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I came across this passage while reading Italo Calvino’s  ‘Sotto il sole giaguaro’, a book devoted to exploring the senses through narrative.

I am reportign it because I was struck with how closely it describes our travel ethic. So thanks Calvino for taking on the onus of explainig our philosophy much better than we could ever have done ourselves ,-)

What do you think? Load of nonsense or do we have a point?

“Questa era appunto una conclusione a cui ero giunto e che Olivia aveva prontamente fatto sua (o forse l’idea era stata Olivia a suggerirmela e io non avevo fatto che riproporgliela con parole mie): il vero viaggio, in quan­to introiezione d’un «fuori» diverso dal nostro abituale, implica un cambiamento totale dell’alimentazione, un inghiottire il paese visitato, nella sua fauna e flora e nella sua cultura (non solo le diverse pratiche della cu­cina e del condimento ma l’uso dei diversi strumenti con cui si schiaccia la farina o si rimesta il paiolo), fa­cendolo passare per le labbra e l’esofago. Questo è il so­lo modo di viaggiare che abbia un senso oggigiorno, quando tutto ciò che è visibile lo puoi vedere anche alla televisione senza muoverti dalla tua poltrona. (E non si obietti che lo stesso risultato si ha a frequentare i risto­ranti esotici delle nostre metropoli: essi falsano talmen­te la realtà della cucina cui pretendono di richiamarsi che, dal punto di vista dell’esperienza conoscitiva che se ne può trarre, equivalgono non a un documentario ma a una ricostruzione ambientale filmata in uno stu­dio cinematografico).”

My translation:

“This was the conclusion that I’d come to and that Olivia had promptly embraced (or perhaps Olivia had suggested the initial idea and I’d done nothing more than rephrase it): the real journey, seen as introduction of an ‘outside’ that is different from our usual setting, implies a total dietary change, a swallowing of the country visited, in its fauna and flora and culture ( not just the different cooking and seasoning habits but the use of different utensils to grind flour or stir the pot), making the country transit through the lips and oesophagus. This is the only way of travelling that makes sense nowadays, when everything that is visible can also be seen  from the television without getting out of your armchair. (And if you don’t object the same result is achieved through frequenting ethnic restaurants in our cities: they so alter the cuisine that they claim to reproduce that, from the point of view of the cognitive experience that can be drawn from them, they are equivalent not to a documentary but to a scenery filmed in a cinema studio).”

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Because winter is bloody cold in Beijing the Beijingers are devout to their hot-pots.

You crowd into a relatively small restaurant (ours was somewhere off the East third ring practically opposite the Renaissance Capital hotel), sit rather close to a lot of people (we came on GroupOn discount night so you can imagine how crowded it was) light up a cigarette and huddle close to the steaming pot with it’s little lump of burning cinders glowing below and sparks of lit ashes puffing up out of the little chimney and into your soup.

The broth tasted like chicken and had various ‘things’ floating about in it. We were also served a little dish of sesame sauce to dip our food into after cooking it in the hot-pot and drank tea.

I was told that hot-pot must have lamb in it and this is it (just above) cut so finely it looks like parma ham.

We also had some veg to dip in, the above are mushrooms, and some large rice noodles. It would be very humiliating for me to say how many of these slippery noodles I dropped in the hot-pot to be fished out much, much later by more expert chopsticksmen than myself.

The next day, in one of the more touristy hutongs we spotted these brass hot pots for sale. Shame it was a flying visit or I’d have taken one home very gladly!





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This is just an extract  of the 100 foods this fun little quiz asks you about.

I depressingly scored only 42 , so less than half ,although I like to think dairy intolerance and the fact that I rarely ask what I’m eating and just guzzle it unknowingly are to blame…

 1. Abalone
 2. Absinthe
 3. Alligator
 4. Baba Ghanoush
 5. Bagel and Lox
 6. Baklava
 7. Barbecue Ribs
 8. Bellini
 9. Bird’s Nest Soup
 10. Biscuits and Gravy
 11. Black Pudding
 12. Black Truffle
 13. Borscht
 14. Calamari
 15. Carp
 16. Caviar
 17. Cheese Fondue
 18. Chicken and Waffles
 19. Chicken Tikka Masala
 20. Chile Relleno
 21. Chitlins

Visit the website to see how you score!  http://www.listchallenges.com/100foods/

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