This page focusses on two of my favourite pastimes, eating and drinking. So many of my most vivid memories in life centre around the enjoyment of good food and drink, often inextricably tied to place and occasion. Travel has gifted me a host of opportunities to sample local cuisine in situ: kalamata olives and slow cooked lamb in Greece; specially prepared pans of paella for family lunches in Javea, Spain; cream cheese and salmon bagels from a bakery on Long Island, NY; fresh roti with pickled chillies by the roadside, recently-picked tea at a highlands plantation and melt-in-the mouth squid on the coast in Sri Lanka; ika lolo, freshly-caught fish in coconut cream, prepared by local villagers on Kadavu, Fiji; spicy fried noodles and succulent pineapple at the street markets in Bangkok; a lunchtime pizza sitting outside the Pantheon in Rome; apples baked on an open fire in a basement snug in Krakow; expertly mixed cocktails at a Theatreland bar in London; apple strudel in a beerhall in Koln and gluhwein at Christmas markets on chilly evenings in Dresden and Prague. Several trips to Barcelona, including a year and half living there, allowed me to savour the pleasures of seasonal produce and food-centred festivals, the delicious Jamòn Iberico and homemade pickles in tucked-away tapas bars; to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the heart of the city at La Boqueria market, enjoy a clara (beer shandy) by the sea at Barceloneta and a glass of sangria overlooking the city from Parc Guell.
My own heritage instilled in me a love of whisky, the water of life, drawn to the flavours of the Isle of Skye and the Mull of Kintyre. Meanwhile, from schooldays Burns Suppers, with pipers and poems and overflowing meat, to deep fried balls of lamb innards served with chips, I have an enduring love of haggis, never prepared better than by my own mum. Family in Japan have also enabled me to gain further appreciation for the joys of seasonal eating and simplicity, and provided some of the most satisfying food experiences I’ve had: helping my grandmother-in-law make gyoza (pork dumpling); sampling various dishes of delicacies or rolling our own sushi around tables with family and friends; trying the Okinawan specialities kakuni (braised pork) and umibudo (sea grape seaweed); savouring the exquisite sawara (mackerel) and gindara (blue cod) in coastal Mie and Hokkaido; sublimely light tempura in Ome; succulent marbled beef in a yakiniku restaurant in Hiroshima; okonomiyaki made in front of us while sitting at the bar in a tiny local pub in Nara; stopping on the roadside in rural Shizuoka to take photos and being served homemade cake, tea and umeboshi (pickled plums) by a local tea grower.
My chosen home, New Zealand has also provided me with many more ‘food memories’: fine dining restaurants providing sumptuous venison, the most exquisite salad I’ve tasted and a sublime apple creme brulee; mussels fresh from the harbour waters in Havelock and cooked into a rich, creamy chowder at a roadside shack in Coromandel town; regular visits to restaurants providing homely Mexican fare, tasty Thai, juicy steaks, delicious pizzas lovingly made by an Italian Kiwi and hearty sandwiches in an old, brick gold refinery; generously-filled pies in an out-of-the-way bakery in Blenheim; frozen yoghurt on the farm where the blueberries are picked; strong, rich coffee in the stunning architectural triumph of Auckland art gallery; tea tasting at New Zealand’s sole plantation; a converted stables offering a gourmet selection of German sausages, Cajun chicken, French crepes, Italian pasta and Japanese curry; a movie-themed feast in the comforting glow of the Green Dragon in Hobbiton; tasty local beers as the craft brewery market took off; trips to the country’s wine regions where it was the small wineries who provided the best food, wine and atmosphere, with the enthusiastic service of fellow epicureans.
And now, currently living in Tasmania, the appreciation of food and drink continues unabated: luscious dairy products, juicy berries, delicious sausages from a family-run free-range pig farm, refreshing white wines, hearty brunches at local cafes, the pleasure of trying a variety of local produce at regular markets and festivals.
The culinary journey continues, and new ‘food experiences’ will be added to this page whenever noteworthy. So bring on the feasting.
Posted 3rd March 2017 – Winter Zest: Japanese Yuzu
Posted 8th February 2017 – Devonshire Cream Tea: Red Fox Vintage, Launceston Tasmania