A return trip from New Zealand to the UK means you are cocooned in dimly lit aircraft cabins for over 40 hours. After eating and sleeping time you are still left with what can seem like interminable hours to fill. The secret to enjoying rather than enduring long haul travel is having a range of entertainment options so you can switch from watching, listening and reading to suit your levels of brain power.
I’ve always found it hard to concentrate reading for long periods on planes so delighted to see that the Kitchen Reader book club had chosen the Lonely Planet anthology of food writing for this month. Edited by Don George, a seasoned and widely published travel writer, A Moveable Feast, offers 38 articles and stories from well-known travel and food writers such as Anthony Bourdain, William Sertl, Jan Morris, Pico Iyer, Simon Winchester, Mark Kurlansky, Andrew Zimmern, Matthew Fort and Matt Preston along with authors being published for the first time.
The premise of the book is that food and travel are inevitably intertwined; wherever you go you need to eat. Also that food and cultures of the world are inextricably linked; by eating with local people you can consume their culture and enjoy food as a gesture of friendship and hospitality. It’s hard to disagree with this premise although in truth you need to be an intrepid traveller who enjoys the uncertainties, thrills and risks of travelling off the beaten track to reach such culturally authentic eating experiences.
Such hard-core travel is beyond my comfort zone although it didn’t stop me enjoying the stories of travel adventurers, even if at times their tales seemed to be to be overly romanticised with too much hyperbole food as a soulful and life transforming experience. Matthew Fort summed up for me the role of food and travel “food isn’t about frills and fancy gear and plate poetry. Food is about time and place and people and memory, people and memory most of all.”
What distinguishes the best food writing in A Moveable Feast is the writers’ ability to tell a story from their memories or give a strong opinion about their experience. For example, Jan Morris’s tales of Food on The Hoof who openly admits that she hasn’t taken food seriously in her life but has strong opinions about what she considers to be good food and how the place sets the tone for fine travel experiences than the food itself. Doug Mack regales of a road trip to eat barbecue at the legendary Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City in The ‘Cue Quest, and how this changed his relationship with his father. David Lebovitz brings humour to the serious matter of French cuisine in the article Les Tendances Culinaires and Simon Winchester recalls in Speciality of the House of the outpouring of anger towards his essay about the time he ate a dog.
The best thing about A Moveable Feast is that the articles and essays are short which is good when your in-flight attention diminishes with every passing hour. Also, there are plenty to pick from if you get bored with descriptions of far away places that you just can’t relate to. Best of all, reading an anthology of food writing allows you to start to distinguish quickly great food writing; a must if you are a student of gastronomy or learning the craft of writing about food.
Although I “joined” the Kitchen Reader Book club over a year ago, this is my first time I have actually managed to read the book and complete the review. To find out more and read the other reviews of this month’s book, head over to the Kitchen Reader.
Note: Don’t confuse A Moveable Feast: Life Changing Adventures Around the World with A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway which by chance I am currently listening to as an audio book. This is Hemingway’s memoir about his time in Paris when married to his first wife Hadley that was fictionalised in the book the Paris Wife that I previously enjoyed on audio book too.