Mirra and I just finished our last trip of the planned itinerary with Intrepid Travel (videos will be coming out through July). Over the past year and a half we’ve been lucky enough to visit 14 countries. Before we left, there were warnings of theft, sickness, anti-Americanism, violence, you know the drill… fear. I’m very happy to say that none of those things happened to us. I know they do happen, but they happen everywhere, in Minneapolis and in Cape Town, in Mumbai and in Tuscany. But people have a shift in mentality when they leave their own country, they think that they need to buy pants that are more breathable, and a special wallet that goes under their belt, and to bring all sorts of pills they would normally never take. They forget — I often forget — that these travel locations are just another place on earth where a million or a billion people live there lives; where their kids go to school; where they eat the street food that looks clean; where they know not to walk alone down a back alley at night; where their neighbors are looking out for them.
Now, despite my job (where I document food), anyone who knows me knows that I would prefer a huge bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce eaten in sweatpants on the couch over a 10 course tasting menu any day. But I also know that dinner at one of these restaurants is an art form, and being able to experience it is something that makes me very lucky. When you take in a painting, you want to understand what the artist was thinking, what was behind each piece. The same happens when you see a beautifully plated and thoughtfully created dish. And when someone presents me with produce from their chef’s own garden, hand picks and de-shells each individual pea, and (what I can only assume is) kisses it before putting it onto my plate… you have to take notice. The dishes at Etxebarri were delicious, delicate and made me kick myself that I didnt like vegetables until last year. It is so good that Daniel (you know, that popular meat eater from the beginning of the post) even recommended one of our meat loving friends to pose as a vegetarian when coming to Etxebarri for an upcoming meal.
My first time on an 8 seater propeller plane was this past summer during our trip to Martha’s vineyard. It’s one of those planes where, at the airport as part of the boarding process, the attendant asks you how much you weigh in order to assess which part of the death trap you will inhabit for those 45 terrifying minutes. Since I am prone to vomiting at the slightest hint of motion, and have a thing about not going on planes where death is a real option, this wasnt my idea of a good time. Also, due to my weight class (extra small) I was seated in the way back. But we were heading to “the vineyard” to attend a friend’s wedding (Daniel was cooking at the event and I was filming), so I thought — even if this tiny plane runs out of gas in the middle of the ocean, bursts into flames and we all plunge to our deaths before being swallowed by a fish or hit by a submarine — hey, at least we tried to get there.
This summer I had the good fortune of taking a trip with a team of Equal Exchange employees to middle of nowhere Peru. The middle of nowhere was Bahuaja-Sonene Naitonal Park and the coffee growing towns that surround this protected area. To get to our starting point, we took two planes followed by a 12 hour drive (some of it at 14,000 feet). From there, shorter trips of hours of driving and hours of walking up hill topped off this grueling travel. The trip to Peru wasn’t quite as glamorous as it initially seemed. But after filming a woman wheel a 50lb bag of coffee 6 miles down a mountain, all complaints were off. If there is one lesson I was reminded of on this trip, it was the undeniable fact that coffee is hard work. Watch these videos to come along on the adventure and see what goes into each cup of coffee you drink.
Our latest video about Seed Saving, Farmer Suicides and Monsanto has gotten quite a lot of positive reaction. Thank you. But an online friend brought up some thought provoking points and interesting questions that touched on issues that I’ve long been grappling with. He thought the piece was an attack on Monsanto, which although it may be justified, is not consistent with The Perennial Plate’s dialogue-encouraging films. After some deliberation he asked, “How is it that you finally decide the way your story will be told?”
We are very excited to announce our new partnership with Tastemade and Youtube. At the start of our world tour they invited us to create some cooking videos for them and to share our content. Since we focus our attention on Vimeo, we thought it would be great to have someone spreading the word on youtube. Also, we felt that we had lost some of the cooking aspect of the show in our international travels and wanted to make sure we got spend some time cooking the food we were eating and learning about. So “In the Kitchen” arm of The Perennial Plate has been born. On top of all that, we get a lot of comments like “why isn’t Mirra in the show more?” – She is shy and usually tries to stay off camera, but I’ve convinced her to let a third camera capture the filmmaking process, which usually entails me messing up in the kitchen and her making fun of me….
Just as China knows their fried rice and Japan knows their fish, India will throw down when it comes to treats on the street. And despite the cautionary warnings of food poisoning, hygiene and dirt, I was planning to truly take in India. And it started on the streets.
Somewhere in the barrage of comments from my last blog post, someone mentioned that they’d like to know more about our relationship with Intrepid Travel. Which is a fair point. We never really explained the partnership beyond a brief mention in our cartoon. You might be wondering why a company wants to fly us around the world sharing free stories about food. In fact, our most common question in emails, conversations etc. is – “how do you pay for this?” Obviously it’s a dream job, so the question, despite being less than proper, has some merit.
I want to tell you about the process of making an episode of The Perennial Plate. I’m writing this out of frustration, as a 100 or so of our 8000 twitter followers shared the latest video and 25 out of 9000 Facebook fans “liked” it. I understand that we have an amazing job, and we are so lucky to do what we do. I also understand that there is a lot of content out there, all trying to get seen, and that with the way social media works, it is easy to miss things. But I just want to make the point of why one of our videos should be watched.
As a vegetarian, you never expect to write an ode to food in China. And yet, here I am trying my best not to break into poetry as I describe the two weeks I spent in the country. Which is difficult, as my experience feels like all puppies and butterflies — and surprisingly, not in the literal sense.
We were 4 hours outside of Beijing, driving through small villages — which mean something very different in China. In a country pushing 1 billion, a modest village can include 460,000 people. But the number of inhabitants does not directly correlate to the condition of a town, city or village. Our black, shiny car stood out amidst all of the motorbikes, minibuses and stray chickens. We had just come from spending a night at the great wall — a lesser known area with very limited tourists. Our morning jaunt up the wall (to catch the sunrise) involved seeing 8 other people, all from other parts of china, and most wanting to take their pictures with us as we were the first foreigners they’d ever seen. I was actually quite surprised that I stood out so much. After spending two weeks in Japan with all the super hot, tall girls in fancy clothing and fake eyelashes, I stood out like a sore thumb in my travel attire (which had become strangely similar to my non travel attire) of hiking boots, unflattering jeans and a sweatshirt). But in China, I felt quite at home in my style. Daniel had taken up the habit of pointing out middle aged Chinese women who shared my fashion sense, and I had, many times, made a promise to start dressing cooler when I got home. But for now, from the back, despite the slight wave in my hair, you couldnt necessarily tell that I wasnt from the country. It was around 8am when our driver, Pei, pulled the car over to a psuedo strip mall parking lot on the side of the road. The lot was dirty, and only dotted with one or two broken down cars, a bicycle, a pullcart, and (as per usual) a handful of chickens. I wasnt that hungry, and considering I was in China, where, you know, they eat dog and all, I wasnt feel too optimistic about what we would find here. But Pei insisted that it was a good, quick place to stop on our long drive home. He thought he had been there once before.