A collection of tales about the author’s exotic travels and culinary adventures.
Studying endangered lemurs in Madagascar, sampling the world’s most expensive coffee in Indonesia and licking an ant’s butt in Australia—these are just some of the adventures King has enjoyed while traveling the world. Here, she puts these and other exotic experiences together in an engaging, breezy collection of essays, barely pausing for breath as her lively curiosity takes her to another adventure. “This is why I love to travel: It shakes me out of my routine, provides endless opportunities for experiencing the world anew, and gets right up in my face with tangible evidence that there are many ways to live one’s life,” she says. King isn’t interested in painting broad pictures of the places she visits; her essays are vignettes that, through the accumulation of closely observed details, provide a window into other cultures and ways of life. A bird sanctuary in Costa Rica is a “tropical madhouse” where “[r]oosters crow at midnight”; an Australian tree is known as “lawyer cane” because, “once hooked by the thorns on this pitiless plant, one is as irretrievably entangled as if involved in the legal process”; in a Kenyan village, cow pies cover the earth “like a three-dimensional carpet.” The author has a particular passion for food; her description of various meals in the Apulia region of Italy is enough to make hungry gourmets salivate. The “silky sauce” of a pasta dish was “intensely flavored with lobster and peppered with small pieces of the sweet seafood.” On a somewhat less hedonistic note, King’s travels also inspire her to ruminate on the challenges of environmental conservation—development in Madagascar is destroying the habitat of lemurs—and her own mortality. A tour of Paris, she says, “had shown me how to celebrate death, how to embrace it with reliquaries and taxidermy and catacombs.” As for those ants, she reports, “The taste was like mixing the intense fizz of an Alka-Seltzer with tangy lime sherbet.”
An engaging, meticulously observed journey that brings other cultures alive.