I don't know about anybody else, but I grew up in awe of coffee table books. For a start, unlike most other people I knew, my parents had a large, low table in the lounge that was in fact specifically referred to as "the coffee table" and the books that ended up on that table were always the best books – the prettiest pictures and the largest formats. I remember spending many hours at that low, perfectly kid-sized table, getting to know the iconic images in a wonderful Time Life book that spanned the first seventy years of the 20th century.
I dreamed of owning a coffee table and coffee table books of my own one day. I never though my writing would actually one day appear inside a coffee table book - let alone a coffee table book from National Geographic!
Food Journeys of a Lifetime - 500 Extraordinary Places to eat Around the Globe is a coffee table book par excellence. At 300 pages long with full colour photographs on every page, it is a veritable foodies' GPS of places to visit and foods to sample around the globe. The chapters are divided into topics such as outstanding markets, seasonal delights, great food towns, great street foods, and ultimate luxuries. Each individual piece is one page long, providing succinct information on a particular place, dish or cuisine and written by people who have been there themselves. Sidebars are packed with useful information like relevant recipes, terminology, or dishes to try. And scattered throughout all the chapters are top 10 lists such as top 10 bike tours for foodies, top 10 restaurants with a view, top 10 unusual food festivals, or top 10 extreme restaurants.
The photography is lavish and the information is substantial enough to be really useful, yet never long or complex enough to require a huge investment in time – it is a book that is easy to dip into and out of as the mood takes you, and you will most certainly find yourself adding things to your mental "must visit" list as you flick through its glossy pages.
And do keep an eye out for the sections on dining out in Cape Town, the Munich Oktoberfest, Easter eggs in Paris, and Cape Malay cuisine – because I wrote all four of them!
I would recommend this book to anybody with an interest in food and travel – it makes the perfect gift, or the perfect treat to yourself. And best of all is it can be yours for only £6.50.
No, that's not the retail price – that's the price of a single ticket in the H2Ope for Haiti raffle which I am currently running. I have donated this book as a prize, and if you want a chance to win it all you need to do is visit the H2Ope for Haiti Justgiving donations page, buy one (or more!) tickets at £6.50 (about $10) each, and make sure you specify PRIZE CODE HFH02 when you buy your ticket. I will ship anywhere in the world.
Of course, if you want to buy tickets for another prize, there are over 30 more to choose from – from vouchers to signed cookbooks to original art. Check out the full prize list here. All money raised will go to Concern International, an aid agency who were already working in Haiti when the quake struck and were able to mobilise quicker than most, chartering their own planes to bring in supplies and distributing these supplies. Click here to watch a video of the work that Concern has been doing this month in Haiti.
So what are you waiting for – get your tickets now!