Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything Paperback – 7 Jan 2010
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'A snappy and entertaining book ... although this is an account of Majumdar's international love affair with food, it's his deep affection for those with who he shares it that really nourishes the soul' (Daily Telegraph)
'Excellent foodie travel memoir ... Majumdar is often genuinely funny and can spin a good story ... highly readable, and ofren highly entertaining but to be avoided if you are on a diet' (Clover Stroud, Sunday Telegraph)
'This book made me quite patriotic about our over-boiled vegetables and cauldrons of stew' (Sunday Express)
'Ballsy, often hilarious foodie travelogue ... Majumdar's comic-yet-brazen voice carries the reader swiftly and winningly from foul to fowl in a book that's funny and delectable' (Publishers Weekly)
'If you're a slave to your taste buds you'll love Eat My Globe' (Wanderlust)
'As Jay Rayner says, Majumdar "writes like a dream and eats like a pig". It's a riot' (Tribune)
'Through the exuberant enthusiasm of Majumdar's writing we share his excitement' (Waterstones Books Quarterly)
'A very satisfying read ... there is a lot to enjoy' (Matthew's Table)
'One for serious foodies ... Majumdar successfully brings to life the tastes and experiences associated with his global quest ... but this book takes the reader way beyond that' (Adventure Travel)
Majumdar's passion for all things edible is evident and he has an amiable, engaging writing style (Observer)
A journey for travel enthusiasts, foodies and anyone who's ever had a 'what am I doing here?' life crisis (Irish Tatler)
One year to go everywhere and eat everythingSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The idea of packing it all in and travelling the world in search of food is something that, I think, we all want to do but never get (or make) the opportunity. This book gives all who view "foreign" food as pizza the chance to look further afield even if they are never going to travel to the countries mentioned. At no point does he try and hide his background or upbringing (like many food writers) and is quite happy to lampoon his stance as a food obsessed Yorkshireman (the pie chapter is my favourite).
Majumdar tells it how it is and, unlike many food writers, does not judge a restaurant by how good he is told it is or how many stars it has, he makes up his own mind and you with him. He is as happy with a proper cup of tea from a truckers halt as he would be spending ten times the amount if the tea is good after all a good cup of tea is just that.
Read this book and you will find yourself looking at world food in a different way. I can almost guarantee that you will reach for the cook book to try something new.
Buy it. It's a good read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Eat My Globe" is a book about a set of trips that Majundar took around the world, trying to sample many different dishes from many different cultures. The book gives a lot of facts: names of people he met, restaurants he visited, places he ate. It reads a little like a calendar: he tells you where he ate at breakfast (and what he ate), where he went next, what he ate for lunch, etc.
I found this book very tedious and difficult to read. Sometimes he'll describe in detail what he ate at a specific meal (for example, BBQ in Texas), but other times he'll just throw out the name of a dish and not describe the flavor, texture, or aroma. Majundar manages an unusual trick: he has written a book that is both too long and too short. He provides too much detail in the book about the minutia of his travel planning. However, he spends far too little time talking about the people, places, and foods that he encountered.
Worse yet, Simon is a terrible writer. As an example, here is what he writes about a woman called Tina, a stranger who invited him to Thanksgiving dinner via email: "I took the plunge and wrote back saying I would be delighted to join her for Thanksgiving and, over the next six months, we swapped regular e-mails so, by the time it came for me to pick up my rental car and make the short drive from San Francisco down to Santa Cruz, I already felt like I knew her and knew I would like her." Yes, this is an overly complicated, run-on sentence. But worse yet, that is almost all that Simon tells us about this woman. He doesn't tell us how she was dressed, where she was originally from, what her house looked like, what she did for a living, why she liked food, what type of accent she had. This happens again and again in the book: Simon says "I met this wonderful person and liked them a lot" and then doesn't tell the reader anything about the person.
Even worse, he does the same thing with food: he doesn't tell us how dishes are prepared, where the ingredients come from, when they were developed, why they were eaten. And, I have a sneaking suspicion that he was eating a lot of tourist food. Outside of the western world, meat is still an expensive luxury. I think that Simon ate meat for three meals a day for most of his trip.
I was very disappointed by this book. Simon clearly knows and loves food, and spent a year of his life going to interesting places and eating interesting things. But it's a shame that he only managed to turn that journey into a 264-page book. I didn't learn anything from this book, and I didn't walk away from this book wanting to go anyplace he went, or eat anything he ate. It has brief moments of brilliance, where he does a great job capturing a specific meal. But on the whole, I can't recommend this book.
