Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Subway secrets

January 27th, 2012

Ken reveals the possibility of healthy fast food… With especial thanks to Mike from Minnesota..

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Heart attack on a plate

October 16th, 2011

It was un-mistakenly what Esther, with whom I’d stayed back in the Central Asian city of Bishkek, would have described as a heart attack on a plate. Bacon and fried egg sandwich. With fries. I’d loved her description of North American road house fare as much, I thought, as she’d enjoyed some of my pet phrases and little quips.

Everything in moderation of course, and after Hungry Hill, lentils and lettuce wouldn’t have worked. There’d been a swift, flowing descent into Houston, a small cafe next to a busy gas station. A sign on the door said "Happy Birthday Elaine!". It begged me to enter. Staff or regular customer. Which would it be?

My server was Aubray. She’d worked there since the local sawmill had closed. Elaine was in the kitchen, soon to finish her shift and head off to celebrate her twenty-first.

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Packed off

October 11th, 2011

School for the boys started the next day. But I’d already got a packed lunch. Fresh chicken sandwiches, banana cake with chocolate chips and a flask of hot coffee. Essential stuff, as much for morale as sustaining turning the pedals. Steady rain and around sixty five miles to cover to reach my next stop at Kitwanga. Not entirely sure what I’d find when I get there.

Travis had returned home a little earlier from his night shift at the local hospital. Karen had made fresh waffles for breakfast. Good sustenance, especially when drizzled with homemade strawberry puree. Chance to chat a little more before I set off, considering it most rude to arrive late and depart early. I’d done neither.

When it came to hitting the road, Travis had already retired, but the boys were eager to wave me off. They’d been on a bike tour with their parents a few months earlier, month or so away, so had a pretty shrewd idea what would lie ahead.

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In the hostel kitchen

August 9th, 2011

In the kitchen from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Marvel at Ken’s creative culinary delights. Made with free food. Maybe not…

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Culinary wilderness

June 11th, 2011

Australia. Koalas. Kangaroos. Crocodiles. Abundance of fruit and vegetables. So what, you might, ask, is the national dish? Roasted marsupial stuffed with a medley of root crops, served on a tantalizing bed of tropical fruits? Locally grown melon the entree, custard apples for desert? Nope. Not a hope.

Pot bellied pies

Pies. And fish and chips. Sounds just a little bit familiar? To be fair, there’s usually a choice of pie filling. Steak or curry. And plastic cutlery is widely available. Some progress then…

Natdish

[With especial thanks to Simon in Bargara for the inspiration behind this piece]

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On-road rations

May 31st, 2011

On-road rations from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Insight into some of the more palatable things Ken devours on his travels. Includes a homage to his childhood hero, Blue Peter’s (and Go with Noakes) John Noakes.

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Culinary delights

March 9th, 2011

Culinary delights from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken shares one of his camping culinary delights. Not a single Michelin Star in sight.

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Cafe convenience

November 4th, 2010

Food is plentiful. Small eateries everywhere. And cheap. A substantive main course no more than a few pounds. Often considerably less. I’d normally choose a cafe with a reasonable number of customers. Not crowded. Just enough to get around my inability to read the menu. Obliged to have whatever someone else is having. True, I’ve got people to jot down the characters for my favourite dishes, but the cuisine does vary between the provinces.

Late evening in Juining. Dark. Gentle rain. Glad to be off the road. Finding a small cafe close to my lodgings, I wander in. A couple of young men inside, feverishly devouring large bowls of pasta. A woman appears from the kitchen, seems startled by my presence and quickly disappears. A few moments later the chef emerges. I indicate I’d like the pasta. He nods.

A short while later a fearsomely hot bowl of pasta. Smooth squares, fiendishly difficult to grip with chopsticks. And spicy peppers, burning my palate. My eyes and nose streaming. Strips of meat, unrecognisable but delicious. Curious. Not dog. Told it’s no longer allowed in China. Still a delicacy in South Korea. And survival in the North.

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Looking for John

September 13th, 2010

Johns cafe - montage - web

I was searching for John. Or at least his Information Cafe. Had a mention in my less than reliable guide book. The same one that, earlier in the day, had steered me towards a local hotel. Excellent value for money. Must have been. Boarded up.

Beneath dusty vine trellises, I’d wandered a little off the main tourist thoroughfare. Trusting, with some trepidation, the map I’d gleaned from the guide book. Looking for a sign. There were quite a few. Around the side of a hotel, across a deserted car park, through an archway, more trellis work. Eventually the cafe.

Quiet. A few fellow Westerners. An American, two French, a couple I thought, and a young Japanese man. Seemed five would have been a crowd. Discussing the attentiveness of Chinese students studying English, their ability for critical analysis, to question rather than accept at face value.

Johns cafe - food - web

I chose to engrosse myself in the menu. Mostly European flavour, some obligatory Chinese options, pricing somewhere in between. Turpan was a tourist town. I’d stick with a coffee. And perhaps some fries. Needed to replenish my salt levels. And see if John appeared.

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Perspectives on Bishkek

June 12th, 2010

Flag

These were not a people possessed of a revolutionary zeal. They simply tired of injustice. Corruption, nepotism, an impotent administration. A revolt, a public uprising, a riot or a revolution? Not bloodless, for over eighty people were killed. An act of defiance, a protest in which some subsequently lost their lives. Opportunistic looting before the gradual restoration of civil order. Over within a week.

At the fountain

Two months on, soldiers once more stand guarding the national flag, fluttering in the gentle evening breeze. A young child plays amongst the fountains with her mother. Others waiting for a bus. An overwhelming sense of normality.

Bus stop

Bishkek might lack some of the sophistication, and expense, of other Capital cities I’d visited, but with its tree-lined boulevards, plentiful leafy parks and wide open spaces, it was probably the most pleasant. Even the rush hour traffic seemed relatively benign. It felt safe. Very safe.

Spray

But not perfect. The centrally provided hot water hadn’t been seen for a month or so, and neither had the heating. And a society with no concept of orderly queuing can be a bit testing. But the real risk to your well-being? Probably the breakfast menu at Fatboy’s Cafe. Hardly a war zone.

Truckers

And of the future? The interim President has just extended her term in office. Sounds ominous. Hope I’m wrong. And the Honorary Consul? Never did find him.

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