Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything

Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything

4.3 7
by Simon Majumdar

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When Simon Majumdar hit forty, he realized there had to be more to life than his stable but uninspiring desk job-there's a big world out there, and he'd eaten hardly any of it. So he quit his job with a new mission in mind-to go everywhere and eat everything in a yearlong search for the delicious, and curious, and the curiously delicious-which he names Eat My Globe

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When Simon Majumdar hit forty, he realized there had to be more to life than his stable but uninspiring desk job-there's a big world out there, and he'd eaten hardly any of it. So he quit his job with a new mission in mind-to go everywhere and eat everything in a yearlong search for the delicious, and curious, and the curiously delicious-which he names Eat My Globe and memorably chronicles in these pages.

In Majumdar's world, food is everything. His unstoppable wit and appetite for all things edible (especially those things that once had eyes, and a face, and a mom and a pop) make this an armchair traveler's and foodie's delight. Majumdar jets to thirty countries in just over twelve months, diving mouth-first into local cuisines and cultures. His journey takes him from China, where he consumes one of his "Top Ten Worst Eats," stir-fried rat, to the United States, where he glories in our greatest sandwiches. Along the way, he realizes that his quest is about new friends as much as new flavors. The people he meets are as enthusiastic about food as he is and eager to welcome him to their homes and tables, to share their choicest meals and reveal their local secrets.

Also a poignant memoir, Eat My Globe is a life told through food and a captivating look at one man's passion for food, family, and unique life experiences. Eat My Globe will make you laugh-while it makes you hungry. It is sure to satiate any gastronome obsessed with globe-trotting-for now.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this ballsy, often hilarious foodie travelogue, British blogger Majumdar sets out on a yearlong, round-the-world flavor forage. At the age of 40, Majumdar found his old note-to-self: "go everywhere and eat everything." In search of out-of-comfort-zone foodstuffs like Mongolian fermented mare's milk, he quit his loathed publishing job and, still mourning his mother's recent death, he sketched out, booked and impressively adhered to an itinerary from the U.K. to every continent except Antarctica. Unpleasant surprises included cod sperm sushi in Kyoto, but his experiences and descriptions, however brief, of the global gastronomic sublime, such as his sunset supper in the Filipino countryside, are appetite-whetting, and his take-no-prisoners attitude and opinions match the project's ambitions. He champions street-food surprises over more urbane examples of cuisine, while his affection and gratitude for the individuals and families met and the hospitality received amply humanized both his wanderings and writings. Majumdar's comic-yet-brazen voice carries the reader swiftly and winningly from foul to fowl in a book that's funny and delectable. (May 19)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The meticulous gastronomic diary of an avid food blogger who spent a year savoring local specialties in 30 countries. Not every culinary critic is also a gifted travel writer, but Majumdar-who inherited a boundless passion for food from his Welsh mother and Bengali father-invests this account with as many nuanced observations of places and people as evocative descriptions of the spices, cooking methods, aromas and tastes he encountered on his journey. Taking readers from Irish dairies and New York delis to a Sicilian cafe and an Argentinean steak house, the author is neither bad-boy kitchen warrior seeking the most eccentric dishes on the planet nor wide-eyed newbie airbrushing the flaws from his portraits of far-flung lands. Anchored by candid ruminations on childhood and possible motives for his adventure at the threshold of middle age, the book is as much an investigation of universal themes-heritage, self-identity, culinary traditions-as it is an encyclopedic international feast. Spiked with countless mordant gems ("pancetta that looked like Jackson Pollock had heaved on the plate"; "vegetables so mushy I wanted to look in the kitchen to see if the old cook from my elementary school had been flown in especially for the occasion"), Majumdar's logs foster more than transnational understanding via samplings of home-cured elk, street-vendor rice balls or fish fritters. The cultural cross-pollination in sharing a boiled sheep's head in Iceland or fried taro chips in China is rooted in his back story. While eating with a Finnish family, he reflects, "I had not really spent that much time with my own mother cooking. The kitchen was her domain and I just enjoyed the end results. Now thatshe's gone, I have added it to the long list of regrets."A wry, insightful and pragmatic memoir that will have fearless foodies drooling. Agent: Euan Thorneycroft/A.M. Heath
From the Publisher
" The dangerously obsessive, staggeringly knowledgeable, provocative and opinionated Simon Majumdar knows his shit. No question about it. I don't always agree with him but he's always worth listening to. Many would kill to have eaten the meals in their lifetimes that Majumdar has consumed in a single year — and he has an endearingly soft spot for the grimiest of lowlife pubs. Plus — the bastard can write." — Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

