Whether it is a late night chat with a kebab shop owner about his native Istanbul, the surprised smile when you thank a waitress in a Vietnamese restaurant in her mother tongue, or the happy memories I associate with salsa picante and Mexican tacos, I feel a strong link between the foods of the world and many of the things I love about travelling.
So I am excited about the prospect of exploring the world foods of London through our 26 nation tour. If our first letter, restaurant, country is anything to go by then it is going to be a fascinating journey. We had a great Afghan night. [Watch the video of our Afghan meal here]
There is more to all this than the mere gastronomic indulgence of 26 tasty meals. The variety of foods will expand my culinary horizons as much as my waistline. Whilst Tom and I plan to choose some “countries” we have already visited, we will also head for new experiences too. An important aspect of this project is to demonstrate that even if people don’t have the time, the money or the nerve to head to far flung lands it is still possible to have an interesting travel experience without leaving your home city. All that is required is a willingness to try something new, to be curious, and to break the constricting comfort of a regular routine.
The guests who share each meal with us will play a big part in this experience. For each country we plan to invite people (friends and strangers alike) who have experience of that country to join us. As well as being fun, they will share their experiences, opinions and perspectives of their time in that country.
In the last couple of years I have become a strong advocate for microadventures. Microadventures are deliberately small adventures which do not require much time, money or expertise. Even though they are small, they nevertheless provide many of the rewards of grander projects. More pragmatic than a journey to Afghanistan is a journey to Mortlake in west London. There we ate Afghan food, listened to Afghan music, and chatted to Afghan people about their homeland, hopes and fears. These are all interesting, worthwhile things to do.
As well as learning a little about our 26 countries this project will also open our eyes to new areas of London. Our journey will take us right across the city, talking to people from a range of diasporas about their experiences of living in London.
“Immigration” is a word that is currently heavy with negative connotations and difficult issues. If the experience of our first meal (superb food, successful entrepreneurship, and hardworking lovely people) continues for the rest of this global London journey then we will be showcasing a very positive side of multicultural London.
So for many reasons I am excited about the rest of this journey.