The pronoun "I" is used more in this book than any other word. The book is disappointingly not about the food but is about Simon and his travels. Simon comes off as a self obsessed, self professed and self impressed lover of food but primarily unusual (to an American palate) foods. His descriptions of the food are limited and he spends more time talking about his walks through the cities and countries he visits. I had anticipated reading succulent word pictures of the many foods he ate. These are missing from this book. Instead we are told he ate "a dish of crunchy green beans with garlic", or "Sichuan-style spring rolls and a dish of fiery pork" -- nothing inspiring about the descriptions and no recipes or even clues to recipes to recreate some of his more "normal" food adventures (I will pass on the still beating cobra heart). Instead of telling us that he drank 30 year old sherry, could he have shared a name or brand?
The inclusion of recipes in this book or even pictures of the foods, people and places would have added a great deal to this journal about Simon and his travels because his words are not enough.
Most disappointing was Simon's unnecessary and gratuitous inclusion of repeated references to his genitalia and self perceived sexuality. Was it really necessary to be told he dreamed of carrying a large sign saying "will drop trou for food"? (He'll starve doing that!) Wouldn't it have been sufficient to tell us he thought of carrying a sign that said "will work for food"? Do I need to know what his tailor told him about his limited personal endowments or that he walks around in front of strangers in a short silk robe and nothing else? None of this was enticing nor did it add to the book. I guess it made his ego feel better.
And that is what this book is about -- Simon's ego. The food is not the star.
I found the book throroghly engaging, Simon has a wonderful way of writing that makes you feel you are there with him. This book is his personal account, of what it'd be like, to just quit your job, pick up and GO! If you've ever wondered what that'd be like, this is a book you'll enjoy. Some people do it for the adventure, some for the challenge, some to see new places, and some for the FOOD! Simon did it for all these reasons, and provides interesting accounts of all the people he meets and places he visits. He does this in an honest way, without getting "ugly" about some of the more less-than-safe locations. He never puts a location down, he just simply states what his experience was there.
I have done some minor travelling in my day, so I appreciate reading about the different places and people Simon meets along the way, via Foodie blogs, word of mouth, etc. I also tend to travel with Food as a premise! Not expensive food, just GOOD food, and the people who prepare it and serve it. As Simon reports, I have also experienced some fantastic food at the most out-of-the way places, food stalls and small mom & pop operations. I have also experienced some of the worst food ever, at expensive restaurants. Hence, I research via recommendations, places I'd like to try when traveling, and this method produces some outstanding results!
I hope someday to visit many of the places Simon speaks of in his book, and am anxious for his next book, which is all about learning America and Americans, through food.
First, someone seems to have told Simon Majumdar that snarky sells, so he plays up the curmudgeonly, cranky, ill-tempered traveler bit to the point that I began to see him as unlikeable. Second, in his introduction, Simon tells us how important food is to him; he says "I can recall every meal I ever ate... We (the Majumdar family) signpost our lives by what we have eaten and when." That leads me to ask WHERE'S THE FOOD??? Meals the author describes as some of the best on his trip get one paragraph, each dish a sentence. He gives that much and more to hotel room accommodations and train trips. I understand that the book is both a food memoir and a travelogue, but the food drives the trip, so I found it disappointing that the descriptions were so weak. I don't know if it is because the author simply hasn't the skill to write descriptively and at length when he's not complaining or if the book was edited by a food-hater.
As I said, the book was an easy read and I didn't think I wasted my time reading it, but it just wasn't all it could be. In the constellation of travels to eat, Anthony Bourdain still shines the brightest. His "No Reservations" digs enthusiastically into the culture of a city or country and the joy he reveals in sharing food, his humanity in learning about people eloquently transports the reader. "Eat My Globe" takes the same concept but stays in the mundane.
He decides to cash in his life's savings, leave his job, and travel the globe for a year and eat as widely and broadly as he can in order to understand how we humans eat in every corner of the world. And he found some amazingly out of the way corners. The sheer travel involved in the trip actually frightened me. I traveled frequently for business in the mid-1990s. I once went completely around the globe. Twenty-four time zones in twenty-one days and I arrived home utterly spent and delirious with jet lag. But I had something Simon did not. I had a well-funded expense account and stayed in very nice hotel rooms every step of the way. And it still beat me down. If he were only twenty-five this would be a delightfully fool-hardy adventure. For a forty year old this becomes an act of crazed heroism. That he accomplished it and lived I find to be a staggering achievement. His status as a celebrity food critic is was hard won and well deserved!
