Hello From Prague

We made it!

There’s been far too much happening—some fun, some super annoying, some utterly confusing—for me to process it all in a way that will allow me to explain it clearly. After that first day on April 15 of jetlag, sleep deprivation, and glee mixed with extreme apprehension, the past 11 days have been a jumble of metro rides to IKEA, realizing I left my Kindle on the plane, being reunited with my Kindle at the Prague airport lost & found, visiting every grocery store within a 20-minute walk, exploring online grocery shopping, a busted dishwasher and broken kitchen water pipe, coffee with friends (Hi, Nina!), tea with friends (Hi, Bethany!), walks in the sun, pouting at the rain, paleo dinners at home, beer on the riverbank, Nutella on bananas, and collapsing on our blessedly comfortable couch in wonder.

Rather than trying to tell you the whole story just now, I thought I’d share a few photos of things I’ve eaten since we arrived (not shown, the bread with pork cracklin’ spread, the schnitzel, or the shot(s) of Becherovka) as well as some updates from my new kitchen. My cooking space isn’t entirely set up yet, but it does have a stick blender, which, naturally, I purchased on my first shopping trip. So far, I’ve managed homemade mayo, Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup, tuna salad, baked chicken thighs, omelets, and Chocolate Chili. Meatballs are up next because I just got a new delivery of spices.

Some food I ate in restaurants…

Steak tartar and pommes frites at the Café Savoy.

Salmon, beet salad, and gluten-free cocoa bomb at IKEA. We ate at IKEA twice, which is kind of heart-breaking, considering all of the wonderful restaurants in Prague, but I was grateful for the IKEA café because as anyone who shops there knows, it takes ALL DAY.

Lamb kofta, hummus, beet salad, and fries at Safir at the Nový Smichov mall. Insert the same comment about being sad to eat/gratitude about eating in a retail space. Setting up an entirely new household means a lot of shopping.

Happy find: Green plantains at Delmart. I haven’t eaten them yet, but I was delighted to see them.

In my kitchen…

Spices: Mostly, spices in the grocery store are sold in packets instead of jars. It’s pretty smart! The spices stay fresher that way and you can buy them in smaller quantities (although I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that).

IKEA has cute jars with wide mouths so my spice drawer will soon be stocked with a full set. For now, I have four as a test: salt, pepper, garlic powder, and—of course—cumin.

Ume Ocet: This magic sauce is a revelation! Made from shiso leaves (an herb that’s related to mint), white plum vinegar, and sea salt, it’s a jolt of umami that has been adding zing to so many things we eat: salad greens with extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar, egg salad, tuna salad, ground beef. It’s used sparingly, like fish sauce, but has a brighter flavor than the darker undertones of fish sauce.

I did a quick Google search to see if there’s anything similar in the U.S. but couldn’t find anything (except this piece from The Kitchn singing the praises of fresh shiso leaves). An American version of this shiso sauce seems like an awesome opportunity for an entrepreneur!

Have you ever tried fresh shiso leaves? Tell us about it in comments.

Ginger Tea: It’s so simple and so comforting! Hot water, plenty of fresh ginger, a squeeze of lemon, and a little Czech honey. This has become my go-to café beverage because I don’t have to worry about caffeine, it always tastes great, it’s available everywhere, and it’s soothing on cold days and refreshing when it’s warm outside. You can make some yourself at home, too!

Electric Cooktop: Oh, friends. The transition to electric cooktop from gas has not been an easy one, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. I deliberately bought terrible, cheap-ass pans until I get accustomed to the stove, and the combination of lousy pan and new heating mechanism has lead to some very diappointing results. But I’m learning! For my birthday next week, I’m going to treat myself to new skillets, and in mid-May, my favorite chili pot—packed in a box currently traversing the ocean in the hold of a ship—will arrive. If you have any advice for cooking on an electric stove, please share in comments!

Refrigerator and Wine Chiller: Our kitchen came equipped with a smaller-than-I’m-used-to refrigerator and a large wine chiller. What’s a girl who eats massive amounts of produce every week to do? Turn the wine chiller into a fruit-and-veggie cooler, of course! It’s the perfect temperature for storing produce, and now we have tons of room in the fridge for meat, olives, and homemade mayo.

And the question I’m asked most often…

How is Smudge?

Smudge was a champ on the plane. She slept for most of it, but about halfway through the flight, I heard a little mew. When I stuck my hand into her carrier to check on her, she nuzzled my palm with her little wet nose, poked her head out of the bag to look around, then snuggled into a danish-shape and went back to sleep. It felt like she was just checking to make sure we were still there. When we arrived at the hotel, she walked around with her tail up in the air, then ate and took a nap. She spent the four days at the hotel under the bed with occasional visits in our laps for belly rubs.

