A Meal to Re­mem­ber /

Au­berge Peter Pan, Anakao, Mada­gas­car, June 15, 2014

SAVEUR - - Contents - Story and photograph­s by TANVEER BADAL

Din­ner­time in Mada­gas­car’s “Nev­er­land”

Dario and Va­le­rio wanted to cre­ate a place of their own. Grow­ing up in a small, con­ser­va­tive Ital­ian town, the 30-some­thing gay cou­ple never felt they truly be­longed some­where. Un­til, that is, they hap­pened upon a plot of beach­front land in far­away Anakao, on the south­west coast of Mada­gas­car. They found the land while re­search­ing the area on Google Earth and pur­chased it sight un­seen. They had no par­tic­u­lar desti­na­tion in mind and just wanted some­thing far from the world they lived in. They worked hard, saved their money, and built their own “Nev­er­land” in the form of the Au­berge Peter Pan.

They have not quite given up on Italy. The cou­ple bring back fresh pasta and their fa­vorite olive oils from trips back home. When my wife and I found our way there as trav­el­ers, we were sur­prised to be served some of the best food we’d ever had. Each

morn­ing, lo­cal fish­er­men brought their catch to Dario and Va­le­rio first. The pair had their pick of the fresh­est fish, lob­sters, and baby clams be­fore the rest were taken to the lo­cal mar­kets to sell. We steamed the clams in gar­lic and ate them with tooth­picks, and baked the whole fish un­der a blan­ket of sea salt. One night, Dario asked if we might be in­ter­ested in a din­ner of goat, baked whole un­der­ground. Soon a cou­ple of vil­lagers came to the ho­tel with ma­chetes and a live goat tied to a string. That evening, we ate ten­der goat meat and fresh pasta while we watched the sunset on the Mozam­bique Chan­nel.

Nev­er­land isn’t al­ways a par­adise; the Au­berge was robbed at gun­point mul­ti­ple times, and now an armed se­cu­rity guard stands per­pet­ual watch. When I asked if the cou­ple thought about re­turn­ing to Italy af­ter such episodes, Dario quickly replied: “Never. I will die here.”

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