Feast or famine. Camp cooking or festive fayre. Food is an essential part of our lives for the nourishment it provides not only our bodies but our souls as well.
When touring I can easily get into a cycle of food obsession which sees me lurching from one meal to the next with frequent internal and external conversations about my culinary hopes and dreams, for the day and beyond, in between. My relationship to food equally ricochets from the desire for well stocked cupboards, infinate herb and spice supplies and a range of useful (if not necessary equipment – I miss having a blender!) to wishing for easy to use, no waste, lightweight packets of capsules which convey the essential amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals necessary for my maintenance, growth or repair.
However this doesn’t consider the emotional aspect of sitting down for a sustaining snack with friends or the spiritual nourishment which a foodie social gathering brings. There have been so many occasions for me when a number of individuals sitting and eating together have become ‘family’ for a brief time.
Sitting under a large, frayed primary coloured beach umbrella (miles from the nearest beach), having made a recent border crossing over the Kunjareb Pass on a strangely ‘underfilled’ (no people on the roof, one person to a seat), bed decked, smoke filled, grimy windowed bus, with the people I had mostly newly made friends with. The mood was jubuliant and the entire company ecstatic to be in Pakistan.
There was a Japanese woman (Tomoko), an Austrian hitchhiker (Kris), a lovely Pakistani couple and me. All tucking into a large plate of mixed veg and potato pakhora. Our mouths either working on the linguistics of Hindi (teaching or learning) or attempting to be filled as quickly and as often on this delicious second or was it third breakfast.
The time we had spent on the bus together, presenting ourselves and our doucments to various stern faced officials together and then as a team negotiating hotel rooms together the night before meant that this morning had evolved from a quick tea before we all went our seperate ways into a long, leisurely set of breakfasts as Ali and his wife insisted on showing us the local way to order food (namely in sizable quantities, as well as the language for it) and really how to sit around persuing maps and routes and plans in truely Pakistani fashion … with no haste and plenty of tea.
Our little ‘family’ walked around the border town of Sost until early afternoon, sampling food, drinking tea, Tomoko and I delighted to be examining any and every painted lorry which came into our sphere.
When the time came for us to seperate it was with sadness at our departures but fond memories of the time spent together and for me the most striking memories of the food and language we all consumed. As ever the language I learnt in theose first few hours made life throughtout Pakistan so much easier and more accessible. In my experience to be able to speak of the basics in life (especially regarding which food I want and also to convey how well I am enjoying it) in the language of the country has opened many doors and given a lot of pleasure and apparent validation to the receiver.
‘Do you like the country? Do you like the food?’ are often questions asked and the response increases tenfold, sometimes to an overwhelming degree if the local language or the dialect is used! People love it when you enjoy their food and love it when you use their language. The emotional link between language and food is strong and the kudos bestowed on culture if you enjoy something is undeniable.
Until now I have have had a clear run in this regard. I wonder what will happen when I am unable to stomach something.