Now that we’re in our new home, she’s happier than we’ve ever seen her. The apartment is cozy and quiet, both attributes that are highly valued by Smudge. We found grain-free dry and wet food for her at the pet shop in a nearby mall, and she’s eating with gusto. My new fuzzy blanket from IKEA has been co-opted by her for napping and playing; she likes to attack it a few times before snuggling into it for a snooze.

And this is how Dave and I were feeling last night on our after-dinner walk along the Vltava River. We are terrible at selfies.

Also worth mentioning… things I never thought I’d have: keys to a flat in Prague, a Czech cell phone, an appointment at the U.S. Embassy, and an appointment at the Czech Embassy in Warsaw, but more on that later…

We’re Moving To Prague

Last Saturday, Dave and I bought our one-way tickets from Boston to Prague and reserved a space for Smudge on the plane. It's official! On...

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Comments

  • michelle tipton says:

    i really dislike my electric stove but have found cooking with my iron skillet to be the best. I find the food cooks unevenly so i’m careful to move food around more often then i had to with a gas oven. WOW you’ve added a HUGE dimension to your blog/emails and what a joy to read! we’re on the journey with you! YOU are awesome for being so generous of your life’s adventures and news with us paleo buds ! Can’t wait for future emails… Michelle from maryland…

  • Lydia says:

    Condolences and best wishes on the electric stove. Other than that, everything sounds FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for the update and I look forward to your coming settling-in adventures.

    • Lori K says:

      I have a glass-top (I think?) electric stove in our 1970-built home in AZ. It sucks. I miss my gas stovetop in Chicago with many crying-face emojis. Have you considered getting a multi-pot? Maybe you already have one? Mine is en route via Sur La Table and I’ve convinced myself it will fix all. the things.

  • angien says:

    While I adore all things IKEA, I have found the lids on those spice jars to be very fragile. Metal-look plastic tops don’t hold up to frequent opening and closing. They cracked and split, making them useless. I found the IKEA 365+ IHÄRDIG jars to be MUCH better for beloved spices. They are a bit larger, so I don’t use them for every spice, but you can’t beat them for the workhorses in your drawer. You can also buy a very handy grinder to screw on the top of any of the jars. I have two of those! Not sure if they stock them in Prauge, but if they do, I highly recommend them!

  • Dana says:

    LOVE your first bits of info on your new life in Prague – would love to see pics of your flat and surrounding area as well. My one word on electric stove – stuff takes longer – and need a bit more attention that gas – I’m used to mine now but still find that I have to adjust certain recipes. Good luck -you’ll figure it out I’m sure. Can’t wait to hear more as you get used to life abroad! All the best to you, Dave and Smudge!! 😉 pax -Dana

  • Alison says:

    Moving is no fun. So glad Smudge is adjusting and doing good. Take luck in getting settled and back to the norm.

  • Heather says:

    So excited to see these updates! I’ve followed you for a while and am a big fan of your cook books and your blog. I’ve just started following you on twitter/instagram so I can see the photos of your excellent adventure! I’m typically a “passive” follower, but just had to say how exciting it is to share in your adventure. I’m always intrigued by your posts, and love your outlook on life. Recently a friend of mine moved to a different city and was finding it hard to adjust. I shared with her some relevant input that a “friend” shared with me (that would be from YOU and a podcast you recently posted!) and it was so helpful to her!! Please do continue to share! P.S. As someone in relatively the same age bracket as you, your selfie looks pretty terrific! Certainly better than any I’ve taken! 🙂

    • YAY! Thanks for popping up to say hello. It’s really great to hear from you… and thank you for reading! I’m so glad my experiences are helpful. I’m just really kind of bumbling my way around, hoping things work 😉

  • Jean says:

    Oh, man. I lived in Bratislava for a bunch of years, a lifetime ago, and this is making me terribly homesick for it. My bestie and I spent SO MANY HOURS on the Charles Bridge, playing with tourists. I miss Becherova! My favorite though was apricot-vica with orange juice. Can’t say that Slovak cuisine was super awesome but I did eat cracklins on bread as a side to vodka more times than I like to admit…I haven’t commented on your blog in a long, long time but you might be hearing from me more often as I relive my misspent youth in B’lava vicariously through you. Hope that’s not too creepy. 🙂

  • There was a study in germany about cats’ roaming patterns and it turned out that black & white cats were the most adventurous. Maybe Smudge has some of that. I know my old tuxedo cat Mats sure did. He flew between West Coast to Paris 3 times, and behaved just like Smudge. Alas, our two tabbies do not travel nearly so well!

