Fairy tales made me hungry. In these stories, someone was almost always famished, waiting to eat. When they weren’t devouring a plate of something or another, somebody else was usually desperate to gobble them. Little Red Riding Hood, for instance, was carrying wine and cake when she bumped into the Big Bad Wolf. Hansel and Gretel too found themselves alone in the woods. Predictably, they found a gingerbread house. Sauntering into the house of the Three Bears, Goldilocks first drank their porridge. Journeys, the Brothers Grimm would agree, are more fun when there’s food to snack on along the way.
Food brackets travel perfectly. Places, for me, are defined by their cuisines, not their monuments. I’d argue that taste, not sight, is the first of our five senses. As an undergraduate student in a somewhat lonely Cornwall, I began frequenting a Turkish doner kebab shop every Friday. Once my visits to the establishment had become somewhat regular, Baris, the owner, began squeezing more mayonnaise on my fries. With his half-mocking Cockney accent, he’d ask each time, “Back for your British dinner?” The joke wasn’t particularly funny, but I laughed each time. This was the humour of immigrants. We’d found the one denominator that made us two foreigners equals. We both adored food. It gave us language.
In my last year in Britain, I met Baris less. I discovered a discounted student’s buffet. I had found my own gingerbread house. It’s only because we intend our food issue to be the reading equivalent of a sumptuous buffet have we given it the headline—“All You Can Eat”. Buffets, though, should leave you satiated, too full to walk. We hope our magazine this month makes you hungry, ravenous even. Like any ambitious eatery, we too wanted to reinvent, so we have gone and conceived a menu we believe is new.
Our design, you’ll find, is the first indicator of change. It makes our content a lot easier to bite into. Imagined as the courses of a lavish meal, we trust the progress of our six sections will make you want to eat, cook and also buy yourself a train or airline ticket. In our first section, ‘The Itinerary’, you’ll read stories whose size can be compared to appetisers. From vegan restaurants to a guided Ramzan trail, our aim is to give you a taste of the food you can sample during your own travels later. We stop in Japan, Tel Aviv and Delhi before we arrive at dessert. ‘The Indulgence’ showcases food so rich, it feels hedonistic.
Since good conversation is essential to good eating, we interviewed Padma Lakshmi, as also chefs such as Vineet Bhatia and Alex Moser. The real dialogue, however, we wish to initiate with you. Food, we hope, has given us language that helps communicate our philosophy—gluttony, we think, should not be a sin.
Shreevatsa Nevatia never travels without his headphones, coloured pens and a book. He is particularly fond of cities, the Middle East, and the conversations he has along the way. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveller India.