A taste for travel
AN antique-silver dealer I once knew refused to travel anywhere without his Georgian silver dessert spoon and fork. These, he felt, would be useful with a British Rail restaurant car meal, an airline plastic tray of plastic food and instead of the sort of beaten-up steel cutlery you get in cafes. He wrapped them in green baize and ceremoniously revealed them to fellow travellers.
They may have thought him eccentric or pretentious, but anyone who’s used to eating with Georgian silver finds it hard to accept anything else. I cite the Minimalist designer John Pawson, who agrees that there is nothing so elegant or pleasant to use.
Before you accuse my dealer of a Champagne lifestyle, I reckon that buying a single 18th-century dessert spoon and a lonely fork would set you back between £50 and £60 for the two on ebay— a good bit less than the rail fare. Plus they’ll last longer and increase in value as long as you don’t use a scourer on them. Even out of green baize, antique silver is pretty robust and can be repaired with hardly a mark visible.
The well-known American chef, David Tanis, from Alice Waters’s famous restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, recommends a travel pack for those who want their food to be a little bit more interesting than the ‘atrocities of airport fare, the horrors of the mini bar’. In his book, Heart of the Artichoke (2010), he describes what he puts in his grocery bag before setting out: ‘It’s a kind of travelling pantry to check in my bag, keep handy in the car, or save for a hotel picnic… think of it as food insurance—a way to reward yourself for suffering the endless indignities of travel.’
He then lists: ‘a tube of harissa, the spicy Moroccan paste that’s better than most commercial hot sauces; a jar of good mustard; a few fresh chiles; a couple of limes; a little packet of sea salt, and one of red pepper flakes; a pepper mill; a hunk of cheese; a paring knife; and a corkscrew. You get the idea.’ The cheese, by the illustration, seems to be Parmesan—a good choice as it’s so adaptable.
I would also go along with most of his list, although I have yet to try harissa. Corkscrews used to be essential, but have been less so since growers have seen reason and espoused the screw top. I once moved house and stayed overnight without a bed but with a trusty corkscrew in my handbag.
As well as most of these foods, my list would include lemons rather than limes (think smoked salmon, gin and tonic), nutmeg and a grater, flaked almonds and some golden raisins. If I could find a way of transporting olive oil—the most wily escapologist of the food world—i’d include that and some wine vinegar for salads. My mustard would obviously be Dijon and salt from Maldon. I particularly like the smoked version. Chilli flakes, yes. I once knew a French Canadian who always had a small, silver chilli mill in his pocket. My knife would be a Laguiole.
If you’re travelling by air, of course, the knife will need to be hidden in the hold luggage and too diverse a compendium might cause alarm among security. Then again, one of my abiding memories of Italian airports is the revolver-hung, handsome security men crowding round me and arguing how best to make sauce from the large bag of tomatoes I had in my hand luggage.
When you’re travelling by car to a self-catering place, it’s easier. We take plates, rummer glasses and, dare I say it, a small silver salver. It makes a holiday cottage seem like home.
It’s worth thinking of your own list. Of course, pack the salt and mustard into dinky containers (I like Lock & Lock)—but first invest in your Georgian silver spoon and fork.
‘We take plates, rummer glasses and a silver salver