Sunday, November 22, 2009

59. A Taste of Adventure by Anik See

Finally! Finally! I got in some pleasure reading! Anik See is a Canadian journalist who travels around the world on her bicycle and writes about her travels, the people she meets, and especially the food she eats. The book includes recipes for every place she writes about, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia (a region in southern Argentina/Chile), northern Argentina, Georgia, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, and Mexico. She seems to favor southeast Asia and South America and eschews traditional Europe.

The language is simple, and the book is a fun and easy read. For me, the book's biggest asset was See's choice of particularly exotic and unusual locations, and I naturally enjoyed the emphasis on food. I intend to make time to try out some of her recipes, particularly the curries from Malaysia and Indonesia, and her descriptions of Argentina and Chile gave me a yearning for dulce de leche and yerba mate.

Unfortunately, See uses similar effusions to describe each place, and after hearing her declare how she is forever drawn to Patagonia, no place moves her like southeast Asia, no place is more special than Iran-the praise falls flat. I have no doubt that See genuinely felt these intense, life-changing connections to all of these places, but as a reader, I am skeptical because as close as the book can bring me, I can't feel what she's feeling, and on the page, she just looks repetitive and insincere.

Her descriptions also take on too much of a tone of "explaining things to the outsider." I realize that is what she's doing, but I like travel writing to be more subjective, more tied only to one person's experience, because generalizations are so hard to make, and it takes a lot of study to really understand the history and culture of any society. Before she talks about Armenia, she mentions the genocide because she "feels she has to." In my opinion, she doesn't have to. It's a part of history I'm aware of, though that doesn't mean all her readers would be. I just think, instead of discussing it from a historical perspective, when she isn't a historian, she could have brought it up as a conversation between her and an Armenian. She mentions in her paragraph that none of the Turks she met mentioned it at all, while nearly every Armenian did.

She also said something about how Canadians feel defined by their big neighbor to the South, and I didn't really think that was true at all. Maybe they feel it a little bit, but I actually think Canadians are much better liked and respected in the world at large, so I don't know why she would suggest they have an inferiority complex. Of course, I wouldn't be an expert on that. I'm American and I've been to Canada a few times and know some Canadians, but that's it.

For those interested in food and travel, this would probably be an interesting book. It could have been better written, and I hope to find similar books by better writers in the future.

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