"Simon adores pulled pork, yet pulls no punches in this passionate, refreshingly honest, and delicious journey. Traveling with him on his gut-busting world tour is a rollicking good time. By the end, you'll want to sit with him over a few martinis to plot a meal, even if it's just some hoofed animal's meat on a stick in a developing country. Read only with a well-stocked fridge; you'll get hungry." — Kathleen Flinn, author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

"Eat My Globe is part travelogue, part personal memoir, part food journal, and part performance art, as Simon Majumdar travels the planet and consumes the full spectrum of cuisine — from the haute to the horrifying — establishing himself as an Indiana Jones for the foodie set." — Andrew Friedman, co-editor of Don't Try This at Home

"Majumdar writes like a dream and eats like a pig. It's a killer combination. Eat My Globe is a very funny, very hungry book, much like its author." — Jay Rayner, author of The Man Who Ate the World

"Eat My Globe is a culinary tour de force that mixes an irrepressible enthusiasm for the world of food with a celebration of the people who prepare it. Majumdar is without question the world's most enthusiastic gourmet. His love of eating — or rather feasting — is so infectious that we never turned a page without feeling an overwhelming urge to eat great food, roam the Earth, and read another page." — Andrew Rimas and Evan Fraser, authors of Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World

"[A] pleasure… Globe [ital. title] is critical yet enthusiastic, worldly yet humble, and so much fun you’ll want to go buy yourself a big red suitcase."

—Alton Brown, TV food guru and bestselling author

“True to Simon’s enthusiastic, opinionated, knowledgeable personality, EAT MY GLOBE is filled with good one- liners that made me laugh out loud. But I’m determined to convert him to a love of pizza.”—Donatella Arpaia, author of Donatella Cooks

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Product Details

Free Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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Chapter 1


Who ha s not, at some point, uttered the words, "I hate my job"? I had on numerous times and, although at the time I might have been having the day from hell, it was nothing compared to the real privations of people around the globe. In fact, I had loved my job. I worked in book publishing and got to travel to far-fl ung places where I could usually score a decent meal on my expense account. I led a life that some other people would consider charmed or, at least, enviable.

A few years before, the Great Salami and I had decided to buy a flat together on the edge of London's fashionable Hoxton, just north of the fi nancial district. The burgeoning bar and food scene fed our cravings for decent cocktails and offered a pleasing variety of restaurants. Between us, we ate out about seven times a week. Neither of us was ever going to be mistaken for cool at any point, so our perambulations around the achingly trendy neighborhood often drew contemptuous stares from the young folk as we headed off for dinner or a martini. We were tempted to have T-shirts made that said on the front: "We May Not Be Hip Enough To Drink Here, But We Are Rich Enough To Live Here," and on the back in larger letters: "Fuck Off Back To Clapham." Like giving the finger to the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. But that was a small price to pay for being able to walk to work at my office in well-to-do Islington. In fact, as I mentioned, I enjoyed my job so much, I would practically run to work. I could not wait to get there, switch on my computer, and see what e-mails had flooded in from customers around the globe.

Of course, I had to have my breakfast first. Porridge. Now, porridge gets a bad rap from so many people who think back to the misshapen lumps of oaty mush they may have been forced to eat as children. For me, there is no other way to start the day. If I don't have a great deal of time, then a microwave will suffice, but if I am on a more leisurely schedule, I take the opportunity to slow cook my coarse ground oatmeal on the stove, in a combination of milk and water until it is rich and creamy. Then, I stir in a spoonful of thick, organic peanut butter before topping it off with a pile of berries, which will burst in the residual heat to release their juices, or slices of a blackening banana. If I am feeling particularly indulgent, I will treat myself to a large dollop of Greek yogurt, which will slowly amalgamate into the dish as I eat it. Try it; it will change your life.

