It was the summer of ‘95 and I was a 20 year-old medical student wannabe-beat-traveller journeying down Mexico way searching for soul, spirit, tequila, tortilla, dust, desert, nature, adventure, and the wild ol’ mariachi songs of love, tears, hope and death. But not a full-stop. Jack Kerouac didn’t do full-stops and, at that time of my life, the work of this 50’s Mexico-junkie beat-poet was my numero-uno travelling companion. On The Road and Lonesome Traveller: such stories fizzed with words that flowed off the pages like a roaring torrent of energy and life and the beat-spirit pummelled into my brain with force and power and off I went.
The journey started in Tijuana. In fact, I suspect lots of things start in Tijuana. An old border town that entices flocks of Californians looking for cheap goods, dentists, liqour and love, or some seedy combination thereof, possibly all in the same night. It’s a hot dusty intense place: brash, noisy and much loved and unloved. It’s exactly the sort of place where Breaking Bad cartel henchman would neck back tequila shots in a backroom bar before retiring to their black limos and a journey out of town to a lonely desert air-strip. View Post
Nomads. We are all nomads at heart. The first humans were hunter-gatherers, and that primal seed still lies somewhere deep inside us.
My own inner nomad started on a trip to Alaska, half a lifetime ago. From Vancouver, three nights atop an open ferry deck, stars above and whales in front (…magical, but bloody freezing…), took me to the old frontier towns of Alaska’s Pacific pan-handle. There, hitching the open road, the jaw-dropping wilderness, the quirky characters, and the exhilarating freedom opened up a can of Kerouac and a crate of Grateful Dead and I was never the same again.
I was lucky then to have the opportunity to travel. Each summer brought a different place, and each place brought a different theme. In Eastern Europe, it was my ancestral roots and the Latvian shtetl of great-grandmother Minnie. In Mexico, it was about sense of place, people, food and the spirit of travel. Next-up was India, intriguing but where mortality never appeared far away: not just the perpetual impoverishment around me, but dicing with death every time I took a bus. And once I was almost swept out to sea… In Bolivia, the ethereal landscapes. In Tonga, the sense of a society so far-removed from my own. Oh, and lovely beaches. View Post
Evolution. Some say the zenith of human intellectual thought and scientific method. The proposition that life evolved through natural selection of the fittest genes, that humans arose over millennia and not created from dust, has forever changed our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Whereas the Big Bang theory ripped up Genesis chapter one, Evolution did it for chapter two, putting it squarely in confrontation with religious Creationists ever since. And here we stand today, in a world deluged in violent conflagration between the forces of progressive rational scientific enlightenment and those of a fanatical mediaeval barbarism.
Anyway, on perhaps a lesser scale, there’s also a spot of evolution going on in London’s food scene. View Post
Jewish cuisine. To some, an oxymoron. To others, the warmest cosiest hug your stomach could ever have.
Either way, laden with heavy carbs and cloying fat, regular consumption guarantees a lifetime of Gaviscon dependency, with the very real possibility of major cardiovascular surgery by the time you’re 60. Or even 50. View Post
Some restaurants aspire to three-Michelin stars. Others set their sights on glowing press reviews, perhaps a Fay, Jay, Grace or Giles. A TripAdvisor Certificate or perhaps a Time Out award.
However, in the bustling saturated world of restaurant evaluation – what with all those annoyingly excitable bloggers armed with camera phones [eh hummcough]– there is still one code of merit which rises above them all. What is this cherished accolade, you may wonder, that make countless eateries across the land festoon their frontages with its myriad shiny green labels.
Scores on the F**king Doors. What is that about? View Post