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Venturing beyond my doorstep


Posted By Tim on December 8 2010

So we’re back and as we slowly catch up with friends and family we are being asked a lot of questions: What was our favourite place? What did we miss the most? How long until the next big adventure? Doesn’t life at home seem very... pedestrian?
Finding something coherent to say in response has generally eluded me over the last few days and I suspect a survey of our answers would reveal a total lack of consistency and an underlying tone of bemusement. London has been overwhelming. I struggled through the London Underground on my way home from the Eurostar terminal at Kings Cross without an Oyster Card, sharing condolences with people up from the country suffering a similar bewilderment.
On Monday night I accepted an invitation to dinner with Tom Kevill-Davies and Al Humphreys. Between them they have turned the globe into a cycling track which they have lapped many times. But Monday night marked the beginning of their latest journey - a culinary tour of the world, visiting countries beginning with letters from A-Z without leaving London. The inaugural dinner, was of course at “A” for Afghanistan, in East Sheen, Southwest London. 
I thought it appropriate to cycle and having boldly set out from my parents’ house, conveniently located in East Sheen, I arrived a couple of minutes later. The venue was called “Seven”, a fusion kitchen named after the seven Afghan brothers that run it. 
The meal presented an immediate dilemma. Having witnessed the swathes of soy fields and cattle ranches responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon we have resolved to observe Meat Free Monday. This Monday was my first effort. 
I was feeling proud of myself following a baked potato lunch but knew dinner would be a challenge. Typically, I am a voracious carnivore and a quick search of the net confirmed my suspicions. “The people of Afghanistan are meat lovers.”
We had long debated whether just sticking to the principle of Meat Free Monday, occasionally shifting it to a Tuesday, or perhaps Wednesday mornings occasionally would suffice.  But our early sallies into the world vegetarianism faltered the moment a nice looking steak was served up to someone on a nearby table. We realised that it would be necessary to have certain inviolable rules in place which meant religiously sticking to the letter, or the day, of the event.
It was with dismay then, that I watched sizzling dishes of lamb shank, kebab and kofta pass my nose, turning to my Popeye-sized portion of spinach.
Sitting opposite me was Dan Martin who told me about his plans to complete a global triathlon which includes a 5,700km swim across the Atlantic from New York to Brittany in 100 days. I smiled to myself as I thought about the reverence I have gained for the Atlantic Ocean across which the fate of nations and empires has been determined. Criss-crossed by 1000s of commercial jets everyday and now about to be swum, it is has been denigrated to the status of a mere pond.*
The ease with which we make our way around the world these days rather takes the wind from the sails of our adventure. As does the uncomfortable Catch-22 that generally the act of our travel, especially if we fly or drive long distances, will damage the environments to which we are travelling; yet it is only by visiting them that we learn to value them and understand their fragility.
As I cycled homewards I thought about the stories the seven brothers had told us of Afghanistan, of their kitchen alive with the fire beneath the pan, the smells of spices and the alacrity of the questions posed by inquisitive diners. You don’t have to travel far to find adventure and for the moment at least, my wanderlust is sated. The next big adventure will occur without leaving my doorstep.


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