An essential part of travel for me is experiencing the food that different places have to offer. The highlight of every trip is invariably the food I have seen, and eaten. It’s about understanding a culture by the meals that are prepared. It’s about the people I have talked to in the pursuit of the best places to eat and the people I have shared the eating and drinking with. I can, and do, spend hours on Google researching cafes and restaurants. In each new city I try and find a food walking tour to start off our visit. What better way to get insights into the life of a city than seeing it on foot, and eating while you wander its streets?
So, it was with great delight that I spied an evening at Readings in Hawthorn entitled Tales of Travellers & Food Writers, organised by Fully Booked Women (https://www.fullybookedwomen.com/). An event made for me.
We start the proceedings with a glass of wine and a plate of wonderful cheeses, complete with handmade crackers by Helen from Stir Crazy Kitchen. An excellent way to get into the mood. Our MC for the night, Michelle Wild, regales us with a tale about her trip to Turkmenistan with the Strange Fruit Theate Company, who had been invited to perform for the President. Suffice it to say, the trip turned out to be very different from her fevered imaginings.
Michelle then turns the floor over to Dani Valent – freelance food writer and critic, cook book author and Thermomix Queen. Dani confirms what I have always suspected, the life of a travel guide writer is far from glamorous and more like a hard slog. It’s all in the detail – timetables, prices, hygiene standards, opening hours …….. and so it goes on. But writing about the food of a country is a different matter all together, and she has poured these experiences into her new cookbook, “Entertaining”.
Next up is Tracey Lister, a chef, cook book author and tour leader specialising in all things Vietnamese. Tracey has lived in Hanoi for many years, setting up her own cookery school – Hanoi Cooking Centre – and was also involved with KOTO (Know One, Teach One). She now runs culinary tours to Vietnam (Five Flavours of Vietnam) and has just released another Vietnamese cook book, entitled Real Vietnamese Cooking. Tracey’s tale is about the time she was invited to be Executive Chef for an important Hanoi celebration dinner – catering for 900 dignitaries, and overseeing an army of 50 chefs and 450 wait staff. A huge honour, and one that was, unsurprisingly, not without its stressful moments.
The evening finishes with Shane Mitchell, one time Lifestyle Editor for Travel & Leisure magazine and now Contributing Editor for Saveur magazine, and a James Beard Foundation Award finalist. Shane is currently in Australia as part of the announcement of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant extravaganza that is being held in Melbourne this month. Shane’s tale is a summary of her food life and her now three experiences with Australia and its food (she could barely get the word Chico Roll out without gagging!). She has high hopes however for this being third time lucky, and it would certainly seem so as last night she dined at Attica. Shane also introduced us to her beautiful new book, Far Afield – Rare Food Encounters from around the world, with stunning photography by Australian photographer James Fisher.
A highly enjoyable and travel inspiring evening. And how better to end it than over a meal of modern Vietnamese food, glass of wine in hand. We head off to nearby St Cloud Eating house in Burwood Road (http://stcloudeatinghouse.com.au/), where, despite the din, we enjoy a number of small plates. A special shout out to the very charming waitress, who was a large contributor to an enjoyable experience. We raise a glass to more travels, and meals, to come.