The Way to a Country’s Soul …

I don’t tend to watch travel programs, quite like I don’t tend to read travel blogs. For some bizarre reason, consuming anything that falls into the very genre I tend to write about, or at the very least enjoy partaking in, in practice, doesn’t appeal. In fact, quite often, it annoys, as does, I would assume, my blog for those who suffer from a similar mentality. I realise this means I am missing out on legions of travel blogs and sites that I’m sure would be endlessly inspiring, but I have tried to jump on board and enjoy them all, or at least a handpicked few, but I struggle. In a similar vein, I imagine, to the way I struggle reading things about writing. Save for this excellent site that really isn’t writers talking about writing, so much as writers writing, I don’t tend to like reading about other people writing.

Look at that, two of my great loves, writing and travel, and I hate reading about them. This has obviously nothing to do with those producing material about travel and writing and everything to do with me. I am reassured only by the memory of one of my lecturers during my MA in creative writing, herself a notable Australian writer, saying ‘I hate writing festivals. Why would I want to go and listen to other writers talk about writing?’ I suspect that is my own problem.

But what does have quite the precise effect a travel blog should have on me, is food. Food shows, food blogs, preferably those that do photos, recipes and little snapshots of the places from whence the dishes came. I think food lies so much at the heart of cultures – what they eat, how they eat it, how they source it, make it, pass it down from generation to generation, when they eat, who they eat with, what they choose to celebrate and honour occasion with – all of it is hugely revealing. Through it all we see ritual and value, etiquette and socialisation. It is as much the stories that come with food, and the people telling these stories, as the food itself that reels me in. I suppose what I’m saying, to borrow and alter a classic, is the way to a country’s heart and soul is through its stomach.

Since the lovely, internal discovery I am ready to head back over the ocean, I have been thinking about future European trips. Spurred on by gorging on Food channel programs like Rick Stein’s Mediterranean and Cheese Slices, I have been indulging in daydreams of jaunts to Sweden and Denmark, drives through France, trips to Istanbul and northern Italy. The renewed vigour with which I am daydreaming about stuffing my little face full of wine and cheese in various different countries is directly proportionate to the vigour with which my lust has returned. It was only a few months ago not even the thought of running through a field of lavender in Provence with a glass of wine in one hand and a wheel of goat’s cheese in the other, could rouse me from my slump. But now, now I see myself in little brown boots, skipping down Scandinavian streets, I see myself sauntering through the markets of Istanbul and I definitely see myself running through a lavender field, wine and cheese in hand. I see it all.

I should, really, stop getting so ahead of myself and see myself doing something far more concrete and just as exciting; showing the SG my country. Feasting on December’s smorgasboard of the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, Hunter Valley, Central Coast, Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Six weeks of eating, swimming, sunning and seeing. And eating. Although a lot of the rest of the world doesn’t know it – otherwise they would stop asking ‘what is a typical Australian meal’ and save me the awkwardness of saying ‘lamb? A barbecue? We eat a lot of Thai and Italian and Greek and Chinese and Japanese and Lebanese. And seafood. We eat a lot of seafood. And fruit. We have great fruit.’ – we have some of the best food going. It’s fresh, it’s diverse, it’s infused with both tradition and progression. It’s as innovative or authentic as you want it. And it comes with bloody good wine.

Quite like us Aussies, really.

13 thoughts on “The Way to a Country’s Soul …

  1. Truer words have never been written. Food = culture, and vice versa.
    If you haven’t already done so, do try the open-faced sandwiches when in Copenhagen. They’re delicious and light, especially the seafood ones. Cheers.

  2. Indeed food is very much at the heart of culture which is why it’s odd that we find it hard to answer that question overseas. We are indeed a diverse mob and we (now) relish all those multicultural food influences which combined with our fresh air and high quality products, give us such great food options.

    I was fascinated by the first post on the link you sent, especially his comment “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

    1. Letters of Note is such a fascinating site. Scroll thorough, you will find some wonderful correspondence between some of the greatest minds in living memory.

  3. Ha. Food, writing and travel are my three great loves. I love writing about the places I’ve been to – but like you have little patience for the travel scribblings of others.

    I also love reading a lot of personal finance blogs, but I can’t restrict myself to only writing about that subject.

    1. There must be some mechanism that is switched off. The terrible thing is, I thrust my own travel tales upon others. I only hope their mechanism is switched on.

  4. Quite bizarre – you write about travelling, you write about your writing – but you don’t like reading about others doing the same, however, other people enjoy reading your musings on the same, and may write about the same! That’s funny! I think I understand with help of your illustration, your old lecturer’s example. Although writers festivals or arts festivals in general can simply be platforms showcasing new works. Have you been to the Edinburgh Festival? It’s quite amazing, especially the comedy stages.

    1. I know, it is totally bizarre. I don’t read travel magazines or newspaper liftouts, I don’t really read travel sites. I WILL read blogs that weave a narrative into a travel story, but the destination/top tens stuff, I just am not interested in. And as for the writing stuff … I just cannot bear reading/hearing about other people writing, unless they are my literary heroes/heroines, in which case, talk away. The only thing is, they don’t tend to … they just tend to write. I haven’t been to the Edinburgh one, I haven’t been to Edinburgh! Must. Go.

      1. Who are your literary idols? If I may ask…I have a deep fondness for Kurt Vonnegut. I love his stance on writing: “The only way to get anything out of a writer’s brain is to leave him or her alone until he or she is damn well ready to write it down”! Touche! He says “Sentences spoken by writers, unless they have been written out first, rarely say what writers wish to say. Writers are unlucky speakers, by and large……”. All written in his Self-Interview, which I had to go away and find again because your writing made me think about his take on things.

    1. If I can wear little brown boots! And I will be living so much closer to that area. Ahhh not long now until we can drown a pub in our laughter once more. xxx

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