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European Food & Drink Guide

Reviewed by Carol Sorgen

There’s an ex-husband of mine floating around who is only too happy to tell the story of how his French-speaking wife somehow wound up ordering him brains instead of lamb (of course, in retrospect, maybe that wasn’t a mistake, but that’s another story)…anyway, had I had the European Food & Drink Guide, published by Berlitz, with me, we might have avoided the argument that ensued.

Eating and drinking your way through a variety of cuisines is one of the pleasures of a trip to Europe. But as adventurous as you might be, it comes in handy to be able to at least point to something on the menu and have a vague notion of what you’ll be eating. And for those with special meal requirements, whether you’re Kosher, vegetarian, or have food allergies-like the pesky one I’ve developed in recent years to fruits with pits in them (i.e., cherries, plums, peaches, etc.)-knowing what you’re eating and drinking is not just desirable, but a necessity.

This handy-sized paperback, small enough to tuck into a purse, covers traditional food and drink, country specialties, and standard fare; explains typical meals, course by course; and highlights expressions needed to reserve a table, order, and pay. There is also a tipping guide, and conversion tables for weights and measures. Languages included in the book include Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish; the pronunciation of each foreign word is spelled out phonetically (which won’t necessarily improve your accent, of course, but should help you communicate on a basic level with maitre d’s and waiters). At the end of each language section is a menu reader-vocabulary words in that particular language, followed by the English translation.

While this book is a trusty guide to have with you, thumbing through it while at a restaurant may prove frustrating and time-consuming so I’d suggest reading it ahead of time and perhaps earmarking certain phrases and menu items so that you can turn to them quickly.

We wouldn’t want you to have a repeat of my “brains” incident!