    Learning to cook again with electric takes patience; am always reminded of this when we’re in vacation rentals and everything takes 3x as long to cook…or else burns!

    Looking forward to settling in stories and yes…pics of Prague ‘hoods.

  • Jerilynn says:

    Congratulations! Have you tried the restaurant School yet? I don’t know if you like duck, but we had some amazing dishes there…and the garlic soup, amazing! I love
    Shiso. I have to admit, I only use the leaves with Asian food, but it is one of my all time favorites! Wrap a piece of sushi in it and it is heaven. Why don’t you consider being a distributor? I would certainly buy some!!! Best of luck over there…what a wonderful experience!

  • Karen says:

    Glad you are getting settled in and Smudge is happy. More than 40 years of moving around with the military, moving is an adventure and a stress at the same time.
    I had the best luck with heavy bottom or thick bottom pots and pans. I would remove the pot from the heat to lower heat when I needed. It is a learning curve. Have fun.

  • Abby C. says:

    I grew a Shisho plant last year. We enjoy it in sushi rolls, but it has a wonderfully cumin-like flavor that is fun in salads, with meats, in marinades. Let your creativity wish you away to the land of the rising sun.

  • Sonya says:

    Yay! I’ve been waiting to hear how y’all are settling in! I have cooked on an electric stove similar to that one for so long, it’s probably a good thing I don’t remember cooking with gas. Sorry I can’t be of help. I mostly use my All-Clad sauté/fry pan for everything and have had no problems when I allow it to heat up first and for most dishes I only use the heat setting at 3 or 4 with it. I do have some really old cast iron pots and dutch ovens that I use just fine as well. Wobbly bottom pans are no bueno. I despise the smooth glass top stoves, though – they are not made for people who really enjoy cooking and are prone to spillage and boiling over pots.

    I’m totally jealous of the shisho sauce! Looking forward to the next update!

    • Lori K says:

      Yes to all of this – if you cook too hot on cheap pans, they will warp, thus “allowing” the pan to spin in circles, while you’re trying to cook. Good times. My Le Creuset is the best purchase ever. I clean it with Bartender’s Secret – if you can’t find that over there, just grab some when you come back or have a pal send you some. That stuff is the best.

  • Doreen says:

    Yay on being in your new home, and good luck to you!! The best advice I can give on cooking on electric is to remember to move the pan off the burner after turning off the heat!! I learned that the hard way years ago when a grease fire started in the pan after I turned off the heat.

  • cat says:

    Wow! I had no idea that IKEA had anything suitable to eat for special diets! (Probably not worth a 2 hour drive to get there, though.) Cat’s Electric Cooking 101: When you need to adjust temps mid-cooking (high to low, etc)… Turn on TWO burners, one with each of the correct temps. Once you need to make the change, just switch the pan to the correct heat. (Works great for pressure cooking when you bring it up to high, then need to simmer.) Do, indeed, watch out for warping the bottom of pans – you’ll know when they spin when you stir. 😉 Unfortunately, canning is not recommended on electric ranges… something about the heat being too regulated on the burner to adequately do what heat needs to do in preserving. If I think of anything else that I can remember, will get back to you. Sounds like Smudge is in heaven! So happy for you all! c@

  • Jan Neruda Reed says:

    I simply love Prague; so happy you are living your dream! Spent a week in an apartment in the Storchu bldg in Old Town Square in 2015 to really soak up the place. While I’m mainly Palo, I also seek out raw and vegan places,. finding some overlaps. Country Life grocery on Malantrichova also has a vegan cafeteria; they carry good paleo dry good options. Rawcha , a raw vegan bistro on Na Porici near Florence is also highly recommended (also great take out desserts!). Keep sharing your experiences so we can live vicariously!

  • Kelly says:

    I have always cooked on the flat electric cooktop (but I am moving in June to a house with a lovely gas range and am excited to try that out). I rarely cook anything on high, at least not for long. it just all seems too hot and I’ve burned things. it takes longer for the heat to go down so like some other comments, you may want to pull the pan off for a minute or two when you reduce the heat. I have a plastic, flat edged scraper that is good for cleaning cooked on stuff off the cooking area and a cleanser like “bar keeper’s friend” (if they have that in Prague!) is safe to use. Congrats on your move!!

  • Elizabeth says:

    So glad you are doing well, despite some inconveniences.