So, there I was living a life that could hardly be described as uncomfortable, with a smart flat, a highly paid job, and well within my tolerance levels of never living more than fifteen minutes from the nearest source of Madagascan vanilla extract. Yet, one day, I sat at my desk and wrote forty-two e-mails to friends, all of which read, simply, "I HATE MY JOB."

Looking back, I see this was due to a combination of things. Certainly my job had changed, having gone from being an exciting, challenging opportunity to grow a business to a dreary procession of spreadsheets and arguments over budgets. But it ran much deeper than that. A couple of years before, I had turned forty. Now, lots of people turn forty without any great fanfare, but the occurrence hit me in the face like a slap with a wet haddock, an undyed, lightly smoked one of course, not one of those yellow monstrosities they sell on supermarket fish counters, but a haddock, nevertheless.

At a quiet supper, a few days after the event, a friend said to me, "Congratulations, you are now officially middle-aged."

As the words came out of her mouth, I could practically feel my prostate swelling inside me, and see the remaining years of my life filled with nighttime visits to the bathroom with only a pathetic little dribble to show for it.

There are any number of signs that you are hurtling towards the middle years. You become entirely invisible to attractive young women; that's a given. It takes three times as much effort to prevent getting on the talking scale in the morning and hear it sneer at you, "One at a time, please."

But, worst of all, you lose all ability to move urinal cakes around the bowl. Men may deny it, but we all do it. Once, I could move them around at a pace that would have given Michael Schumacher pause. Now, after a few begrudging millimeters, they refuse to budge anymore, taunting me with their fluorescent unmovingness. Bastards.

It became increasingly obvious that I had more sand in the bottom of my egg timer than the top. A sobering thought.

That same year, my mother died. It happened quickly from that most pernicious of diseases, leukemia, and I was not there to see it, a fact that haunts me. Most people you meet will tell you that they love their mother, and that she is an incredible person. I am no different. Gwen Majumdar really was an incredible person, the biggest influence in my life and certainly the inspiration for my obsession with food.

Gwen John was one of three nursing sisters from South Wales. She first met my father in the mid 1950s when he came from India to complete his surgical exams at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, Wales, which was a training center for many doctors from around the former empire. Despite the restrictions of the day, many liaisons happened between the exotic young men with dark skin from the former colonies and the hot-tempered young Welsh women with fiery red hair.

My father, Pratip, known as Pat, asked my mother out under the pretense of wanting to take pictures with a new camera in the local park. It is a ruse I used a few times myself in my teenage years, with considerably less success, probably because I didn't own a camera. Despite the fact she was, at first, going to send her identical twin sister, Ann, she went along. Yours truly and three other siblings are the result. To her credit, she never once looked at us in times of profound disappointment and said, "If only I had sent Ann."

Theirs was a fairly chaste courtship. These were more innocent days and my father, or Baba as he is known to his children, used to tell to our great glee and to my mum's great embarrassment that, on their wedding night in a small hotel in the Lake District, he asked the management if he could have a hot water bottle. Despite this, the marriage lasted for forty-odd years and my mum went from being Gwen John to Gwen Majumdar. A wonderful combination of names that I have had to explain to people over and over again. It was not uncommon for the Indian doctors and the Welsh nurses to marry and I suspect that the children of Mfannwy Bannerji and Blodwyn Patel have equally interesting stories to tell.

Soon after they were married, and not long after the Great Salami was born, they moved to India, where this young woman, who had never strayed too far from the Valleys, found herself in a high-caste Brahmin household in Calcutta with servants and drivers to wait on her, and with precious little to fill her time. Fortunately, households such as these also had cooks, and my mother spent her days peering in the kitchen and watching the various wives in the family work with the cooks to supply the constant dishes of food that Bengali men, possibly the most demanding people on earth, required.

Mother returned to the United Kingdom with my father in the early 1960s with an ability to cook Bengali food that she used to good effect feeding her brood. I grew up on the thin but deeply delicious Bengali dahl made with red lentils, stews of fish flavored with mustard oil and, best of all, a simple chicken dish with yogurt and a few spices that is one of the great tastes of my life, and to which I dedicate this book. Add to this the baking prowess that came with my mother's Welsh upbringing, and the smells from the kitchen made for a unique combination.

