Tis The Season For Food And Friendship


IT was bone-chillingly cold, still dark, and far too early to be checking in for yet another flight, in what had been an already hectic year. But there I was, at Canada’s Winnipeg Airport, heavily clad in winter clobber and dragging behind me a duffle bag containing a polar suit and kick-arse thermal boots. I was bound for Churchill, where I would board a tiny, old Russian jet, and land in remote Hudson Bay, to go on a walking safari with the polar bears. I was far more scared of the cold than meeting the King of the Arctic.

This is me and yes, it was THAT cold


I did not know her yet, but I recognised her as part of my group from the same duffle bag she was carrying. She spoke, in a refined British accent, and while I cannot remember what it is she said, it prompted me to say “Hello, you Pommie Bastard, are you on my trip?”. She turned, smiled, and immediately responded with “Hello Skippy!” And from that point onwards, we became friends. I did not know at the time that Karen Burns-Booth was one of Britain’s best bloggers and a renowned foodie, I just knew that I had a new playmate with whom to explore remote, arctic Canada on this travel writing assignment.

Karen Burns-Booth


I told her I hated small planes, so she sat behind me on the flight as we soared over this spectacular winter landscape, patting me on the back when we encountered turbulence. While out walking on the slippery arctic ice, we held hands, to prevent from falling. We stood in unison and cried when we encountered the most beautiful polar bears and laughed till we cried by the warm Seal River Lodge fireplace at night. We shared deep secrets out on that ice. That was several years ago now, she went back to her home in France, and I to Brisbane. But you don’t forget a friendship forged like that.

Karen Burns-Booth has just released her first book, named after her blog Lavender & Lovage – A Culinary Notebook of Memories & Recipes from Home & Abroad ¬– and I couldn’t be prouder of my feisty friend. Just back from a hectic year of travels, I collected the copy she had sent me, from the post office last week. And on those pages, I can sense her soul and smell her cooking even from this far away. Part travel memoir, part cookbook, Karen, who now lives in Wales, gives readers an insight into her full and flavoursome life.
“In this book I’ll be sharing recipes from an old schoolhouse kitchen in North Wales, a farmhouse kitchen in SW France, and from all the other places I have called home,” she says.
“From Cornwall, Hong Kong and South Africa, to the North East of England and numerous other far-flung places, with the aid of my trusty note books and diaries – this is truly a cookbook based on recipes from my suitcase, with notes from all of the countries and British counties I have ever lived and eaten in.”

In this delicious, thick tome, Karen shares some spectacular dishes and travel tales. There’s the “Typhoon” Bacon Butty, made by her father when they were living in Hong Kong during a typhoon; The First Nations “Indian Tacos”; The New Orleans Muffuleta Sandwich; “Panama Canal” Coronation Chicken; and Durban Lamb Curry among a feast of international dishes. Demonstrating her cheeky sense of humour, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to A Bit On The Side, which refers to Salads and Accompaniments; and towards the back of the book, decadent deserts such as Fat Rascals; as well as Sundry Gems such as Hannah’s Chilli Chicken Pasta with Chorizo, named after her daughter.

The gorgeous recipes and tantalising travel tales aside, what really strikes me about this beautiful book, is that I can feel Karen’s lovely soul as I wander through these pages. It’s almost as if I’m in a field, plucking her two favourite herbs, lavender and lovage, after which she named her blog and which launched her into our kitchens. If you’re lucky, like me, you stumble across generous, funny souls who become your friends in the most unlikely of places. The fact she is also so talented, is simply a plus. It’s the Christmas season, and I am reminded of this British gem, the “Pommie Bastard” who held my hand on the ice and whispered secrets in the arctic cold. May all of Karen’s readers, and mine too, be so fortunate to find a stranger who may hold your hand when you need it, and share their souls on those days when you feel its arctic cold and a little alone. This is my Christmas wish for you.

To order Karen’s book, go to Amazon or to read more about her work, go to her blog Lavender and Lovage – https://www.lavenderandlovage.com

Take this retro ride across the South Pacific


THE waves are whispering off the reef, but in my half-awake/half-asleep daytime slumber, I can’t quite catch what it is they are saying. I am snatching a languid nap on the veranda day bed, listening to this seaside lullaby and the resort staff singing as they work. I have flown, overnight, on the new Samoa Airways’ Brisbane-Apia route and on the only plane it its fleet, a 737-800. The airline launched last year to replace the former national carrier, Polynesian Airlines, which ceased flying in 2005, due to financial issues.

