We’re back with more Globavore Interviews! This one is with Allan Karl, the author of FORKS. Allan did what many of us dream of — go on an epic adventure, get a fabulous idea for a book, not only write it, but get it published and have it become a best seller.
I first wrote about Allan when he was running a Kickstarter campaign for the book, and finally met him in person in Vancouver, just before he went to China to start filming his upcoming TV show.
Looking for a gift for a friend who loves cooking, travelling, and/or motorcycles? They’ll love FORKS.
Here’s more about Allan:
- Who are you and how does food play into your travels?
I’m Allan Karl, motorcycle adventurer, world traveler, speaker and author of “FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection”. I’ve traveled to some 65 countries, and over the course of one three-year solo motorcycle journey I had the pleasure to deeply explore 35 of those countries on five continents. When I returned from that journey, I decided that the only way to share that experience was through my photography and stories of connecting with the local people and their culture — most often this connection happened over good food and drink. Thus, my book FORKS was born.
Not content with just sharing the stories through a traditional travelogue or memoir, I had to bring the faces, places and food to life. FORKS is a tome — an oversized coffee table book with more than 700 photos, stories of personal connection and some 40 recipes of local food.
(Ed.’s note: I’m looking forward to seeing it one day! :-) )
- You’re at your favourite eatery with three companions (fictional, living or dead). Where (and when!) are you, and who are you with?
Hard to choose a favorite eatery, I would have to say it would be my kitchen and home with good friends and fresh ingredients. I’d want my late grandmother “Nana” from my mom’s side. She perhaps inspired my love of food with her passion for cooking. Then, I’d have to have Anthony Bourdain. He’s got a great story and in so many ways we’re kindred spirits — though I feel I’m a bit more adventurous than he. Finally, I’d ask Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd frontman, to join us. Not sure of his food preferences but he’s someone who has had incredible success, like Anthony, but who has been humbled in early years by his travels through Lebanon and Europe. I’d entertain this meal where we all shared and cooked together and each told stories. My grandmother would be the barometer, the humbler, and the beauty in the room.
- What are your favourite foods?
Thai green curry. Sushi. Cucumber-based middle-eastern salad and a fresh grass-fed rib-eye steak with a good dose of chimichurri. I love my own dish of curried chicken and lentils inspired by a recipe from Myanmar / Burma. I love all this food.
- Is there anything that you’d never eat? What is it and why?
I don’t really want to be handed the lamb’s eyeball from a Jordanian-prepared mansaf. Any eyeball, actually. All else, is probably okay. But if I run from the table after the first bite, don’t judge me, at least I tried!
- What do you crave but can’t get whilst on the road? How do you satisfy the craving?
Peanut butter. It’s crazy. But what is high in protein and a great filler when not much else is available? But so often, it’s something we find in North America, but rarely elsewhere. I satisfy the craving by trying something new!
(Ed’s note: portable protein that does not require refrigeration (or a can opener) is something I miss on many a trip!)
- What food are you embarrassed to admit you like to eat?
Nothing really. I’m not embarrassed when I’m open and try something new. There’s no need to shy away from or fear anything. Try it once. Perhaps twice. But don’t shun something you’ve never truly tried. As friends of mine will note, I’m famous for saying “Eat the beets!” — because so many have not truly experienced great beets!
- What / where do you dream of eating, but haven’t yet had the pleasure?
Madagascar, Mongolia and Myanmar — why must they all begin with “M? Maybe they all promise the “mother” of great food. Or not. I just want to go!
(Ed.’s note: Sounds great, sign me up!)
- Strangest meal?
Caterpillars in Zambia.
- Ever had food poisoning while traveling? Any advice to share?
Had dysentery in South Africa, and heat stroke in Sulawesi, I’ve got a good stomach and also a prudent but open approach to trying things. Be smart, but don’t be afraid!
- Have you fallen so much in love with a foreign dish that you learned to make it at home? What’s the story?
The Brazilian moqueca inspired my book and was the first true recipe I tried to make upon returning from my three-year motorcycle journey. I love it and am waiting for Johanna to visit me in San Diego so I can make it for her — or the readers of her website! A fish stew steeped in coconut milk, herbs and the amazing fragrant red palm oil known as dense!
(Ed.’s note: Oh, that does sound delicious! How about using my kitchen next time you’re in Vancouver? When is that, by the way?!?!?)
- What’s the first thing you eat after returning home from a long trip?
A pretzel covered in dark chocolate. Give me savory, give me sweet. Then bring on the steak!
- Favourite foreign ingredient you wish your home supermarket carried?
I’m fortunate to live in a very diverse area that I can drive a few miles and find anything I need. Truly. I do wish we had razor clams in California, but others are available.
(Ed.’s note: razor clams = another reason to visit Vancouver.)
- Country / city where you’ve found the best food? Details please so we can check it out too!
San Francisco. You can find the best and the worst. But it’s an amazing hotbed of flavors, ingredients and preparations. Be open, and explore. Don’t rely solely on Yelp!
- Country / city where you’ve found the worst? What made it so awful?
Perhaps Khartoum, Sudan. Maybe it’s because I really wanted a glass of wine or a beer and couldn’t get it. I’d give it another chance. But not the best.
- Do you have favourite markets for a) buying stuff to eat b) finding unusual things (which you may or may not want to actually eat!) and c) just for taking photos?
China has the most amazing markets. I’m enamored with the diversity, color and photo opps that I have when I’m there. Bamboo rat? Maybe won’t eat it, but it looks great through the lens of my camera!
- If money were no object, where (and what) would you eat?
It’s not about money—except maybe to get there. I want to eat sushi in Japan, salmon in Alaska, beef in Argentina, game in Namibia or Tanzania and fresh lamb in the middle east. Take me there. I’m yours!
(Ed.’s note: yum, Namibian oryx is fantastic, but I’d not recommend the eland. And I think you should sub the salmon for Arctic char!)
- Do you have any food regrets?
Absolutely not. Well, perhaps. I hold true to the adage the only things we regret in life are those things we didn’t try. So there!
- If you could invent any ice cream flavour, what would it be? (yes, I am looking for ideas to add to my ice cream repertoire!)
Nice. That’s tough. Perhaps done, but dark chocolate, pretzel, sea salt and a tad of pomegranate!
- What do you love and hate about food writing (yours and/or in general)?
Adverbs and superfluous descriptions. Talk about how it makes you feel rather than what it is — I find I can easily get caught in adjectives, so I have to hold myself back. It’s taste, experience and those around you. I find that much food writing, and perhaps my own, needs to grow— we can do that!
- You’re having surgery tomorrow and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll lose your ability to taste (oh the horrors!). What would you choose as, essentially, your last meal?
Sushi and stewed lentils with chicken and garam masala, served with a bottle of Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Rhone and a Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon.
Follow Allan on Twitter @AllanKarl and @WorldRider, and check out his book at “FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection”.