    I hate cooking with gas. However, it has been awhile and generally always have crappy pans whenever the gas stove comes up, so that could be the reason. Conversely, I have had electric for years and they have done great with my All clad, Le Creuset and Staub. It might be your pans that are the problem? I only do medium high at most but generally around medium low gets the job done and my pans super easy to clean. Good luck!

  • Pior says:

    Hi, if you need any hints about paleo friendly restaurants in Warsaw, or any other information about Warsaw, I’ll be more than glad to help ☺️

    Congrats on the move to Prague, I’m pretty sure that Eastern Europe would be perfect fit for you guys 😀

    • Yes, please! That would be so helpful! We’re going on May 24-26, I think… and then we’ll be back again in July.

      • Piotr says:

        😃

        SAM Kameralny Kompleks Gastronomiczny
        Lipowa 7a, 00-313 Warszawa
        600 806 084

        https://goo.gl/maps/s36hJVMAFmK2

        Really nice restaurant. Menu depends on the season. Stuff always give you good information on the allergens.

        THAISTY
        plac Bankowy 4, 00-095 Warszawa
        730 000 024

        https://goo.gl/maps/FupNUwH7hwH2

        IMO best Thai restaurant. Curries are the best option, but you could also ask about other sugar free dishes. It’s very important to book a table in advance.

        Buczer
        Puławska 35, 00-001 Warszawa
        519 117 145

        https://goo.gl/maps/AU1H36MNVoM2

        Generally it’s a meat shop, but you can eat there great steaks. Just choose the piece of meat you like, and they will grill it for you. Please note that meat it’s only thing you can eat there – there’s no salads 😋

        Next recommendations I’ll will post in the following comment 😃

        • Thank you for the recommendations! We’re really looking forward to our visit to Warsaw.

          • Piotr says:

            If you are looking for fresh meat or/and vegetables Hala Mirowska is the place to go. So if you hadn’t chose place to stay yet, it’s good idea to search for something near market.

            Hala Mirowska
            plac Mirowski 1, 00-001 Warszawa
            22 620 38 78
            https://goo.gl/maps/Ag7s61CxyQm

            I always try to choose apartments with kitchen while traveling, so I could prepare my breakfasts at home. Having market nearby is great advantage 😉

            If you look to breakfast in the city, Berek (Israeli restaurant) is a place to go.

            Shipudei Berek
            Jasna 24, 00-054 Warszawa
            22 826 25 10
            https://goo.gl/maps/itCLFzMcUJ92

            If you need anything else, let me know 🙂

          • Thank you so much!

  • Emma says:

    I had shiso leaves a lot in Japan, they use them as a herb for lots of things over there, also as a plate for many things too! Like for wasabi or to wrap other food in.

  • Yay, thanks for the shoutout 😀 I am so happy Smudge is finally out of the closet 😀 so now I can see her at least on the picture, and hopefully next time she will let me pet her a bit 😀

  • sandy says:

    we do not use cast iron skillets on our glass cooktop…apparently they scratch the surface….

  • Pam says:

    Just be glad your stove is a glass top, and not the older coil type … so much easier to clean! And what about that cool elongated burner? Many ideas come to mind immediately. That’s a cool feature. Congratulations on making your dream come true!

  • Stefanie says:

    Congratulations! I am so happy for you to have made the transition sort of smoothly and that Smudge seems quite relaxed as well. Good for you! IKEA always seems like a safe heaven in foreign countries at first, doesn´t it? Cooking on a electric stove will be fine in no time; it just takes a Little longer for the cooker (correct word?) to heat up and then, of course, the stovetop stays warm for some time even if the power has been turned off. This can come quite Handy at times, actually. I know you will get familiar with your stovetop in no time. Do enjoy all the new experiences and take care! 🙂 Can´t wait to hear more! 🙂

  • Violet says:

    Cooking on electric range: Use high heat only to bring water to boil. Turn off burner early – residual heat will continue the cooking process, which helps avoid burnt food/pans. If using electric oven: GET AN OVEN THERMOMETER. This is critical. Electric oven temps are notoriously inaccurate (in my experience), especially if there are 2 heating elements. Other than that, enjoy the adventure!

  • Dina @healthyfoodmom on IG says:

    love your updates, love your pics, love your writing! how terrific of you to always include us on your new journies 😌 sounds like you all are settling in beautifully, despite the electric stove learning curve. i agree with everyones suggestions, and laugh myself as i have an electric stove that mandates two burners being on and set at temps i will need; that boil then simmer is a killer! you all just take care of you all, everyday in everyway! we all will look forward to your updates🙂 Happy Prague✌🏼💗😊

  • Kimberly Robinson says:

    I have a sealed top range and I burned everything for the first three weeks we lived here. The trickiest thing to get used to is the fact that when you turn it down it doesn’t go down, you actually have to move it off the ring for a bit until the ring cools down.

