rapid post while i await an interview phone call; Unlike the USA Europe isn't carpeted with Wendy's outlet's and other stores selling pureed cow and with enough lights to guid ein an UFO. Indeed, most food shops shut at 8, and earlier on Saturday, and all day sunday. So as a bike racer the option of "stopping off at a taco shop" isn't really avaliable. As a poor bike racer, the option of noshing in restraunts isn't really on the cards on a daily basis either. So what exactly does one do to keep a decent diet whilst travelling.
First of all it should be noted that here bread is something of a religion, it must be bought fresh, daily. most bakeries bake morning and afternoon loaves and there are always 3 or 4 options. I favour the open-structured mediterranian baguette, or the campagne in France. This forms the basis for about everything I eat on the road.
secondly you've got your canned products, unlike in the US these are often from old, established artisan firms. If you follow my twitter you'll notice that i nosh on a LOT of sardines, they're healthy, cheap and yuumy. They come in olive oil with lemon, or herbs or in tomato sauce, or escabeche. On top of this i'm a big fan of ratatouille (or courgette provencale) which you can heat up in the microwave at formule 1 motels (about the only thing they have going for them). And i always tote my olive oil from Cambrils as my flatmate religiously insists it is the best in the world. I also pack dried ham (jamon pais or serrano) for the same sarnies.
Thirdly you have fruit and veg, which are not only incredibly cheap but incredibly good and fresh. My local fruiteria currenlty carries 5 types of tomatoes each with a specific role in life.
then you've got race food; limited by financial considerations i'm a big fan of flat coke, pates de fruits (kind of like massive, fruit flavoured haribo goodies), peanut flavoured gels which i have discoverfed and fallen in love with at decathalon. in longer races i pack small brioches with nutella or jam and even small apple flans or brioches de poche which come in handy individual packets. I'm not averse to Carambars either
As nocturnes often finish after 11pm dinner often consists of these staples, hastily guzzled on the way to the next campsite. Breakfast is nearly always the offer in a cafe or bar; coffee with a pastry or mini-entrepan (my favoured combo being a cafe llarg with a mini of pernil pais or truita) and lunch being more of the aforementioned bread with local fruit and ham (i always try to eat 3-4 hours before the race so oftne i have two "lunches" and forgoe the traditional siesta-inducing midday meal). Melons are incredible in the south of France at the moment so i enjoy those. In Spain i'm all about local peaches and cherries.
When travelling one should note that the French make inferior sandwiches; jambon Beurre being the classic example, still ten times better than your average british fare but i much prefer the spanish dry ham and olive oil to the french sweet ham and butter. The aforementioned butter does make for some fantastic croissants and i do appreciatte their differentiation between sweet and salty vehicles for dairy fat. Often breakfast at hotels is just baguette and butter (if the hotelier has taken pity on you and is giving it to you for free).
I really appreciate that all over southern europe everythign is homemade real food. made in front of you,with ingredients you can pronounce, not frozen, not microwaved, not picture perfect but perfectly tasty. Eating from the Menu gives not only a cheap but a tasty insight into local cuisine, "menus" change each day and are printed or written on a board in the window, they gauruntee 3 courses for about 8 or 9 euros including bread, dessert and a glass of wine and offer what is fresh, local, tasty and traditional. If you're in Rome (or just about anywhere else) do as the romans do and enjoy the menu del dia (or plat de jour) at lunch.
And finally don't ever let the frenchies fool you that they are immune to the delights of fast food. Get yourslef to a "McDo" on a sunday lunch time and watch the buggers line up to chow down. True, french McDonalds have plates and cutlery but still - jose bove would not approve mes amis.