On board, the baby blue vinyl seats remind me of the interior an old FJ Holden and the seat belts are just as tricky to buckle as well. There’s no seat 13 on this plane, and in 14F on the flight over, apparently no button to recline my seat either, despite it not being in an exit aisle. The seat pitch itself is generous, with plenty of leg room, with some saying it’s a deliberate move to accommodate for the typically larger frames of Samoans. I don’t eat on the late overnight flight, instead preferring to lay across the three seats available on this leg, but despite having my eye mask on and my pashmina over my body, am shaken awake by a male steward, asking whether I want the “beef or chicken”.

I arrive in the Samoan capital of Apia just as the sun rises and am transported across the island to Seabreeze Resort in the south. This adults-only resort is a consistent award-winner, and it’s easy to see why. Owned by Australians Chris and Wendy Booth, there’s just 12 rooms all overlooking the ocean and where the staff and service are immaculate. Over lunch, I ask Wendy whether Samoa possesses a masculine or feminine energy, and she doesn’t hesitate with her response.
“It’s got a masculine energy. Everyone looks to the father of the family,” she says.
“The mother plays a very important role in Samoa but she’s quite happy to be in the background. The women are very powerful people in Samoa.
“The men are the fathers of the family but if someone wrongs you, the father will defend your honour.
“It is an interesting society and interesting in the village. Everyone shares the upbringing of the children. It works because everybody has something to give.
“There is no ownership in Samoa. The biggest belief they have is what goes around, comes around.”

There are 2000 people in the local Aufaga village and I have the incredible privilege of meeting some of them. I attend the local school, a make-shift affair for around 200 kids while their old school is being rebuilt, and there’s a sea of pink and green uniformed faces waiting for me. Turns out they have been practising their dance moves and singing all week. The boys do the haka and the girls perform a kind of hip hop hula. I am invited to repay the compliment and shake a leg, and the kids are in hysterics. This “palagi” (white girl) can’t dance.

I visit a village family who have cooked me an entire chicken as a gift that I share with a colleague, and watch as they roast a pig underground in a traditional umu, covered in leaves. They’ve done this just for us, and it’s delicious. I’m touched beyond words. For people who have so little to give, they have shared this feast with me.

My week unfolds like the daily tropical storms. I walk through steamy jungle foliage to visit gushing waterfalls, I swim, kayak and snorkel in the lukewarm ocean, and on my last day, a Sunday, I go to church. Some of the village kids remember me, smile, wave and sing out “hi Chris” like we’re old friends. There’s a pesky lump in my throat which turns to tears when the Samoans start to sing church hymns.

Oe my last night, I check into the Honeymoon Villa, which sits on its own private point overlooking the ocean. There’s a luscious lobster with my name on it and I dine, alone, under the stars. I have lounged on plump day beds and enjoyed a facial replete with local ingredients such a cucumber, honey, lime and banana. Later, when the moon rises, I snatch a sneaky skinny dip in my private plunge pool under the night sky. There’s a stingray, sashaying through the shallows. I search for the spiritual meaning of stingray. It means protection. I look out to the ocean and silently thank Brother Samoa for looking after me on my journey across the South Pacific.

On the Samoa Airways flight home, in seat 26A, my tray table is so damaged, I cannot actually eat my food from it, as it slides right off, and I note one of the drop-down screens which displays the safety message doesn’t deploy. For a short-haul flight, and boasting some great launch specials, it’s a good option from Australia’s east coast, but don’t expect any frills. The inflight entertainment is via wifi and you don’t need to download an App beforehand. There’s a reasonable selection of movies, TV shows and games to keep you entertained on this flight which is about five-hours long. The food and beverage is also retro…there’s the beef or chicken… but despite my initial scepticism about the chicken dish, it turns out to be tasty. Alcoholic beverages are extra, and you must pay in cash, but the full glass of red wine was good value for $5.

Back in Brisbane, my luggage arrives promptly, but when I open my case back home, all of my clothes inside are soaked, despite there being no rain in Apia when I leave, or Brisbane when I arrive. With only one plane in its fleet, Samoa Airways is taking a huge punt should anything go wrong on its routes which include Sydney, Auckland, Pago Pago, Apia and Brisbane. But the airline does have plans to introduce a second plane in March next year, and an agreement with Qantas and Fiji Airways to assist should the plane not work for any reason. I really wanted to like Samoa Airways, and overall, if you are looking for a retro ride that will get you across the South Pacific, for a competitive price, and pleasant and professional staff, consider this airline. With a few tweaks, and more attention to detail, this airline could make the Samoans proud of once again, having a national carrier.

The Global Goddess flew as a guest of Samoa Airways https://samoaairways.com and stayed as a guest of Seabreeze Resort http://www.seabreezesamoa.com
The children at Aufaga Village school desperately need reading and other school material. You can donate these to Seabreeze Resort and one of the staff, who lives in this village, will ensure they are delivered.