Da noi niente cucina da incubo
‘This isn’t fun!’ — when holiday dreams turn to nightmares From challenging children and unhinged bus drivers to relationship meltdowns and kitchens from hell, Lucy Kellaway, Martin Wolf and other FT writers share their worst travel moments
FT 12 August 2023
Tim Hayward FT FOOD CRITIC AND RESTAURATEUR
I’m on holiday at the moment and, as Englishmen abroad must, reading Dante’s The Divine Comedy. It’s remarkable how current it remains. I did not know that the eighth circle of Hell comprised 10 concentric ditches or bolgias, each assigned to a subset of the fraudulent. Bolgias for panderers, corrupt politicians, counsellors of fraud and even one for simoniacs — those who sold favours and offices. This prescient 14th-century genius had foreseen Boris Johnson, Andrew Tate and almost any other contemporary sinner. But even he would have had to dig down to extend. He’d have had to have built a whole 10th basement circle for the people who equip the kitchens in holiday rentals. I am in the charming southern French town of Uzès. Wine country. Honeyed stone baking in 30C heat. Food writer Elizabeth David came down here in her declining years, took a flat overlooking the twice-weekly market in the Place aux Herbes. Me? I get to stuff my bags with the finest produce and return to a kitchen where there are two blunt ceramic knives. How, you scream, can ceramic knives be blunt? Simple . . . stick a sharpening steel in the block next to them and watch a hundred frustrated holidaymakers send sparks showering into the night. I got caught trying to smuggle in my own knives. Is it just because I’m particular about julienning carrots that I should still be on a terrorist watchlist? These look like they’ve been used to open bloody tins. Which is a distinct possibility, as there are relics of an electric can opener in the bottom drawer, keeping part of a wand blender and a wok lid company. A few years ago I got caught trying to smuggle my own knives on to the “Boden Express” — the London to Avignon train. Is it just, I ask you, that because I’m particular about julienning carrots, I should still be on a terrorist watchlist? Airbnb has upped the game of shark rentiers. Everything looks great for the website. Stacks of fresh ecru towels on every beige surface. Fresh off-white paint. Also three incomplete coffeemakers, eight opened pots of paprika, three half-empty bottles of organic olive oil and a tub of Vegemite in a bedside drawer. There is one napkin/tea-towel curated to match the table linen rather than for absorbency. The crap oven has a pass-agg little note taped to it saying that if I sully its interior, I will incur a €100 cleaning surcharge as “the cleaners are very busy”. I want to heat up a tian, not puke in a cab. Last night, in front of my own family, I did the trick of getting the cork out of a wine bottle with a wall and a deck shoe. I haven’t done that since art college and hoped I’d never need to again. But then, I believed that when I was a grown-up, there would always be a corkscrew that worked. Not four that didn’t.