Well, I am back in the states now, but I said I would write more about my adventures abroad, and probably say something about the food. Because I love food.
First I should mention that I associate Lithuania with ice cream. This is not because Lithuania is famous for ice cream or because Lithuanians are famous for enjoying ice cream. It is actually because the first time I went, my companions thought it was the most marvelous novelty that prepackaged cones (like you get from the man with the ice cream stand at the ferry to Neringa) are in “cake cones,” as opposed to waffle cones–you know, the flat bottomed sugar wafer ones. For me, this novelty seemed less exciting because in my childhood, cake cones were the usual cone, and waffle cones were served as an extra special treat.
That being said, we don’t prepackage ice cream in them in the states, so it was new and interesting. When prepackaged, cake cones are remarkably soft. They have a texture akin to the “edible paper” we put on birthday cakes, only thicker, like edible cardboard. Also, Lithuanian ice cream seems to come in a larger variety of flavors. For example, I do not usually find banana or kiwi ice cream in the states.
In my last post, I said Annie and I were headed to Akropolis, the mall. There are several ice cream stands in the mall, and it is common that we get ice cream while we are there. The ice cream is gorgeous. Now, I used to not care much about food presentation. Why make it look nice when I’m just going to mess it up in a minute? Everyone told me it was because “you want to eat it more when it’s pretty.” Well I didn’t. Then I went to Lithuania.
Granted, I was converted by the presentation of some banana chocolate crepes, not ice cream, but in retrospect, Lithuania is the only place I have taken pictures of my food because it looks so pretty (that, and the cakes that I have personally decorated, which are more a matter of documentation than art.) I don’t know why I haven’t taken a picture of the ice cream, but it is no exception. Instead of in the regular buckets like in the states, its in little spirally heaps–like soft serve. Maybe that’s what it is, really, and maybe that’s why it works. But on top of that, they garnish said spirals with pieces or chocolate or fruit or different syrups, mint leaves, you name it. We all seem to be under the impression that the ice cream here is better than in the states, but I can’t tell you whether or not it’s presentation only that causes that.
Akropolis likewise has a… food court… for lack of a better word. See, the eating area is not like our malls, where there are a row of fast food places where you order at the counter and then take your food to the communal dining area. Instead, it is a series of full restaurants that fit into one another like puzzle pieces. Sometimes you walk through one and over a bridge and end up in a second. Then you sit down (I have yet to enter a restaurant in Lithuania where customers are seated) and the waiter comes and brings a menu, and you have a full meal. Even though it’s in the mall.
The only debatable downside to this is that meals tend to take longer in Lithuania. I have had many a two hour meal in this country. But that’s what I like about it. The whole eating atmosphere of Lithuania seems to me more relaxed. You sit where you please and you eat and you talk and when you are ready, you ask for the check. It’s like… coffee shop-cafe culture in the states, only it’s everywhere. Apparently, even when eating in the mall, meals are not a thing to be rushed. They are a communal sharing of food and lives.
That said, I went to a couple of fast places in Lithuania. The first was a coffee house, where Annie and I got smoothies. And I can say from experience that coffee shop culture does not need to be translated. It was like Starbucks–order and pay at the counter, go over to the side, where they put the drinks out as ordered and leave with your disposable cup.
The other instance was, quite frankly, fast food. It was a “design it yourself” stir-fry place. You say what type or noodles or rice you want, what else you’d like in it, and what sauce you want on it. They fry it up for you and stick in it in a paper container a-la television Chinese take-out (interesting fact: this was the first time I had actually had take-out in a box like this.) It was delicious, as fast food tends to be for hungry students lost in a foriegn city.
Speaking of food, I think it’s about dinner time, though there are many a thing I have not mentioned yet. Fear not, the tales of Lithuania will continue soon. (No seriously, I’m really going to keep up with my blog again. No matter how crazy my calendar looks.)