  • sue glass says:

    I use Shiso leaves in sushi rolls. there are always some left, so the get thrown in a salad. the are kind of yummy.

  • Dorothy says:

    Good for you!!! Living your dream!!!! Well maybe not the electric stove part but the rest sounds great. The advice I can give you on an electric stove is patience. It takes some getting used to. If all else fails get an induction burner. I purchased two when we moved to this house, as a hold out until I reno the kitchen.

  • Nancy says:

    Others’ comments on cooking on an electric range are right on. I’m finding, too, that it helps to warm up the burner I’m going to use before I put the ingredients in the pan. It’s important not to forget that the burner is on, but it does help in getting things going faster.

    You’ll do great with it, Mel, (eventually)! Love the update, and the tip of shiso for umami.

  • Simona says:

    Welcome to Prague! And All the best to you, Dave and Smudge. :-). For fresh stuff try Saturday Prague Fresh markets. In this time there are everywhere. The best one is at Dejvice – Prague 6. Good mood boosting place with fresh delicious food, music and nice people of course. Another one takes place at Smichov – River bank. Have a lots of fun ! 🙂

  • Lana says:

    I have an induction cooker which I love. I heard they were popular in Europe. I have been discovering eggplant recipes which I love! My favorite is eggplant slices stuffed with cheese and cooked in a sauce. Will be anxious to see what new things you discover . Smudge looks happy and settled! So exciting g – enjoy.🍆🍆

  • Dad says:

    I use a single edge razor blade to scrape off any spills that stick to the glass surface ( after it cools, of course ). If you hold the blade at a relatively flat angle to the glass it won’t scratch anything and will definitely remove any crusty bits. Also, for temp control I generally preheat the pan slightly warmer than it needs to be, then add the cool food and immediately adjust the temp to the proper setting. love ya, bye.

  • Danielle says:

    I’m a Canadian in the UK, and I cook on an electric stove top. I’ve got a Le Creuset cast iron casserole pot and a cat iron frying pan, and both work well on my ‘hob,’ usually cooking at medium heat. I leave them to heat up as I chop my veggies – it doesn’t take long at all and both cooking vessels hold their heat well.

    On the topic of grain-free cat food, there’s 2 UK brands I’ve given my cat: Meowing Heads and Lily’s Kitchen. You can find them on Amazon UK and other websites. Not sure if you’d be able to get it shipped to the Czech Republic, but it’s worth looking into if you get really stuck for good cat food options. I feed my cat a mainly raw meat diet; that could be an option too for Smudge if you’re up for it?

  • Alicia says:

    Glad to hear Smudge did well on the flight! I am actually preparing to move my two cats from the US to Budapest. I was under the impression no airlines would let me carry on my cat sfor an international flight and they had to be checked baggage or cargo. Can I ask what airline you used?

    • It’s my understanding that most airlines will allow cats in the cabin, but they also have a limit on how many pets may travel on each flight, so you need to book early. The way we’ve done it in the past is to book our tickets online (to get the best price on the tickets themseles), then call the airline to buy the ‘cat seat’ which generally costs around $100-$200 per pet. But every airline is different, so I recommend you call the airline on which you want to travel before you purchase anything. The airline will give you the specifics on dimensions of the carrier, and the pets must travel under the seat in front of you so you can’t be seated in an exit row.

      Generally, European airlines provide better customer service than the American carriers. We flew on SAS this time, but also took Smudge on a flight from Austin, TX to Boston, MA on United and she flew in the cabin with us.

  • Kathie says:

    Hi Melissa, congratulations on your move to Prague, my hubby and I honeymooned there 10 years ago and it is certainly a special place.

    I live in a rented house with a hob like that and it is such a pain! Heavy based pans and practise are the only tips I have! A word of caution; I have heard tails of cast iron pans causing the glass top to crack on this type of hob. We’re buying our first house and one of the things I’m most excited about is buying my own cooker, although sadly it won’t be gas!

    I also used to keep my spices in those little IKEA jars, they are super cute but as another commenter said the kids aren’t strong and I also found that over time some spices reacted with the silver plastic and made it bubble or come off! You could try swapping the lid for metal jam jar type ones of the same size, you can order in bulk on Amazon.

    Good luck with everything and enjoy your big adventure.

  • Ashley says:

    I’m excited to read more about your Prague adventures! We’ll be visiting Prague this summer so hopefully you’ll have a chance to post some restaurant recommendations with good, paleo friendly choices.