24. Oct, 2014

Feeding body and soul

 

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St Augustine.

 To me, travelling is a celebration of sensory pleasures. It allows us to see, hear, smell, taste and feel new things. There is another - less obvious, but more profound – dimension to travel: it helps us grow and develop as human beings.

Mark Twain once observed: travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I can’t think of anyone I know who is both well-travelled and bigoted. To travel means to go to places where you are the foreigner; where you are the one being critically observed by the locals. Travel opens our eyes and ears and helps us accept that we are ultimately all God’s children (however we perceive and worship Him/Her/Them). The wider our experience, the greater our ability to empathise, understand and forgive. 

A major part of understanding and accepting other cultures is to experience their cuisine. What people eat speaks volumes about who and what they are. It tells us about the land and sea they live off, and provides valuable clues to their history, lifestyles, beliefs and values. Fernand Braudel put it in a nutshell  “The mere smell of cooking can evoke a whole civilisation.” Travelling and cooking are symbiotic pursuits; the one is just not complete without the other.

 Apart from its outcomes - experiencing new places and the people who live there - travel affords us a third, harder-to-describe, privilege. This concerns the process of travelling: the wisdom and serenity acquired by having to cope with delays, disappointments, rudeness, danger, discomfort and boredom. This je ne sais quoi dimension was neatly summed up by Benjamin Disraeli: “Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and I remember more than I have seen.” 

Another element of culture that will feature prominently in these pages is wine. No discussion about good food and special moments is complete without it. André Simon explained it thus: “Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost; united and well-matched they are as body and soul, living partners.”

 “Don’t tell me how educated you are; tell me how much you have travelled.” – The Prophet Mohammed.