Once upon a time, a tradition was born. A tradition that, despite my global gallivanting, I was determined to adhere to. In the aftermath of university life, my friendship group, like many, suffered ‘graduate depression’. Our transition from the haven of higher-education brought with it many concerns about adult life but most notably the realisation that we would find it increasingly difficult to spend the same quality time together afforded by living on a college campus. Adulthood brings responsibility. You can’t just skip work to enjoy the leftovers kebab scraps in your pants, while watching Top Gear repeats on Dave. So an agreement was reached. Every year, we would get together and escape on a holiday. And so ‘Tour’ was born.
Any mentioning of a ‘tour’ will undoubtably bring to mind those Fifa playing ‘bantersaurus’ boozehounds of the UniLad/Lad Bible ilk. But really, we never stood a chance on those sort of ‘tours’. We dance too badly for Ibiza, flirt to unsuccessfully for Magaluf and as for Marbella… It’s hard to look like an extra in a One Direction video, when at 26 our Mums still buy all our clothes (come on now boys, admit it they do).
Our ‘tours’ embody the word in the literal sense; a journey for pleasure in which several different places are visited. And this year proved no exception. 6 familiar faces flew half way around the world to keep me company for Christmas in New Zealand, where a 7 berth camper van transported us over 2,500km from Christchurch through Middle Earth to Auckland. We hiked, climbed, swam, surfed, bungeed, rafted, and biked. We slept beneath the stars, washed in lakes, and on occasion dropped by the towns to strengthen commonwealth relations. Despite the unsanitary state by the end of the trip, “the Rascal” really gave us a sense of freedom you don’t get with other holidays (or at least that’s what I kept telling myself when sandwiched at night between two blokes in a bed clearly designed for children).
At this stage, I guess you’re probably wondering where this fits in with my culinary adventure? Well the boys decided, rather magnanimously, that to make sure I reach my quota of 52 jobs, I should become their personal chef. Ok, you can stop tutting at this slight bending of the rules… come on it was Christmas. Plus, were my responsibilities any different from say a chalet host’s? In a bid to assimilate a modicum of professionalism they even bought me some ‘chef whites’.
Unlike my experiences to date, this food job presented a unique set of challenges and obstacles…
- Menu Planning. The tour chef must cook cheap, healthy and delicious food, with only two working hobs, a blunt knife and no water. Hangovers are not an acceptable reason to forget to buy half the ingredients required for dinner.
- Kitchen Staff. The tour chef must work with a sous, whose only culinary achievement of the trip was rescuing a lime from a camp fire, while simultaneously burning off his facial hair – eyebrows included.
- Stamina. After getting lost on a 7 hour hike, caused primarily by drinking discounted rum at 1900m, the tour chef must lovingly prepare a meal, despite being so sore he is unable to get up from a chair unaided.
- Patience. The tour chef must deal with tour divas, who insist that in addition to the $500 Christmas feast, they need a 4.5kg ‘snacking’ ham for in-between meal feasting.
- Kitchen Ambience. The tour chef must cook to tunes sourced from the local charity shop including the music of George Michael, as performed by Jason Clarke (presumably recorded in the 90s on Clarke’s casio keyboard).
I’d usually give you a run down on the food experienced, but I’m sure you’ve all seen what a chili con carne looks like and I have no intention on sharing the mundane. However, one meal that was far from ordinary and will stay with me for many years was our Christmas day lunch on the beach, a spectacular array of slow cooked roasting joints over a driftwood fire, with kumara potatoes charred in the ashes of the pit (as is tradition in maori cuisine).
Throughout my travels I have often been in search of the perfect meal. But in doing so I had sometimes forgotten where food is consumed and with whom is as important as the ingredients and mastery. As the sun set on my heavy stomach, beer in hand and surrounded by the friends I had missed so dearly over the past 6 months, I had never felt so content in all my life. Looking at the pictures below I’m sure you can forgive me for feeling like I was in paradise. Whoever said University was the best time of their life has clearly never been on tour.