Her death shook me to the core and I miss her every day, not only for her intense loyalty to her family but for her fiery temper, which was often hilarious and aimed at the most quixotic of targets. Television personalities were a particular favorite and she developed an unexplained loathing of a certain female newscaster whom she denounced as "all fur coat and no knickers." Local dignitaries too got short shrift. For a time, she was a local magistrate and had soon acquired the well-earned nickname of "the Hanging Judge" for her conservative views, which would have meant transportation to the colonies, if we had still had any, for the most minor of crimes. Other magistrates were seen as too soft or lenient, which to her obviously meant they were Communists; ironic really, since my father's family had been leading members of the Communist Party of India, a fact that fazed my mother not one jot.

Most hated of all, however, was my father's secretary, for whom she dreamed up exquisite punishments for whatever imagined transgression crossed her mind. Usually, this meant buying expensive but appalling Christmas presents. I can still recall the delight in her voice as she announced, in the Welsh accent she never lost, that she had bought the victim a large bottle of "Elizabeth Taylor's Passion. It's really disgusting."

My mother was not, it has to be said, someone you would ever wish to cross. Ever.

Most of all, however, I miss her for her food, for the stupendous smells of cooking and groaning tables that used to greet me on my return from school and, in later years, fleeting visits to my hometown, Rotherham, near Sheffield, from London. She had no concept of the word ample, and both the larder and the fridge were constantly filled to bursting with the fruits of her labors: pies and Welsh cakes, chutneys and pickled onions, curries and stews. It is little surprise that the fondest memories of friends who were lucky enough to visit are about the sheer volume of food she put in front of them and the clucks of disapproval if they turned down fourth helpings, and bemusement if they did not want to try all eight flavors of ice cream in the large family freezer.

So, there I was, forty and feeling it, in a job that I suddenly loathed and dealing with the loss of a parent, perhaps the hardest thing that anyone has to face. Any one of these problems could make a person unhappy with his lot. Put together, they made me feel as if I were rapidly heading towards the sort of breakdown with a newspaper story ending "and then he turned the gun on himself."

The night of my negative e-mail fest, I returned home and flopped down on my deep, comfortable sofa with a large glass of a favorite Spanish red wine in my hand and stared out the window at the glittering lights of London's financial district.

After a while, the whiff of onions frying, drifting up through a vent from the flat below brought me from my torpor and I realized that I had been sitting there, in the dark, wineglass in hand, for nearly two hours, and that I had not eaten a thing since lunchtime. So, I got up determined to lose myself in cooking for a while. It was one of the few things that I knew would stop me feeling quite so miserable.

Checking on what was in the cupboard, I saw that I had a bag of red lentils and decided upon a standby of Bengali dahl, a thin soup made with the lentils, ground mustard, ginger, and turmeric cooked slowly with quartered lemons to give it a gentle citrus flavor. For our family, this dish is like chicken soup. I call it LSD, "Life-Saving Dahl," the sort of dish you turn to when you need both emotional and physical nourishment.

After dry-toasting the lentils until they released a pleasing nuttiness, I added the dry spices and a little water, followed by the lemons. It began to bubble gently and I turned my attention back to my wine.

At this point, I noticed among my cookbooks an old notebook, one that I had bought when — don't you dare laugh — I had decided to follow a course by that rather scary, perma-grinned, self-help guru, Anthony Robbins. I can't recall the name of the course, which was probably something like "Awaken the Unleashed Giant Inside Your Inner Child for Extraordinary Success" or some such nonsense. I don't even recall if I ever listened to all twenty-four CDs that came with the course. Before I had gotten bored with the whole thing, however, I followed one piece of advice: I had written down a set of goals to achieve once I had turned forty.

As I absentmindedly stirred the lentils which were, by now, giving off a pleasingly familiar whiff of lemon and spices, I began to read.

1) Fix teeth.

I am British and of a generation when teeth were considered things of function rather than things of esthetic worth. Consequently, by the time I hit my fifth decade, I had choppers that were healthy but as crooked as Dick Nixon. No one else seemed to notice or care, but they bothered me a lot. So, I got myself fitted with braces.