After all, you can find any cuisine you want in London and, if you look a bit, I am sure you can find most dishes of exceptional quality. If you add in Paris and New York, you have to get well above 90% of the world's dishes available to you. But just eating exotic dishes that are well prepared is not what Majumdar is after. He knows that experiencing dishes in their natural habitat is quite a different thing and being authentically prepared is often superior to being merely well-prepared. Plus, he put in the energy to find dishes that surprised even him. Things that you can't find in standard-exotic fare, if you can forgive that term. As he puts in on page 182 in referring to a chili, garlic, shrimp paste, chicken dish he had in Thailand, "Exactly the sort of meal I had hoped for when I first set out on the journey. The chance to find out what these famous dishes, so often served in the West, but neutered by bad ingredients and lack of soul, taste like when are made properly and with care."
I also think that Majumdar's reputation as a writer is well deserved. He is an excellent diarist. This book is full of adventure, humor, some drama (his first experiences in Brazil and Senegal), and his accounts of making strangers into friends is always touching. The author's account of his travel to remote areas of China and other Asian locales is something I am glad he did for me. Frankly, reading about them is about as far as I want to go. Very little of what he experienced makes me want to duplicate what he did. Except maybe I would like to taste the food in that monastery where they make delicious meat dishes without a bit of meat. I have been told that many times about vegetarian food and never been fooled once. But I trust Majumdar enough to believe him absolutely.
The author unfolds himself to us along with the story. He brings in elements of his family, or "clan" as he likes to call them, in order to flesh out the story of the food at that point in the adventure. So, there is that bit of skilled writing to keep us interested in what we might learn next. I mean, after all he is an interesting mix of a physician father from India and a fiery mother from Wales. And he uses references to his older brother, whom he identifies as The Great Salami, as a nice counterpoint throughout the story. Another achievement is that he turned his Rucksack, Big Red, into a character. I mean you cheer for the thing when it is in peril and feel for it as it suffers wear and tear during its travels. What does it say about a writer when a reader thinks, "Yeah, Simon, I know you are sick and dying, good luck and all that, but what about Big Red?"
Obviously, I can relate most to his travels in the states. I think he gets Americans far better than most Americans get other parts of the world. He even travelled to Ann Arbor, where I have lived since 1978. He spent his time at Zingerman's, which is a company I know intimately because I have eaten their food since 1983 and several of my children have worked there. While I think the author was fair in his telling of his experience in working at the Deli for a day, I don't think he quite captured how special the place truly is. I say this as a person who has also done a fair amount of traveling and eaten a wide variety of food. But, hey, he only had a day or two here.
I also want to comment on the sheer range of food the author ate and told us about. It is nearly incomprehensible. No wonder his gout ridden toe bothered him on this trip - not just from all the walking, but the vast universes of food he managed to taste and experience. Majumdar is a fair critic. He has an expansive palate, but not universal. He is open in saying that he prefers food that is spicy, crunchy, and sour. Frankly, I can enjoy that food, but it is not the center of my preferred taste galaxy. And while I appreciate the head-to-tail idea and am willing to try and eat more broadly than most people, I am reminded that dogs and cats need food to eat, too. But he also has his lacunae. For example, he doesn't like pizza. Oh, he tries to like it, but for him it remains "snot on toast". And, like nearly everyone on the planet, he has no use for Durian fruit. It is, apparently, a very specialized taste, which I have heard described as a combination of rotted onions and unwashed feet. He also likes to gnaw on chicken and duck bones. He says he chews them to dust. I like to get the food off, but don't get any pleasure in biting bone.
Decades back, during my formative years in fine dining, I was a member of a highly regarded dining club and as I talked with the owner I asked the usual stupid question about what his favorite foods were. I asked this because his restaurant served such a wide range of foods I had never tried before. I learned love sweetbreads. I ate elk there, which I like more than Majumbdar apparently does, and other game. It was a fabulous place to eat with family and friends. In answer, the owner gave me some fabulous advice that has benefitted me ever since. He said, "Craig, it is much less the ingredient than the chef. In the hands of a great chef you will love everything they cook. In the hands of a bad cook the finest ingredients are wasted." And that is always true. While I doubt I will ever crave beef tendon soup, if I were served it by a great cook, I would eat it gratefully and expand my food horizon by one more dish.
Well, let me add to that advice something I learned from this book, having a good and adventurous guide to the great chefs, who are not always in the fancy establishments, is also indispensable to expanding one's food universe. In the back of the book, Majumdar has a few lists. One is of the top twenty tastes he had in his travels. The other is the ten worst tastes. As he says, things he ate so we don't have to. If you want to find some of the funniest writing in the book, use this list to find the spots where he ate them. The food may be awful, but the writing is delicious.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI