A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World
Traveling with Our Taste Buds
A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World
Excerpted by Beth Simmons
In our travels the mind puts our senses to work associating memory and place.The fives senses of sight, sound, small, touch, and taste are collaborating to make sensoral connections while we eat margherita pizza on a narrow cobble-stoned road in a Tuscan village watching older couples walk hand-in-hand to the local melodies of live guitar playing in the background.
These elements of travel experience are lovingly imprinted on our brains and in our hearts. Lonely Planet’s new book entitled, A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World focuses on the taste buds, telling stories of travel and memory in connection with food.
The result is a compilation of 38 food adventures shared by several authors including professional chefs, travel writers, authors, food critics, and poets. Each chapter is a dining experience distinctive from the next, and the product is a widely interesting and inspiring travel read whose voyage is driven by our necessity for sustenance.
Below is one of the many adventures written by Jan Morris titled “Food on the Hoof” in which she shares her traveler’s memories of specific foods eaten on-the-go in specific places around the globe.
Jan Morris, who was born in 1926, is Anglo-Welsh and lives in Wales with her partner, Elizabeth Morris. She has published some forty books of history, travel, biography, memoir and fiction, most notably the ‘Pax Britannica’ trilogy about the British Empire; major studies of Wales, Europe, Venice, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Trieste; the historical fantasy Hav and the autobiographical Conundrum.
I am a shamefacedly and often blinkered writer. Although, in the course of a long travelling life, I must have eaten several hundred thousand meals on the hoof, I have never taken food very seriously or bothered to consider the seminal contributions it has made to every aspect of history down the ages. From mammoth meat to foie gras, from the composition of Elizabethan banquet madrigals to the strategies of blockading navies, from rocket rations to genetically modified cereals – I have ignored them all.
Too late to change! Food’s contribution to my historical or aesthetic thinking remains minimal to this day. But, of course, there are some foods that I decidedly prefer to others. Life without bitter Seville orange marmalade would not be worth living, but torturers could not make me eat another forkful of the Lithuanian delicacy called a capelinas, which is made of potato dough soaked in bacon fat, with a sausage in the middle. By and large, however, it is not the edible ingredients of travelling food that I remember, for better or for worse, but the circumstances in which I ate them.
Like most of us, I enjoy eating while actually in motion. An Indian curry is best of all when it has been thrust gently through your compartment window at Hooghly Station the very moment before your great train leaves for Mumbai, and I remember with intense pleasure gobbling a pot of self-heating noodles on a lurching sampan on a wet and dismal dawn en voyage from Hong Kong Island to Tai Po in the New Territories.
When I boarded the last frail remnant of the original Orient Express, in the absence of a restaurant car I was delighted to be handed a paper bag containing an apple, a hunk of cheese and a half-bottle of excellent white wine – what could be a better munch while we laboured across Europe?
On the other hand, eating en avion has generally been a disappointment to me, especially when, in more spacious times, I used to travel first class. This was chiefly because of the ridiculous hyperbole of airline menus, the preposterous sham Frenchness of them, the absurd lists of celebrated chefs who were alleged to have selected the ingredients, and the gigantic menu cards, like nightmare wedding invitations, which you were obliged, with extreme difficulty, to extract from among your magazines and Duty Free catalogues when a supercilious stewardess suddenly turned up and demanded your choice.
I do make an exception, through, for meals on the short-lived Concorde, during the brief heyday of its service between London and New York. Who could honestly complain about a poached apple chatelaine (a whole apple filled with red currant jelly and coated with kirsch and cream) or a wine list that numbered five champagnes, six burgundies and a half dozen clarets, to be enjoyed as the cabin speedometer gently told you that you were now travelling faster than the speed of sound?
Often it is the place that bewitches me, far more than the food. For example, the food is marvellous at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, but it doesn’t compare with the welcome of the setting when I check in on a summer evening and toddle down for a jet-lagged early supper on the hotel terrace. All around me, the spires and jagged rooftops of the old city are silhouetted against the twilight – the little steamers puff by, the royal palace looks stately over the water, scores of flags are still bravely flying, and as I hear the slapping of their ropes against their flagstaffs, and breathe in the cool clear air of the North, I hardly bother to notice when my victuals arrive.
In any case, simplicity is my criterion of good food on the hoof. I love to stop off for a snack at one of the tumultuous outdoor marketplaces of Asia, anywhere east of Suez. In Hong Kong there used to be such a place bang in the centre of the city waterfront, not a hundred yards from one of the grand hotels. It would amuse me, as I sat on a bench amidst the market hubbub, eating some delightfully organic sustenance, to think that just over the way I might be having a crab soup not half as good as mine, and ten times as expensive.
O, simplicity’s the thing, plus serendipity! ‘Here, try one,’ cried a cheerful girl to me, passing by in the back of an open truck among the orchards of Andalucia, and the kumquat she thew me, I swear, was the food of Paradise – along with baked potatoes from an open fire among the Sherpas, or raw fresh herrings sold as snacks in the coastal streets of Holland, or Dungeness crabs among the tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, or the fried whitebait they have been serving for a couple of centuries at the Trafalgar Tavern beside the Thames at Greenwich, or blinis somewhere off Nevsky Prospekt, or big juicy asparagus fresh from a Luneburg garden, or oysters on a trestle table down the road from Galway, or Guinness and prawns beside the sea in the Isle of Man, or classic fish and chips, the real thing, at Harry Ramsden’s at Guiseley in Yorkshire, where they will give you a free pudding if you manage to get through the mammoth platter called Harry’s Challenge…
Simple foods every one, the food of the countries I’m passing through. The very best meal I ever eat – and I have eaten it a hundred times – is simple food served with extreme sophistication. They serve it at Harry’s Bar in Venice, which I have frequented since the end of the Second World War, when it used to be cooked by the proprietor’s wife, Signora Cipriani. Now in her honour they call it Scampi Thermidor alla Cipriani, and it consists of prawn tails cooked in oil under a parmesan-flavoured sauce, with a little green salad and a rice pilaf on the side. I have a glass or two of the local pinot grigio, and if I ask nicely they might do me a warm zabaglione to polish it off.
Travel the world over, from the Ritz to McDonald’s to a street-stall in Chiang Mai, and you won’t do better than that.
This is an edited extract from A Moveable Feast ©Lonely Planet 2010
Beth Simmons is an editorial assistant with GoNOMAD and attends the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts. She writes the Travel Reader Blog.