“I may not be the first person to have eaten rat in China, elk in Finland, barbecue in Texas, crickets in Manila or cod sperm sushi in Kyoto, but there are not too many people out there who can claim to have done so in little over a year.”
As he turned forty, Simon Majumdar dealt with the obligatory midlife crisis with flair. Instead of buying a sports car, shagging a fading starlet or discovering his inner navel in the outer Himalayas, this half-Welsh, half-Indian, wholly insane man chucked up his job and decided to eat his way across the globe.
Majumdar would be the first to admit that he has boldly gone where no one but Anthony Bourdain and a score of globetrotting chefs-turned-TV stars have gone before. But taking the trip vicariously in his company turns out to be an unexpected pleasure. Majumdar represents the best of the breed of the amateur foodie—not the food tourist, wearily moving from one Michelin-starred experience to another, but the genuine food-lover, armed with a curiosity about the world and a desire to taste everything, no matter how unusual.
That might be, even in this jaded age, very odd indeed. Majumdar’s “I ate it so you don’t have to” list includes rotten shark meat in Iceland and deep-fried banana in Ireland, in addition to the stir-fried rat and braised dog previously mentioned. What makes this book work, though, are his opinions—freely offered and stubbornly defended, as in his description of pizza (even the best available in Chicago and Rome) as “snot on toast”.
The list of things the “Great Majumdar” loved eating as he made his way across 90 countries on a budget slimmer than a bulimic model’s waist is vast and endearing. Instead of an endless list of fabulous gourmet meals that few of us would be able to afford, he proffers comforting classics: roti canai in Malaysia, Mrs King’s pork pie from Melton Mowbray in England, pho in Vietnam, breakfast ribs in Kansas. In India, he visits Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Goa, and instead of rating restaurants, offers a more nuanced overview of the local specialties.
Eat My Globe may lack the inimitable style of MFK Fisher’s writings, or the unique experiences at the heart of Bill Buford’s Heat, but Majumdar’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious. He romps across the world not just for himself, but for all those of us who harbour a similar desire to eat our way across the globe and who will probably stop at twenty or less countries. We don’t have to, because the Great Majumdar made the journey for us.
(For Outlook Traveller, June 2009)