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An Appetite for Travel

Travel books with food connections

 

An Appetite for Travel

The travelling foodie reader is a niche demographic – a combination of adventurer, sybarite and gourmet, someone who would not dream of visiting a country without taking certain books.  Along with the travel guide, the crime novel and the slim volume of poetry, he or she will always bring books that evoke the smell of the nation’s cooking, the tang of its characteristic fruit, the rasp of its charred meat on the tongue, the commotion of its fiery spices on the oesophagus.

We’re not talking about recipe books but food travel companions.  Other choices are travel books in which food is described as part of the landscape or novels you can enjoy for their local colour.  But all should leave you gagging to encounter the local ham, yam, berry, sherry, roots and fruits.

France

Travellers in Paris will enjoy A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemmingway’s posthumous memoir of his life in the French capital in the 1920s, when he was starting out as a writer and hanging out with Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein.  Untrustworthy as autobiography, its descriptions of café life, wine drinking and literary apprentice-work are glorious.

Gertrude Stein’s lover/housekeeper produced an unmatchable food memoir in The Alice B Toklas Cook Book (1954). Don’t be put off by the title, or the book’s notoriety for its inclusion of a recipe for hash cakes.  It’s a fantastic recollection of her years in bohemian Paris and rural France, accumulating recipe from high (stuffed artichokes Stravinsky) and low, and speculating on the French intellectual passion for nosh.

Fans of the Meryl Streep movie Julie & Julia will lap up My Life in France (2006) in which Julia Child reminisces, with stunning sensory recall, about the culinary life she enjoyed with her husband in Paris, Marseille and Provence between 1948 and 1954.

A curiosity, although a delicious one, for the travelling Francophile, is The Debt to Pleasure, John Lancaster’s debut novel in which Tarquin Winot, a gourmet snob and scholar, travels from Portsmouth to Provence lecturing on seasonal food, offering eccentric recipes and gradually revealing his homicidal intentions.

Italy

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, Elizabeth Romer’s The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley, and Anna del Conte’s  Risotto with Nettles: A Memoir with Food.

Spain

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes,  A stranger in Spain by H.V. Morton, Tapas: the Little Dishes of Spain and The Foods and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas.

Greece

Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell, My Family and Other Animals by Gerard Durrell, Food and feasts in Ancient Greece by Imogen Dawson, Dinner with Persephone by Patricia Storace and 96 Achanon Street by John Lucas.

Turkey

Turkey Recipes and Tales from the Road by Leanne Kitchen.

North Africa

Marrakesh Through  Writers’ Eyes edited by Barnaby Rogerson, In Morrocco by Edith Wharton, The Voices of Marrakesh by Elias Canetti and Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud.

By John Walsh  Abridged from BOP Times Indulge September 8th.