Cheryl and Bill cashed in their whopping 440,000 frequent-flyer miles, packed 5 little bags with more food and cook books than clothes, and hit the road on a 3-month culinary odyssey around the world, which they documented in an entertaining travel narrative with a soupçon of recipes. This is their around the world in 80 dinners journey….or was it 800 dinners…?!
Around the world in 80 dinners
After years of painstaking planning, veteran cookbook authors Cheryl and Bill Jamison (Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking, The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining) used all their frequent flier miles on a three-month global culinary tour.
Beginning in Bali, the couple traveled to 10 different countries during the fall of 2005, sampling the local cuisine and taking in the sights. The Jamisons bring readers along as they dig into succulent jumbo crab at a hole in the wall in Singapore, dine on a luxurious wood and rattan houseboat in India and tour wineries in Australia. They visit the wine regions of France and South-Africa. Island hop in the Pacific and discover chefs of world class that no one has ever heard of.
They eat their way around the world on their culinary 50,000 mile adventure through 10 countries eating not 80 but a total of 800 meals along the way. Oh yeah and there is a rogue monkey involved!
The Jamisons make for informative, inquisitive and overall delicious travel guides, seeking out lesser-known establishments that capture the feel of each country. Though they occasionally splurge on an upscale meal, the majority of their dining experiences are well within the budgets of most travelers. Those interested in replicating legs of their journey will find the book a welcome resource, including information on lodging, dining destinations and not-to-be-missed cultural experiences (like the Carmen Miranda Museum in Brazil). Their book also includes a native recipe from each stop turning it into a cookbook travelogue.
A short excerpt from the Singapore chapter of Around the World in 80 Dinners:
…On our last morning, we return to the Tekka Centre in Little India. The stalls closed on Monday are now open again, including two that Makansutra recommends highly. Rong Ji Cooked Food serves us chwee kueh, savory steamed cakes with a gelatinous, chewy texture, like glutinous rice. Okay, but not nearly as tasty as the treats at Yan Seng Cooked Food, where the booth’s only words in English are “black carrot cake.” Each of us orders one of the advertised dish, a loosely formed patty of grated white radish, mushrooms, and garlicky Chinese chives bound with egg and dyed with a sweet, dark soy that leaves an appealing molasses-like undertone.
While we’re eating the goodies, a young Chinese businesswoman approaches us to ask, “How do you like the cakes?” “Wonderfully delicious,” Cheryl says enthusiastically, and the lady pulls up a chair at our table to join us.
She points to the stooped, elderly woman, barely more than four-and-a-half-feet tall, who cooked our food and is now making two kinds of dumplings at the table next to us. “She is one of the rare masters left who do everything by hand. Her fans come here from all over the city. I want you to try her dumplings,” she insists, going over to talk to the cook in Chinese and pay for a couple of both types.
Each contains a vegetable filling, sealed in one instance with a rice-flour wrapper tinted a traditional pink and, in the other case, with sesame-seed-coated yam paste. Handing us containers of soy sauce and chile paste, the businesswoman says, “Dip the dumplings in these.”
“Lovely,” Bill acknowledges after a dunk and a bite.
When the older woman sees us using the paste, she smiles and says “Chile,” apparently one of the few words she knows in English. Still grinning, she passes us a small piece of banana leaf holding a bright red dessert dumpling, plump with a sweet bean purée.
“My, oh my,” Cheryl says. “How can a morning get more beautiful?” The young woman excuses herself at this point—“Got to rush to work”—leaving usfeebly unable to communicate the gratitude we feel toward both ladies.
With spontaneous experiences like this, Singapore startles us more than any other place on our trip. The people, the food, and the cultures of the city overwhelm our preconceptions about the institutional negatives. By our departure, we regret our reluctance to come and the shortness of our four-night stay. Talking about this on our way out of the Tekka Centre, we stop for one more fresh-juice fix. “Maybe we should go savory for a change, with tomato or avocado perhaps,” Bill says, but both of us fall back
in the end on syrupy nectars, mango for Bill and passion fruit for Cheryl.
Around the world in 80 Plates
In the world of TV reality competitions the Americans came up with a spin off of the ‘around the world in 80 dinners’ journey. They created a foodie & cooking tv series called Around the World in 80 Plates.
It was broadcasted on Bravo channel and in it the series follows twelve chefs competing in a culinary race across ten countries in 44 days. The show is hosted by professional chefs Curtis Stone and Cat Cora.
Find the exhaustive list of ‘Around the world in 80 days’ inspired trips here.