No self-respecting salle de cuisine is complete without a 9kg mortar and pestle from Thailand, a 2kg granite bibimbap bowl and companion wooden bench from Namdaemun Market in Seoul or a stainless steel stacking tiffin box (complete with padlock!) from Mumbai’s Crawford Market.
Inveterate travellers are the worst suckers for souvenirs that weigh down luggage and seem silly unpacked in the cold light of home. Just how many matryoska dolls from Russia or stuffed camels from Dubai does one house need?
My personal research proves that most souvenir purchases are done in night markets after several hours savouring the local fare and doing taste comparisons of arcane brews and esoteric tinctures, aka dinner. The intrepid then set out, drawn like so many moths to the glow of the night market, only to wake up the next morning, surrounded by carved Buddha statuettes, frogs that make a noise if you rub their backs with a stick, ill-fitting synthetic dressing gowns and a Singha beer hangover to boot.
You can temper that primal urge to buy something to remember your journey. Forget the future duster emblazoned with “my wife went to Ouagadougou and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt”. Try collecting stuff you can actually use. The best room to fill with utilitarian and guilt-free trinkets is the kitchen. No self-respecting salle de cuisine is complete without a 9kg mortar and pestle from Thailand, a 2kg granite bibimbap bowl and companion wooden bench from Namdaemun Market in Seoul or a stainless steel stacking tiffin box (complete with padlock!) from Mumbai’s Crawford Market.
A beautiful bento (which just means box!) from Japan is light in the luggage, while tamarind wood chopping boards from the Philippines are easy on the precious knives scored in Cairo’s Kahn el-Kalili. Clay curry cooking pots from Kerala nestle on my shelves alongside clay mortars from Laos, their pestles resting next to them for fear of causing infertility (an old Asian housewife’s tale). Slotted spoons made by Oxo from the UK, Le Chasseur cast iron pots from Champagne-Ardenne in France, stainless steel yoghurt making pots from Pakistan, ceramic rice bowls from China, blue and white ceramic sushi benches from Japan and an espresso machine from Italy all contribute to the cosmopolitan kitchen, be it in Benoni or Biarritz.
Most of the items, all sourced locally in markets or kitchen shops from The Cut in London to the one near the Abra jetty in Dubai, were as cheap as chips. Oh, and all your friends think you are way arty and creative, not realising you’re just cautious with your cash, snoep even!