I can't pretend that I enjoyed the next two years wandering around with a metal mouth like a teenaged girl, but, at least now that the offending appliances are off, I have teeth that are determinedly straight and pearly white. I am now officially gorgeous.

2) Have a suit made to measure.

In this generation of disposable everything, the made-to-measure suit must be every man's dream and ultimate clothing indulgence. The end result, delivered in 2004, was worth it, a striking suit of grey herringbone that garners admiring looks and comments every time I can find an occasion to wear it. The process, however, was not as much fun as I expected, particularly as the man taking my measurements made no attempt to spare my feelings.

At the first fitting, I offered up helpfully, having read about such things, "I dress to the left." The tailor looked at where my obviously less than John Holmes-like appendage was situated and sniffed, "I don't think it is really going to make a difference, do you, sir?"

Moving around to get a glimpse of my behind, he added, "Sir has got quite a wide seat, hasn't sir?" as he pulled the tape across my rear end.

I suppose, as a way of telling you that you have an arse like an old sofa, it is one of the nicest, but I have to admit that it did rather take the gleam off the whole occasion.

3) Run a marathon.

Despite my obsession with food, I have always been quite fit. I'm an early riser, and mornings often see me pounding the streets in running shoes wherever I happen to be, or lifting weights in the gym with all the requisite grunts. At the beginning of 2006, I decided that I should try to put all of this to good use and aim for that ultimate of challenges, running 26.2 miles in the company of about thirty thousand other people. Timing meant that the event to aim for was the ING New York Marathon in November, and the next months saw me running forty miles a week until the big day.

The race itself was the single hardest thing I have ever done, particularly when my hip gave a loud pop at the twenty-three-mile mark and I had to limp the rest of the way through Central Park while wellmeaning Americans shouted encouragement through mouthfuls of bagel and muffin. There is no chance in hell that I will ever repeat the exercise, but I did it and have a medal to prove it.

I had listed a few other things on my goals list, most of which were either too stupid or implausible to worry about. For example, it is unlikely that I am going to live on an island with Kiera Knightley or own my hometown football team, Rotherham United, and take them to European glory.

However, at the bottom of the page, in large capital letters, were four words that brought me up short:


I could not recall exactly what I was thinking when I wrote down that particular goal, but, as I stood in the small galley kitchen of my flat, the seed was definitely planted.

I chopped a large bunch of spinach and scattered it into the pot to wilt among the lentils, then spooned my dahl into a large bowl in which I had placed a couple of peeled hard-boiled eggs. As far as comfort food goes, this is the perfect meal.

As I sat back on the sofa and placed my supper on the coffee table in front of me, I turned on the television, tuned as always to the Food Channel, and muted it so I could just look at the pictures, while writing in the same notebook what going everywhere and eating everything might entail. The more I wrote, the more excited I became.

A friend in the United States had been inviting me for years to be part of his team at the American Royal BBQ Competition in Kansas City. I adored sushi, yet had never been to Japan. I knew nothing about Mexican food apart from the Tex-Mex garbage that London offered. I had always planned to go to Buenos Aires, arguably the home of the world's best beef. What would Beijing roast duck taste like in Beijing or phad Thai in Bangkok? What about Africa and, of course, my father's homeland, India?

By the time I had finished my second bowl of dahl — one is never enough — I had written down more than forty things. And, at the bottom of the list, I had written the words that you see on the cover of this book: EAT MY GLOBE.

I may not have gone anywhere beyond my living room, but the journey had definitely begun.

The next morning, as I pottered along in my usual stately fashion on the treadmill, my mind added to my list of the previous evening. People had told me that Melbourne, Australia, was one of the great eating cities on earth. What about that moldy shark in Iceland — was it really as vile as they say? Perhaps some unsuspecting dupe would let me work behind a bar to learn how to mix cocktails. Could I persuade myself that wines from California were not all like melted Life Savers? I loved both whisky and gin, but had not a clue how they were made. No longer just mildly curious, I began to feel I was on a mission.

One hour and six miles of sweat later, I'd made my decision.

I showered, shaved, dressed in a hurry, and headed off on the short walk to work. For the previous few months as I approached the office, I had begun to develop a heavy sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. In more recent weeks, it had become closer to a panic attack as I forced myself towards a day that I knew would be filled with arguments and torturous meetings.

