Monday, 9 June 2008

E = Eat!

We have to do it. We’d die without it.

We all eat to live. And some of us live to eat.

I’m one of the latter. We’re the type of people who like to take pleasure in all aspects of our lives. I’m deeply suspicious of people who don’t take any interest in food. Either that, or I’m sympathetic – maybe their taste buds just don’t work? Poor souls.

In the 21st century, we have access to so many different types of food. My mother and father, and grandparents, and their ancestors, grew up on the land, eating what they could from the land, rivers, sea or sky. Their food was simple, wholesome. It looked like food. This was the food I grew up with. I remember as a child squealing as my father squirted us with milk from the cow’s teat. Fresh milk and cream daily. Sometimes, when my mother was tired and at a loss for what to provide for dessert (yes, in those healthy and skinny days, we had dessert every night), she would simply whip some cream with some vanilla and icing (powdered) sugar. Aaah. My favourite.

Then I got the letter I was going to Thailand for a year. We knew they ate rice, but little more. Rice was rarely on our table, in the South Island country farm. When it was, it was rice pudding. (Although sometimes my mother horrified me by mixing cooked rice into the whipped cream. Ruining it!) The memories I have of rice pudding are of being left at the table after everyone had gone, because I refused to eat it. I gagged . The texture still makes me want to squirm. So my family laughed at me when we knew I would be eating rice with my host family in Bangkok. I was philosophical - at least I would lose weight. (Typical teenager – skinny was not skinny enough!)

Then I landed on Thai soil. Was served jasmine rice. Sat at the dinner table in the garden as the sun set, and smelled that unmistakeable scent. I was hooked. Then I was introduced to sticky rice. Line and sinker.

Now I’m a rice snob. I’m sorry. Jasmine rice has to be served for Thai food, and I distinctly remember getting very crotchety at a so-called fusion restaurant in the Dandenong range (just out of Mrs S territory) when they had a Thai green curry and basmati rice on the menu. I love risotto (with risotto rices of course please), and paella, and Malaysian coconut rice, and Japanese short grained rice. Sushi of course.

When my husband and I chat now about our travels, you can guarantee we talk about the food as much as what we saw. I can tell you what I ate at many of the places we’ve been.

  • My first ever lobster on the sand in Vanuatu by the most beautiful deserted lagoon
  • the smoked salmon soup in Budapest I remembered just the other night
  • the rabbit stew in Carcassone at Chez Fred’s (yes, that was its name)
  • the capsicum tapas in Segovia
  • the seafood risotto in an alley in Rome just off the Pantheon Piazza
  • the honeydew melon filled with Beaumes de Venise wine in Avignon
  • the tiny mussels in Charlottetown, PEI
  • Yo! Sushi in Bayswater in London
  • Californian Pizza in Bangkok (the fake one who delivered to our apartment) and San Francisco (the real one – prawn and pesto pizza …. Yum )
  • the whole fish on the beach at Phuket our first night together in Thailand
  • the Moroccan tagine of beef, peas and fennel in the courtyard at our riad
  • endless satay at the old outdoor Satay Club in Singapore, and
  • the fried crickets at the mayor’s house in Kantaralak, Thailand.

The list could go on and on.

On Saturday morning Kim Hill was interviewing someone about a meal he’d eaten that cost $350 for 16 courses. “Immoral!” she declared provocatively, at the same time as I turned to D and said “that’s not too bad that price!” After all, we had a Euro 350 meal in Paris at a three star Michelin restaurant back in 2002.

His argument in defence was the same as ours would be. We don’t go to expensive sports matches for $350. I don’t have a lot of diamonds. D doesn’t have a big screen TV. Our car is ten years old, our stereo system older. Our armchairs are a bit torn and tattered. We’ve lived in the same house for 15 years.

But we like food and wine. We like eating out. It’s a form of entertainment. And we’re lucky. We have a good time together, and so a two or three hour meal passes quickly – it’s not a torture of silence we see other couples enduring. We understand the concept of destination dining.

But we like simple things too. Ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. Fish and chips on the beach. Chocolate. Anytime.

And sitting down to a platter of grilled Turkish bread and dips, with a glass of wine, is a great way to unwind after a busy day.

It’s dinnertime.


  1. I am drowning in my own drool after reading that: it's not pretty. When we set off for a film we always end up at a restaurant, somehow......but far more workaday than your memories. Sigh....

  2. Mrs S: I just didn't talk about having Indian at the place on the way home from our movies, or that my husband used to buy Thai takeaways and bring them to me in hospital rather than eating hospital food, because the post would never end. I love your stories of vietnamese food etc. You don't need to travel to eat great and interesting food these days.

  3. Oh, I love this. As to eating good food and drinking good wine, when I begin to worry about the $$, Tim likes to say, "This is why I work!"

    How does one pronounce Phuket? Just curious.

    Oh, I would love to eat with you someday!

  4. I have eaten nothing on your bullet point list.


  5. Helen & IB: You are more than welcome to eat with me if you make the journey south! Tim sounds like D, as he orders a bottle of wine.

    It's Pooh ket, not the other pronunciation.

    Bridgett: I wouldn't recommend the crickets, but everything else is worth trying!

  6. Mali: Thank you on both counts!

  7. Wow. What a list (of places and food)

    I used to be disinterested in food. I used to wish I could just take a tablet to get all my nourishment.

    Not anymore.


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