I am sure that many of you reading this blog will already be familiar with Simon Majumdar, prolific food blogger at Dos Hermanos. You may or may not know that he is an accomplished author.
Sometime back I donated to the Hope For Haiti raffle and by doing so was entered into a competition – my prize a copy of Simon’s fabulous books: Eat My Globe & Eating For Britain.
What follows is a review of the former book, the latter is on my bedside table for late night indulgence.
Until late 2006, writing about food was just a hobby for Simon, a half-Welsh, half-Bengali, Rotheram-raised fortysomething. He was happy with his highly paid job in publishing, which allowed him to travel to far-flung places and score decent meals on expenses. He was also far from uncomfortable in the smart Hoxton flat he shared with his elder brother and co-blogger, Robin, nicknamed “The Great Salami” – read the book to find out why! It was a life lived well within his tolerance levels “of never being more than 15 minutes away from the nearest source of Madagascan vanilla extract”.
But a midlife crisis – accelerated by the death of his mother and changes at work – slapped him around the face “like a wet haddock – an undyed, lightly smoked one of course, not one of those yellow monstrosities they sell on supermarket fish counters”. He sent out emails to his friends reading: “I hate my job”, quit and after some planning proceeded to pack a backpack to travel around the world on a quest to “go everywhere, eat everything” on a truly planet-sized scale. The result is a amazingly funny and insightful book.
Eat My Globe is a book that will appeal to food lovers and travel lovers alike, if you happen to enjoy both, as do I, you will be in seventh heaven as you allow yourself to vicariously travel with Simon from the comfort of your armchair.
Simon has a writing style that engages the reader from the minute they pick up the book. It is chatty, almost to the point that you feel Simon is speaking directly to you the reader. His gregarious sense of humour is omnipresent and I guffawed at many points throughout my read.
Whilst his wit is regularly aimed at the expense of other cultures, but, in a way that would have them laughing too (I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you) he makes most fun of his own girth, gluttony, laziness, big ears, single status and tendency to pontificate.
Of course a book of this nature should have fun with the “eww” and “bleurgh” factor of foreign cuisine, as well as detailing the finer more ‘classic’ points, and Majumdar does not shrink from this requirement. In fact he actively seeks out some of the most stomach turning meals, tasting the parts more squeamish writers might discreetly conceal under their napkins or try and feed to a passing stray animal. He orders, albeit unknowingly, cod sperm in Tokyo, crunches crickets in Manila, experiences elk in Finland, is disgusted by cane rat in China and, although he doesn’t mind the bowl of braised dog that the Chinese also dish up for him, experiences a rare fit of guilt on learning that the dogs are beaten until terrified before slaughter as the butchers believe the adrenalin improves the flavour of the meat. In one of the most cringe-worthy moments Simon picks a snake from a tank in Vietnam to watch it being killed, then sips on the bile milked from its small glands before knocking back its heart in a glass full of spirit laced with blood.
Despite all the travel and eclectic, exotic eating Majumdar’s tastes remain endearingly basic. If he could choose a last meal, it would be fish and chips, washed down with a mug of strong, steaming builder’s tea.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: John Murray (7 Jan 2010)