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This fresco from Pompeii illustrates the decadence of upper-crust Roman dining — pass the vinum, please; anyone for sala cattabia?

As I was browsing through some of my late mother’s memorabilia on Roman times — she taught classics at George Washington University for years — I came across an interesting set of recipes attributed to M. Gavius Apicius, said to have lived in the time of the emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37).

Tiberius, stepson of Augustus Caesar, was reputedly a nasty fellow and some of the contemporary Roman cuisine seems to reflect that. (More on that in a moment.)

Apicius himself was reputed to have spent a fortune (one hundred million sesterces!) on food and, when facing starvation due to his eventual impecuniousness, drank a vial of poison. But before that he had written two cookbooks and established himself as the Mario Batali of his day.

According to an author named… Continue reading

The inimitable box of fried clams has helped put Ipswich, Massachusetts, on the culinary map

In his latest guest post, Bob Waite had me hooked with his first mention of fried clams, one of my favorite culinary indulgences.

And by the time I had finished reading his piece, I was salivating for a return trip to Cape Ann, a seafood haven and resort area that includes Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Bob grew up in Ipswich on Cape Ann, and writes here about his hometown and nearby Essex — one of which invented the fried clam (though both claim it). But wherever it was born, the Cape Ann area indisputably remains king of the clam. And that’s good enough for me.

By Robert Waite

Ipswich, MA – While many Americans back in the day were getting their kicks on Route 66, I was getting my thrills from the sea on Route 133.… Continue reading

Here’s a nice infographic from Ireland Walk Hike Bike, serving as a reminder for foodies (or anyone who likes to eat) looking for some of Europe’s tastiest and most scenic and culturally rich regions.

It’s by no means comprehensive — France doesn’t make an appearance — but who needs a reminder that French food is some of the best on the planet?

Ireland may be better known for Guinness than the food that goes with it, but I can certainly vouch for the seafood on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, where I once spent a week on a hiking trip eating nothing but fish for my main course three meals a day. I hadn’t initially intended to do that, but after a couple of days it became a challenge of sorts that I couldn’t resist — and I was glad I didn’t.

Tuscany, of course, is famous for its food,… Continue reading

A mess o' crawfish.

A mess o’ crawfish.

Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — falls on February 13 this year, and is celebrated in America most notably in Louisiana.

In my limited Mardi Gras experience, I’ve noticed that Louisianans like to dance to Cajun music, dress up and ride in Mardi Gras parades, catch beads, drink copious amounts of liquid refreshments, and eat crawfish.

I love seafood, but when I was presented with a heaping platter of boiled crawfish in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a few Mardi Gras celebrations ago, I was a little intimidated.

While crawfish look like little lobsters, they’re way too small to crack in the same way. So how do you eat them without making a fool of yourself in front of the locals?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what I was taught by a local expert (and it works!):

1. Pick up one fully boiled crawfish.… Continue reading

Overpacking can slow you down and limit mobility. Photo by Keith Williamson on flickr.

Overpacking can slow you down and limit mobility. Photo by Keith Williamson on flickr.

Sometimes even experienced travelers make simple mistakes that can get a trip off to a very bad start, or even ruin it altogether.

The folks at by Grand European Travel — which specializes in guided vacations and river cruises in Europe and around the world — have developed a helpful infographic that identifies six common travel mistakes that it would be wise to review before setting  off on your next foreign trip.

I’m not immune to making some of these mistakes (sometimes it’s easier to dish out advice than follow it).

My rookie mistakes have included not properly insuring my trip, not packing light, and not notifying my banking institutions that they can soon expect to see charges appearing from places like St. Lucia, Hungary, or the Falkland Islands.

I’m pretty anal about… Continue reading

This is the fifth and final post in guest contributor Myles Stone’s reflections on his recent two-month stay with his family in Hoi An, Viet Nam, more than 40 years after the end of the war that roiled America and in many ways changed baby boomers’ lives and world views forever.

But now it’s a new era in this beautiful Southeast Asian country, where the vast majority of the population was born after what they call the American War. (Even when I visited Viet Nam in 1997, there was little anti-American resentment.

Myles offered eloquent observations about the history of the war in his previous post during a visit to the ancient imperial capital of Hue, but now it’s time to move on to one of Viet Nam’s greatest contributions to world culture: its cuisine, which happens to be my own regional favorite.

As usual, this post is illustrated by… Continue reading

0b4623e5-a51d-46e8-8c66-a40b164f4a3fI recently came across a clever ad that I love. It’s from a North Carolina- and Italy-based tour agency called Italian Journeys, and the ad is called “Italy Aptitude Exam.

It features a number of “exam” questions that, in a humorous way,  are designed to get you thinking about whether you’d rather spend this January in Italy — on their 10-day tour of Rome and Naples called “Fundamental Italy” — or back home in the U.S. in the dead of winter.

Illustrated with photos old and new, the exam asks you to choose between, among other things, shoveling snow or standing in the sunshine overlooking Rome’s Tiber River; having a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or a cappuccino; eating American fast food or Italian pasta; and viewing a smoggy American city or what looks to be a dreamy photo of the Isle of… Continue reading

The view from the fortress above Nafplio is stunning. Photo by Clark Norton

The view from the fortress above Nafplio is stunning. Photo by Clark Norton

Although I’d been to Greece twice before, I wasn’t familiar with the town of Nafplio (also spelled Nafplion) until four members of my family and I spent several days there recently to attend a baptismal ceremony and celebration for the baby daughter of some friends. (More on that in my next post.)

Nafplio is  about a two-hour drive from the airport in Athens, and is located at the northern end of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, where the Peloponnesian War pitted the Athenians versus the Spartans in the 5th century BC.

The militaristic Spartans prevailed over the once-dominant but philosophically minded Athenians, dealing a fatal blow to the golden age of ancient Greek democracy.

It was kind of like the Michigan State Spartans football team taking on the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. Ouch.

Nafplio,… Continue reading

Fourth in a Series: 

The entrance to one of our favorite tavernas on Milos, Merthismeni Politeia. Photo by Clark Norton

The entrance to one of our favorite tavernas on Milos, Merthismeni Politeia. Photo by Clark Norton

During my week on the Greek island of Milos, I saw no Mexican restaurants, no sushi bars, no French bistros, or even a Chinese take-out joint.

Yes, there were casual cafes that served pizza, burgers, or crepes as part of their offerings, but no dedicated ethnic eateries or American fast-food places.

All this was fine with me. My family and I ate Greek food three times a day — more if you count the occasional snack — and never got tired of it.

Not only was it almost invariably fresh and delicious, but the variety in selection  and  preparation  far surpassed what you might expect to find in a Greek restaurant in the United States. Our diet went way beyond the familiar gyros,… Continue reading

An ancient Roman amphitheater on Milos comes with water view. Photo by Catharine Norton.

An ancient Roman amphitheater on Milos comes with water view. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Second in a Series: 

Driving on a Greek island is easy — if you let your spouse take the wheel.

I’m fortunate, in a way, that my wife, Catharine, gets a bit nauseous if she tries to read anything — such as a map — in a moving car. That means that in unfamiliar territory without a GPS, I get to navigate, and she has to drive.

Getting to our house on Milos — which we had rented for a week’s vacation with our son, daughter-in-law and six-month-old grandson — was something of an adventure.

Driving up from Adamas, the largest town in Milos and site of the ferry terminal and waterfront marina,  required following a winding road up through the hills while cars zipped around us, passing on blind curves. Catharine stuck… Continue reading






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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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