Book Club Review: Moveable Feast by Lonely Planet

For June the Kitchen Reader book club selected reading is A Moveable Feast published by Lonely Planet. It had a lot of essays in it by different authors, which made it a perfect airplane read for me as I traveled to San Diego and then later also to Chicago this month. In fact, one of the first things I did was flip through it, trying to see if anyone had written one of the food/travel essays about either of those two cities. The closest I got was Jim Benning’s essay Tijuana Terroir that definitely got me in the mood for Mexican flavors – I had it 3 times while in San Diego, and it upped my enjoyment of the mariachis.

Someone needs to do that- have some sort of place that I can check where I can search for food writing on a travel destination to get me in the mood for special cuisine representing that place! Every place seems to have a certain food that represents them- whether it be a specific local produce for that area, or way of cooking, style of flavor profiles, something.

I enjoyed the book. I was pretty sold already even in the Introduction, as the editor of this anthology collection, Don George writes

One truth is clear: wherever we go, we need to eat. As a result, when we travel, food inevitably becomes one of our prime fascinations – and pathways into a place. On the road, food nourishes us not only physically, but intellectually, emotionally and spiritually too.

Moveable Feast by Lonely Planet

From there, depending on what order you read the 38 chapters, you can travel and experience different ways food and travel intersect. For my Book Review of Moveable Feast by Lonely Planet I thought I might highlight my favorite chapters…

  • Rhoda McAdam in Communion on Crete as she writes with her Food Culture Master’s classmates of starting her day with thick fresh yoghurt and honey on soft bread with homemade jam and coffee with milk from a goat tethered in the garden. As if didn’t sound lovely enough, they then visited shepherds in humble mountain-top milking parlours where lunch is too much fresh Mizithra cheese with raki that curled in their bellies. That was followed by cheesemakers with gravura mountain cheese (similar to gruyere) and more raki, and then a village hall dinner where each village home had prepared her own dish, sourced from animals they had raised or ingredients they had grown or foraged themselves. As Rhoda writes, “it was a humbling experience, for these were the most personal of gifts. Replete doesn’t describe our state by the end of this day. The feeling was more of a cultural satiation.” It made me really long to do a cheese quest myself. It also made me realize it’s been a long time since I’ve had saganaki… and that I can probably do this at home if I just go find some good greek cheese!
    Athena in Greektown: Saganaki. Opa!

  • Grow from feeling like a foreigner to feeling at home home while reading Elisabeth Eaves in Seasoning Jerusalem in getting a lesson in making Maqluba from an Arabic mom that has no units of measures, just descriptions of the aromas, the colours, the textures was enough to make me really want to eat this dish, she did a wonderful job of describing it. A few days later I started looking for recipes for Maqluba, and I found a vegetarian version on Serious Eats that I have on my list to try out perhaps in the fall. I was only in Israel for a few days for work purposes and I visited Jerusalem briefly but had not been exposed to this dish and I wish I had! one thing I also remember vividly is how incredible the bread and cheese were, and not realizing there would be so much great fresh cheese until duh, of course, they have had shepherds here for how long, and it turns out at one point Jerusalem was called the Valley of The Cheesemakers! Mmm and now looking at the pictures I missed out also on those interesting takes on pizza… I guess I’ll have to try to visit again!

  • Be hooked into the mystery of laphet thote in Karen CJ. Coates’ Salad Days in Burma. Laphet Thote is a national snack made from pickled leaves, crispy dried yellow peas and beans, sharp raw garlic, potent red capsicum, a drizzle of oil, a hint of sour, a bit of pleasant bitter, savoury, unique crunchy, oily, moist consistency ending in dragon-fire breath that leaves me intrigued.

  • Feel the awkwardness and humor of drinking too much in a strange land with Laurence Mitchell’s The Hair of the Cow story in Georgia with khinkali (dumplings) and khachapuris (cheese bread). This is as shown below that I had never had until Kargo Gogo food cart enlightened me. I also liked the drinking too much story where you wish you could turn invisible or melt into the floor with The Abominable Trekker by Jeff Greenwald, or with the even crazier misadventure of Stefan Gates in The Icon on the Japanese Cake.
    Kargi Gogo Georgian food of khinkali, a kind of soup dumpling Kargi Gogo Georgian food of khachapuris, Georgian cheese bread

  • Go on a quest with dad on a search for the  best barbecue road trip while also cementing a new chapter in your relationship as an adult to adult with Doug Mack in The ‘Cue Quest. The overzealous list of how many meals can be attempted, whether to trust the menu and the server at each stop, the way good food is an equaliser for people of all walks of life are all covered. I also still quite vividly remember the flavors of the best bbq I ever had, which was when visiting friends in North Carolina even though it was seven years ago
    Jimmy's BBQ chopped pork, including the

  • A Feast on Fais by Lawrence Millman and his possible trolling by an elder in Micronesia made me laugh outloud on the plane.

  • Is it wrong that I was totally on the side of Emily Matchar in Peanut Butter Summer where food and travel style are a total valid deal breaker?

  • The kindness of strangers so perfectly summed up with food in Mango Madness by Amanda Jones, or the way strangers may play you such as Breakfast Epiphanies by Ruth Rabin, or the resourcefulness and hardiness of so many people in the world that I don’t see since I can get my food at a supermarket is celebrated in Foraging with Pee by Jeffrey Alford.

  • Italy moved up on my bucket list after the description of the wedding feast by Laura Fraser in Italy in Seventeen Courses. There needs to be a dinner party in which everyone does a course in Italian and even though there’s no wedding, I want the feast! I’ve also always wanted to go to a Hindi wedding.
    Ah, and then the promised and well reviewed Tajarin al ragù o burro e salvia at Spinasse in Seattle, a Fine hand cut egg pasta with ragù or butter and sage. I went with butter and sage because I wanted to taste the handmade pasta in all its detail. It was ridiculously amazing, I think I could have eaten that raw with the butter and sage out of the way because that pasta was just so fresh and good

I enjoyed that the essays were each very different in covering country or cuisine or what food moment they were going to tell. And, it definitely made me more cognizant of the way food was shaping my experiences while I traveled. Many of the stories were overseas, but there are a few in the US too, which demonstrates that you don’t have to go too afar. The only thing I think would have improved this book would be more stories and maybe being able to index them by country at least. Actually, that would be a killer website to crowdsource and search as I said in the beginning right? It would also be a pretty fun TV series show – I think more fun than following one host, having people act out an experience that was submitted in from around the world.

Next month, the book is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, which has been on my wishlist for awhile so I’m excited to read it. Are you interested in joining our book club? For our casual online club there is a new book selected for every month, each book is related to food, and members write a review on their blog during the last week of that month. If you are interested in joining, check out the website Kitchen Reader!



  1. What a great review, Pech. I think you read more chapters than I did, although some that I really liked I see that you also did. The idea of a “cheese quest” sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I suppose you could do this in your home city by visiting different ethnic food shops and collecting cheeses. That would make a great pot luck get-together: each person brings some cheese from one culture and the host makes some salads. Wine could be added, too. Huh, now I can’t stop thinking about this idea! Yum.

    I read on my Kindle and I’m planning to get through a few more essays on my upcoming summer trip.

    As for the index, I wholeheartedly agree. So I have started one! Have a look. This is a link anyone can use and I will privately email a link for you to use to edit it.

  2. I am so sad I missed this months book! Your review makes it sound so wonderful! I guess I’ll have to go back and read it alone. Thanks for the awesome review

  3. I like the idea of a country index and will fill in the google docs

  4. Great post! Love that you added the photos!


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