When food rules your world...
There is a reason why I am not a size 10, aside from genetics and ill-discipline that is. That reason is I have a very genuine love of food.
I have been realising the extent of this because I am traveling at the moment and very often the highlight of my day has been a particularly exciting, unusual and delicious dish.
That sounds sad when I am seeing great sights and meeting new people, but when I look back on any travel I have done, I don’t think about the temples or the scenery - although they have often been spectacular, my first thought is to the food.
As an example of this pre-occupation, many years ago I travelled, with colleagues to a conference in Germany, followed by a conference in the south of France.
Pretty much all I can remember from that visit, despite sitting through hours of scintillating scientific talks, was the conference food - disappointingly dull, stodgy and salty in Germany - I am not a big sausage fan and out-of-this world in France.
The conference food in France was so amazing that when I moved house recently, I found the menu from the six-course conference dinner which I hadn’t been able to part with!
No-one else at my table had been able to cope with the strong goat cheese, so I ate no less than four portions of that course alone.
I do remember one conversation particularly well though, and I am sure my colleagues will too, at evening drinks when I was stuffed to the gills, I determinedly announced that enough was enough and I was going on a diet when I returned home.
Two of my colleagues decided to do the same and the three of us made it into a weight-loss competition. Needless to say, I came last in the competition, the love of food continued to trump all!
Tomorrow I arrive in Hohot, Inner Mongolia. It will be a Sunday and I will have an afternoon off. I am determined to go out and see something which is not a sheep or a beef cow.
I have been searching on TripAdvisor for things to do and have been pointed towards temples, museums and a mosque.
Oh no! What I really want to do, is to go to a foodie place and make - and of course eat - some local food.
On past visits to Inner Mongolia I have been enamoured with a dish that has been slow-cooked in a large clay pot and consists of pork, potatoes, cabbage and lots of salt. I know it sounds terrible, but it is indescribably delicious.
It is a traditional winter dish and the salt and bleakness of it comes from the fact that winters in Inner Mongolia are long and harsh with the grasslands blanketed in snow.
That dish for me represents the region and I want to make it here in the authentic way! I have written about food-tourism before in my columns, mostly because I want people like me, who love food, to experience just what food is to New Zealanders.
For many, food production is a way of life, farming sheep, dairy cows, goats and beef cows for meat and milk, growing cherries, apricots and apples or making cheese or honey.
Food is something that brings people together, I am not just greedy, I also love the conversations and relationships that my love of food creates.
I wonder how many visitors to New Zealand would rather learn to make a pavlova, cheese, or pour honey from a hive than leap off a bridge?
Tourism is now one of our biggest industries and I am sure there are great opportunities for people to create fabulous food experiences.
For me, unfortunately, it looks like tomorrow I will be traveling to a temple or a museum.
For visitors to New Zealand, making a pavlova or jumping off a bridge? Oh what a difficult choice!