Let’s Meet In Paradise, A food journey is a labour of love and an adventure like no other. Photographers Christoph and Diane Heierli have spent decades exploring the world in search of great food and adventure and this very special cookbook is a collection of stories and recipes from 11 countries.
An exploration of the link between each country’s unique cuisine, histories and beliefs, and the rich tastes and textures of their food. I sat down with Diane to hear more about the journey of putting together what her and Christoph describe as, “The lovechild of a couple of crazy adventurers and the food that was consumed along the way.
What motivated you and Christoph to give up your day jobs and embark on this amazing adventure?
This is our regular job and the inherent nature of being a photographer is to embark on adventures and the art of story telling and we wanted to tell our own story.
Would you say that food and is the true universal language?
We believe that food is the evocative and colourful vocabulary of this universal language.
Turkey is a unique country that sits both inside Europe and Asia, how did you find their vastly different food cultures combine?
The food of Turkey simply said is “amazing” and can best be described as a fusion of cultures. A touch of Middle eastern, part Central Asian and a sprinkling of Balkan which all combine successfully to create a delicious combination that is familiar yet alluring and different.
You have a young son. How old was he when you set off on this expedition and how was it embarking on this kind of journey with him in tow?
We had to wait until Luca was five years old, before he could take malaria prophylactics so Zanzibar was our first exotic family journey. Travelling with a smaller person comes with it’s challenges obviously. We have different energy levels, physical capabilities, patience and endurance to name a few. At the same time though it’s an incredible ice breaker when meeting new people. It’s an opportunity to see the world from another perspective and that perspective is usually very refreshing.
Which destination was the most awe-inspiring and why?
Wow that is an extremely difficult question. Each place and culture has something different to offer, however Madagascar was an incredible adventure. As soon as you leave Antananarivo, it’s as though time stopped a 100 years ago and life is simpler and nature is generous and lush. The real beauty and inspiration lie in the fact that it hasn’t been spoilt by over tourism… yet.
If you had to choose just 3 of the meals in your book to prepare all the time which would they be and why?
More difficult questions. Muhammara / Walnut red pepper dip. The combination of roasted peppers and walnuts, oh man, “delicious”. It’s simple and gets better the longer it stands and it immediately transports us to Turkey and the good times we enjoyed there.
Bun Cha / Chargrilled pork and noodle salad. This dish is quintessential Vietnamese street food. It is 3 ways with pork, meatballs, roasted pork belly and crispy crackling all combined with silky rice noodles tons of fresh exotic herbs and offset with a delicious dipping sauce that ticks all the right boxes. The sweetness of the sugar, tartness of the lime and rice vinegar, saltiness of a good fish sauce all well knitted with fresh chilli, garlic and thinly sliced kohlrabi and carrot.
Apricot Frangipane and elderflower cream, apricots are delicious. Tart, sweet, juicy and sadly the season is over before it has begun. Take apricots and then add an almond frangipane. The soft full creamy flavours creating the perfect platform to showcase and offset these gems. And let’s be honest, everyone likes a good tart every now and then.
What was the strangest meal you experienced on your adventure?
The strangest was crispy fried frogs in Vietnam. Visiting a food market or doing a local food tour is a brilliant way to navigate through new countries and their food. It’s the place that you get to see all the strange foods in their different guises.
Which culture did you find to be the most fascinating and one that you feel enriched your lives?
Vietnam was an amazing country to visit and it was also the most surprising on a variety of levels. We were perpetually stunned at the level of forgiveness that the people generally extended. After all the Vietnam war was not that long ago or for that matter the Indochine wars or Chinese invasions or Japanese occupation and yet the people are not bitter. Instead they are productive… super, super productive, inventive, hard working and generous. It was wonderful to see how different generations live and work together under one roof. How important food is and the inextricable link between food and culture.
Where there any hair-raising experiences on the trip that made you question your decision to do this journey?
When we travel, we adopt a positive attitude that the world isn’t such a scary place and that people are inherently good. However, arriving by motorbike, late at night in the Old Medina, Marrakech, was one of those situations that could have gone badly. The old Town is literally a labyrinth of paths and walkways designed for nothing more than a donkey and two people to walk abreast. When we arrived it was dark and badly signposted and we had 3 dubious touts that followed and directed us deeper and deeper into the maze. We eventually found our Riad safely but the situation had the potential to have gone pear shaped. We think that as South Africans we have a well-developed radar in sensing when things could go wrong and that it is important to listen to this voice and proceed with caution.
If you embarked on this adventure again would you change anything or do anything differently?
Without sounding clichéd we would definitely say “no” there is nothing we would have changed. It’s been an incredible journey and there is no going back, only forward.
You can get yourself a copy of this incredible book directly from Christoph and Diane for R600 including delivery within SA at firstname.lastname@example.org