Today was different. I felt exhilarated. Not just from the great run, which had flown by with all my thoughts of food, but because the deed was about to be done, and I felt that a colossal weight had been lifted from my chest.

I was surprisingly well behaved, spending the morning smiling beatifically through a board meeting about budgets, which would normally have contributed a great deal to a future ulcer.

Meeting over, I returned to my desk, switched on my computer and began to write a short, standard letter of resignation. I printed it out, signed it, and placed it in a crisp white envelope, which I handed over to the owner of the company, my friend Zaro, who uttered words I was to hear more than once on the trip, "Can I carry your bags?"

That afternoon, I wrote forty-two e-mails to the same people who had received the previous rather depressing e-mail. This one simply read: I DID IT.

I am not sure quite what I expected, but apart from a few return e-mails from people saying, "Ooh, that's brave," the world seemed to be fairly well attached to its normal axis. Inevitably, the word began to get around to colleagues and clients that I was leaving and I began to receive e-mails asking me what exactly it was I was going to do.

It was a good question. What the hell did "going everywhere, eating everything" actually mean? I had done the easy bit of handing in my notice and indulged in a few fanciful thoughts about jetting off; now I had to do the hard bit of figuring out where to go, whom to meet, and how to pay for it all.

Money was an issue, of course, but, for the previous five years I had been putting away a decent sum every month and promising myself that when I reached my set goal, I was going to do something different. I was fortunate to have no mortgage, and was pretty sure I could get by for a year on the road even if, at the end of it, I would be penniless, jobless, and could see myself standing on a street corner with a sign that read, "Will drop trou' for foie gras."

To answer the question "Who would I travel to meet?" I turned inevitably to the Internet. A few years before, I had discovered food discussion boards and, sad though it may seem, they changed my life. Until that point, I had felt as if I were the only person in the world — with the exception of my family — for whom food was the first thought in the morning and the last thought before heading to bed. The people with whom I worked wanted to have water-cooler conversations about music, TV shows from the night before, films, or even politics. I joined in, but I really wanted to talk about what to serve with hake (floury potatoes, just in case you were wondering) the latest restaurant openings, and what I had cooked the night before, why it was good or could have been better.

Then, one night, the Great Salami sent me a link to a Web site called Chowhound. I couldn't believe it. It was like discovering Narnia at the back of my refrigerator. There was this wonderland filled with people like me whom I could ask, "Where can I find a decent sausage in East London?" and for whom I could write a thousand words about a new restaurant without people thinking I was stark, raving bonkers.

I felt at home immediately and soon began to post lengthy accounts of dining experiences. I spent a lot of time on there, to the extent that it was even commented upon in an article in The New Statesman: "One name — Simon Majumdar — intrigued me. He featured comfortably more often than anyone else. Who was this Uber-chowhound, with his encyclopedic knowledge of London restaurants?"

As with all matters Internet, one Web site soon begat another, until I was, at one point, easily one of the most active contributors on four at the same time, clocking more than 10,000 posts on one site alone as I became embroiled in lengthy arguments about important matters such as "Best Sichuan Hot Pot in London" and "Lobsters Tastier Big or Small?"

I am happy to admit — now — that I spent far too much time on these sites. I would look at them as I ate breakfast and lunch and often sneak a peek during the day when I should have been doing something altogether more productive, but this was my world and these were my people, and I felt happy there with them.

By 2006, however, I had weaned myself from them, primarily because, being a cutting-edge kind of guy, I had started a blog with the Great Salami called Dos Hermanos, on which I was now posting extensive reports of every meal, home or away. When it came to planning Eat My Globe, however, the foodie sites were a godsend. During the years I had pored over these sites, I had met people I considered friends, first virtually and then, as my travels allowed, in person. In the United Kingdom, I had organized regular get-togethers where those as afflicted as I could sit around large plates of food and argue in person. Trips to New York saw me sitting with people I had never physically met before but knew everything about (often far too much about) and having astonishing meals in Queens or Brooklyn at restaurants or at the houses of people who were willing to feed like-minded souls.

