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After two years of semi-confinement, my fantasy meal is a gathering of travelers. Nowhere more suitable than the home of Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece, a collection of stone buildings located above the sea in Kardamyli. But I took some liberties with it: I got Sarah Raven to sit in the garden and brought in La Colombe d’Or’s swimming pool in Provence, complete with the Alexander Calder cellphone.
Accidentally or not, I have discussed the group three times, but I hope Umm Kulthum, Fela Kuti and Joni Mitchell will make it work together somehow.
In the kitchen is the best cook I know – my wife Sarit Packer – and I have put together a crack team to hang out with: Nof Atamna, with whom our Instagram posts have been drooling for years; Junya Yamasaki, the chef who opened Koya – we still dream about the last meal he cooked for us there; and the great cookbook author Claudia Roden.
We go to the local market, see what’s good, and have a delicious debate on the menu – this is often the best part of any meal. Junya gets excited about the fresh fruits and vegetables; Claudia and Nof on the local olive oil. I entrusted my good friend Caroline Eden, a traveler with a special ear for food stories, to tell the outing for posterity.
The first to arrive is the author Rose Macaulay. Lately I have been fascinated by her novel The towers of Trebizond, in which a group of Anglicans travel by camel through Turkey. Rose appears on a white one.
Next is Ibn Battuta, a 14th-century Moroccan whose travels make Marco Polos look like a trip to Tesco. His accounts contain everything from the price of a slave in Persia to an Indian samosa recipe. He and Rose immediately tackled it when he asked how she got a “white Arabian Dhalur (ankle bump) from the famous herd of the Ruola tribe”.
My next guests are Asterix and Obelix, the Forrest Gumps of the ancient world, whose love for their town is only combined with their love of adventure. And the last is Bruce Chatwin, my favorite travel companion of all. He’s no stranger to this house because he’s already lived here. And he chose the hills above as his last resting place.
We drink the slightly coarse local wine and lots tsipouro (except Asterix & Obelix, who brought a bottle of potion) – then we had course after course, drink after drink, song after song. We have the whole world at our table.
We tell these travelers over the past 18 months, about lockdown and Zoom and WFH, and Bruce remembers something he once wrote: ‘Man’s real home is not a home, but the road.’
Dessert is my wife’s apple pie, the only thing that can stop our noisy group for a while before we wish each other a good night and, more importantly, good travel.
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Photo credits: Patricia Niven; Heritage Images / Getty Images; Ulf Andersen / Getty Images; Hulton Archive / Getty Images; Alamy