Fancy a culinary tour around the world? 10 trips, 10 plates: Part 1. In this list, divided into two parts, I do not want to be a food critic, giving stars to restaurants and judging qualities and prices. A meal, in its deepest dimension, is experience, sharing, being. With our films, we found ourselves sharing many unexpected meals. So here are the first five dishes. In this time of closure, I can certainly not advise you to take a plane and look for these places. But each one has a different nuance, an essence that can perhaps inspire you to create meals, or thoughts at the table, that can get you out. Important elements: space, meeting, colours, contrasts, stars. Real, fake or mental, stars always make everything a little more infinite. Enjoy your meal!
1. Quick picnic – let’s not wake up the lion
In the Masai Mara, the savannah served as the perfect blanket for a quick picnic overlooking the Mara river. With our guide, Steve, we left the Land Rover to watch the water crossing where, in September, the spectacle of the great migrations takes place. It was already November, so it was calmer. A few sleeping hippos did the job. Among boiled eggs, sandwiches prepared by Steve in the morning in our camp and hand-picked fruit, we tasted the immensity of space. We did it very quickly, so as not to wake the lion sleeping nearby. But he was not going to wake up anyway (I have complained enough about lions in this account of that day: …)
2. … pizza? In Russia?
This is reaction I usually get when I say that one of the best meals of my life was a pizza in Tatarstan. And yet it’s true. We were confused too, when, on a cool September evening in Kazan, we found ourselves eating the most wonderful pizza at Giustino’s. The story: while we were walking along the street, Giustino heard us speaking Italian, and with Italians abroad this is how it works. The next day we went to greet him again. Knowing that we came from the Alps, he had prepared pizza with the porcini mushrooms he had picked up in the Urals that very morning. With a little vodka, we toasted to my nineteenth birthday. The pizza was incredible – almost as incredible as that meeting.
3. Dinner at the temple of the tiger
Our visit to a temple in the Japanese mountains to film Ukon the Samurai shrouded in fog reached the height of inner peace when we tasted the food chosen and prepared by the monks on a rainy evening. With us, there were a few local pilgrims and a Swiss family. The food reflected everything we were living around us: balance, special contrasts, the harmony of the new. It is also worth mentioning the breakfast the next day, in front of a large window overlooking the green garden. A young monk and I made some origami while sipping tea. He told us that from that window they watch the colours changing with the seasons. I’ve taken the habit since then, because there is always something beautiful in seeing colours change on the same thing.
4. Chips with a view – 10 trips, 10 plates: Part 1
Of course, chips are certainly not the greatest travel specialty one can find. But, during a few days in Dubai, where we were guests at a film conference, there was not much else we could afford! We had just returned from the experience of the immense and silent space of Kenya, and we found ourselves catapulted into a world of skyscrapers, cranes and illuminated fountains. And it is precisely the contrast that made that sunset meal memorable. Chaos and frenzy, but orange on the horizon. The chips were also quite good. The meal gets richer if you can create a fun view. There was a robot projected onto a skyscraper, with green water splashes and the Burji Khalifa in the background.
5. Under the stars – 10 trips, 10 plates
Let’s conclude this first part by returning to Africa. The shooting of our film Alganesh was extremely hard emotionally. It is a journey from which you do not come back the same way.
But the sweetness and tenderness of Aksum’s pharmacist and his wife, who after a day in the refugee camps welcomed us with lamb, fresh water and berberé made the dinners with Alganesh and the crew full of meaning and silence that filled the heart. We ate happily together amidst the difficulty. The stars above us.