Now, as I prepared to head off into the world, I decided to call in every offer that had ever been made of a bed for the night or a meal. I made a reappearance on one or two of the sites and posted about my planned trip. Almost immediately, I started to get replies and e-mails with offers. Did I want someone to guide me around Mexico? Had I ever experienced a proper Thanksgiving meal? Did I fancy a day on the barbecue trail in Texas or would I like someone to put me up for a whole week in Melbourne?

The response was astonishing, but one that I later found throughout my trip to nearly always be the case. Like nothing else I have ever encountered, food and the desire to share it brings out the generosity in people wherever they are in the world and whatever other problems they may have.

The suggestions did not just come over the Web, however. Friends from my real life were soon chipping in. A Finnish friend dangled the possibility of a hunting trip in the Nordic countryside with an eighty-year-old man who only knew two words of recognizable English, of which one was vodka and the other wasn't. Another suggested that I head up to spend a week with him at a Scotch whisky distillery. And, so it would not be a case of what to do to fill my year, but what I was going to have to leave out.

The answer to when to embark on my trip was pretty clear, too. I had agreed to leave work at the beginning of March 2007. That gave me a little over two and a half months to get my backside into gear and plan. I spent most evenings in the next weeks flopped on the sofa with my laptop open and a large mug of tea to keep me fortified while I fired off e-mails to everyone and anyone I could think of.

Slowly, things began to take shape and, by the end of the year and with a few key dates in place, I had my itinerary pretty much planned:

March and April: The United Kingdom and Ireland

May: Australia

June: More things in the United Kingdom

July: Japan

August: Hong Kong and China

September: Mongolia, Russia, and Finland

October: The United States of America

November: Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and back to the United States for Thanksgiving

December: Home for Christmas and a little bit of a nap

January: Germany and Iceland

February: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia

March: The Philippines and India

April: South Africa, Mozambique, Senegal, and Morocco

May: Turkey, Italy, France, and Spain

Reading it now makes me breathless, and to want to go and have a bit of a lie-down. Nearly thirty countries in a little over twelve months. Two things made me determined to carry on.

The first was the fact that, now I had told everyone what I was about to do, I would look like a prize tool if I gave up at the first hurdle. The second was the fact that I was, as the Great Salami put it none too kindly, "an old git," and would never get this opportunity again. Circumstances, finances, and emotions had collided in a once-in-a-lifetime way, which truly meant it was now or never.

Well-underway plans were nonetheless the cause of many sleepless nights. Not used to being out of work, I developed a dread fear that once my office hours were up, I would turn into one of those people who spend all day in a dressing gown, slumped on the sofa watching episodes of The Jerry Springer Show while eating broken crackers or baked beans out of a can.

Actually, I like baked beans out of a can, particularly if they have those little sausages and burgers made out of reclaimed meat in them, but that is another story.

I made a very definite decision to treat what I was doing as work. I was not out of a job or on holiday. I was organizing a project. The fact that I was doing it at home and was never more than a five-second walk from a cookie was just an added bonus. I kept to my normal schedule: got up at five-thirty every morning, went to the gym, came home and showered, then walked to work. Admittedly, my walk had been shortened to about five seconds from bedroom to sofa, but I think the principle is what counts.

It is just as well that I adhered to this modus, since I had no idea what was involved in organizing such a global trip. Flights, accommodation, visas, currency — all required more than a nine-to-five job. Itinerary mapped out, I turned my attention to how to get to these far-flung places and what I was going to do when I actually arrived there.

One frustrating Saturday morning, I was busy screaming at my computer. None of the normal travel and airline Web sites seemed to be able to cope with my plans. Finally, resorting to Google, I came across a link for a company called Airtreks, based in San Francisco. While my trip may have been one of the more unusual they'd been faced with, it did not seem to phase them at all. Within twenty-four hours of my submitting my rather daunting schedule, I was contacted by a woman called Deborah Morales who, it turned out, had the patience of any number of saints, which is just as well, because I put it all to the test as I moved dates around, put in demands for aisle seats, and changed destinations enough times that I suspect that the good lord himself would have wanted to slap me.

She came through with the goods and, before I could say, "Although the bag will not inflate, oxygen will be flowing through the mask," I had already handed over the best part of two thousand pounds for my first set of flights to Australia and around Asia.

There was now, officially, no turning back.

Copyright 2009 by Simon Majumdar

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