbit, but I still decided to dig in and try it. The broth and gnocchi were amazing, and the rabbit honestly added a lot of flavor. It was a tad chewy, but it was not as scary as I thought. Then for the main course we had potatoes and some type of meat. Some people said that the meat was goose, but we also heard it was chicken. The meat itself is still undefined, but whatever it was, it was amazing. Tasted like my grandma’s turkey on Thanksgiving.  

My rating: 8/10.  

Day 3 

Tonight, we went to a nice restaurant. All the meals were expensive, so when I asked the waiter what his favorite dish was, I had to look at the menu to make sure it was not out of my price range. It was called Kacsa Steak, which was duck steak with mushrooms, onion, and mashed potatoes. I immediately asked him what else he liked. I thought I would hate duck, and mushrooms are one of my least favorite foods, next to olives. I asked him what his thoughts were on the chicken breast filled with sun-dried tomato, mozzarella and gnocchi.  “Forget it,” my waiter said. “You are getting the duck.” 

I was terrified to try it when he brought it out, but there was nothing else to do besides dig in. This was one of the best meals I tasted since being abroad. The duck was incredible, and the potatoes and mushroom sauce paired perfectly with this chicken like meat. I know now I love duck and would 100 percent eat this meal again. I’m already craving it.  

My rating: 9.5/10. 

Day 4 

Tonight, we decided it was time to hit up the most authentic Hungarian restaurant near us. I asked Professor Parrish what he recommended, and he referred me to Café Intenzo. I asked the waitress what her favorite dish on the menu was and she let me pick between three of her favorite options, chicken, pork, or goose liver. I don’t care how adventurous I am trying to be, I refuse to try goose liver. I went with the pork dish. It was Hungarian pork medallion and sausage on a bed of mashed potatoes. This dish was incredible, and the Hungarian pork was cooked perfectly. The garnish and sauce that came with it added so much flavor.  

My rating: 8.5/10. 

Day 5: 

For my last day of unknown foods, I am going to write about our meals in Transylvania, Romania. The week consisted of foods such as chicken, potato salad, lots of soups and a different spin on our American desserts. My favorite meal we ate was stuffed cabbage. When this meal was brought out, I scolded and was concerned about what it was. I hate cabbage, and I had no idea what stuffed cabbage meant. Our host moms brought out bowls of sour cream for us to plop on top. Even weirder. I took one bite of this dish and immediately threw my head back in obsession over what just hit my taste buds. The cabbage was filled with rice, chicken and vegetables. I knew why they brought out sour cream: this stuffed cabbage tasted exactly like an enchilada. One of the things I miss most about America is Mexican food, and this was probably the closest thing I would have to it in these five weeks in Europe.  

My rating: 10/10 

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Jatnieks

Although some of these meals were still quite “normal, I am very proud of myself for trying new things and not only ordering foods I am used to. This has been a scary and interesting experience, but overall, if you ask a waiter what their favorite meal is, it’s most likely good.  

If you are like me and feel terrified to try new foods, I encourage you to try new things, especially foods from different cultures. You never know, duck may be your new favorite food too!