Travel offers unexpected rewards – and typically those rewards come from the people we meet rather than the sights we see. When we’re robbed of our right to travel – something which I never believed would happen in my lifetime – those of us who are travel junkies were left bereft, in a horrible grief-like state.
From Tomatoes, Chapter 3 (Prawn)
It’s been very gratifying to get so many followers here on The New Era. Most of the posts are pretty political. The site was born out of lockdown. I’ve done my bit (and my guest writers/podcast guests) to make it clear to governments and pseudo-science peddlers that not all of us will accept irrational nostrums from whoever offers certainty.
But looking back on the last nearly 3 years the thing that most spooked me was the (admittedly temporary) loss of ability to travel internationally. At time of writing I can’t travel to the United States because of the absurd vaccine mandate - now extended to April 2023. The United States, prior to March 2020, was a frequent destination for me. I think I’ve travelled to around 30 of the 50 states. But there was a time, possibly in the second lockdown, when it was being seriously suggested that we should have to agree to get jabbed with a dodgy pharma intervention in order to travel even across Europe.
I have been immensely lucky to have travelled a lot. My first continental flight was at the age of 10. I flew on a charter flight to Palma, Majorca with my parents for a two week family holiday. The airline was Aviaco (now defunct). And all the passengers were served a meal. It was a cold salad with pickles, ham and “Russian salad”. I was 10. But I remember that meal. And I have a guilty secret. I still love Russian salad. And I still love travelling even as the airport experience becomes more horrible.
During the last 3 years I have taken to reminiscing about travel and have found myself recounting some weird and wonderful travel (and food) related anecdotes to anyone willing to listen - or with no room for escape. I also jotted down a few extended anecdotes featuring food or travel or both. My first short chapter makes frequent mention of tomatoes so that became a sort of eponymous title for a work in progress ‘book’ that I’ve decided to launch as a new Substack called, er, Tomatoes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You may think that this will be an excuse for a rant about failed Covid policies and a plea for shrinking incompetent and meddling governments. But, honestly, Tomatoes isn’t that at all.
The Epoch Times - that wonderful newspaper started by Chinese Americans in New York in 2000 - has built itself on the twin pillars of Truth and Tradition. In my own way I’ve tried to write Tomatoes in a similar vein. Food - especially good food and newly discovered flavours - tends to be the stuff of travel. And the discovery of new food - even if it’s a humble Russian salad - provides the stuff of memories. Food is regional and traditional. Travel to Quercy in France and the likelihood is that Duck Confit will be on just about every bistro menu. And in just about every taverna in Greece you can be guaranteed a wonderful salad with a big slab of feta cheese. In fact I’m convinced that even in the environs of Athens Airport one can smell a faint whiff of oregano in the air. These food traditions aren’t dying. In fact they’re thriving. Food is universal. On a flight to Barcelona I’m typically thinking just which tapas bar we’ll hit first and whether the calcots will be in season.
And these food traditions feed our soul. Where there is good food there are people, gathered, socialising, living and hungry. Closed restaurants, eating junk food at home, that’s not life.
So Tomatoes is my homage to food, travel and life. I’ve published the first short chapter over on my new Tomatoes substack. If you like it I’ve also published Chapters 2 and 3 (Pepper and Prawn) which you can read if you become a paid subscriber. I’ll also be publishing a new chapter every 2 or 3 weeks. It should be quite a tome by the end of the year. I also hope to hold some type of Tomato themed event for paying subscribers in the late Summer/early Autumn (if I get enough).
Please let me know what you think of the first Chapter. And thanks, as ever, for reading.