The year was 1773; Captain Cook, the esteemed explorer of yore, stepped ashore the fabled island of Lifuka in Tonga. So enamoured was he with the locals and their exuberant entertainments, copious feasting and general revelry – the like of which he’d ne’er seen before back in Blighty – that he graciously bestowed on them the title ‘Friendly Islanders’.
Somewhat ironic – for his hosts were actually planning to chop him into bite-sized portions and serve him up as pre-dinner canapés. Luckily for Cook, the scheme foundered when they couldn’t agree on the finer details, such as whether Englishmen go well with ketchup, or whether they’re best served as a small-plates sharing concept.
Nevertheless, the term ‘Friendly Islanders’ has stuck forevermore. And indeed, it’s been gratuitously appropriated by the most unlikely local services (like Friendly Islander Vasectomies – ‘we snip with a smile..’) But despite their panache for canny marketing slogans, underneath lies an irrefutable generosity, something I increasingly discovered during my med-student placement on these fair isles. View Post
Let’s cut to the chase. Ceviche. Raw fish dish. From Peru. At a renown London venue, also called Ceviche. Ah ceviche! My dish for the road. Cue tangential preambles to travels in Peru. Such a beautiful country! Such amazing adventures!
Like the time when I inadvertently became a marauding alpaca herder on the High Andes. That was so fun! And of course the time when I went to the airport with a consignment of coca-leaf tea for grandma – she loved a nice cuppa, bless her – only to discover that it’s apparently highly illegal, and two burly Customs officers and one cavity search later, suddenly found myself in a dank Peruvian jail for a period of several months, rescued only after I grassed up a fellow inmate, a notorious gangster by the name of El Diablo, whose fierce henchmen still continue to track me down, which is why I now live incognito as a food-blogger. Well, what a lark that was!
And then the time when.. oh, you know what, just screw it. I’ve never been to Peru, okay? I can’t keep this pretence up any longer. So here’s the thing – instead of Peru, I’m gonna write about somewhere else, a country that also does ceviche, a place I’ve actually been to.. View Post
Okay, so ‘confessions’ might be a tad misleading. There aren’t any sordid stories of wild food-related debauchery; no tantalising tales of matcha-foam parties; and no erotic fantasies involving salacious scoops of Gelupo’s sorbet, a smothering of butterscotch sauce and a coconut-encrusted sugar cone. This article is nowhere near that pulse-racing.
If nothing else, I usually write my blog at 7o’clock on a weekend morning, and there’s nothing less sexy than this hour [..wait a sec while I just dislodge a Cheerio from my 6 year old’s nose, as he and his big brother ecstatically engage themselves in a world-record fart-off.]
Instead, this is an honest reflection on how I became a food blogger, and my early impressions of this strange new world. I’m just a rookie really, still close to those early heady days of excitement, anticipation and confusion. Even now, my heart pounds every time I post; my senses startle whenever the phone buzzes; and I still beat myself each time I’ve messed up. Yep, starting a blog is a bit like falling in love. View Post
Many things are said about what it’s like landing in India for the first time. People say it’s an assault on the senses. People warn you about the heart-breaking poverty. And of course there’s the sweltering heat.
Stepping out of Delhi airport as a young backpacker in the 90’s, it was of course all of these things. But first things first: I had to deal with a more unnerving, if revealing, introduction to this incredible, if often unfathomable, country. Collapsing onto the hot sticky seats of the airport bus, an array of alarming signs accosted my tired jet-lagged eyes:
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