Smyth with a gaggle of men in France. (Photo: Bambi Smyth)
Bambi Smyth was looking for love. She also wanted to feed her culinary and travel urge. She thought it just might be a darn good idea to combine the three.
The 56-year-old (she says going on 36) Scottish-born, Australian-raised author had been writing children’s books and doing wildlife illustration for most of her career when she set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Smyth traveled to six continents and 22 countries where over the course of 81 days she ate 294 meals and went on 75 blind dates. The result is laid out in her new book, “Men on the Menu: Delicious Affairs From Around the World.”
“I’d begun imagining myself as some kind of cultural detective, dating men in the hopes I could ‘taste’ who they were – to extract their true flavor, their very essence. And each date was bound to be different. After all, if a food can be spicy or sweet, sour or salty, delicious or unsavory, fresh or a little bit off, then surely a man can be too?” Smith writes in the opening of her book.
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She asked friends and colleagues to help her set up dates around the world with men who could speak English and would be willing to show her the local flavors. What she found was a smorgasbord of characters and cuisine.
Her favorite date “by far” was an Italian man named Stefano. “Our date lasted from midday to 4 a.m. with only a two hour break in between for my date with the priest at the Vatican,” Smyth told Yahoo Travel. “Stefano was handsome, charming, funny, warm, cheeky, highly intelligent, and had an extremely high EQ (emotional quotient) which kept me enthralled.”
The lovely Stefano. (Photo: Bambi Smyth)
“He said that ‘to really get to know someone you need to be aware of all 25 senses.’ Not many men think like that. I fell madly for him,” she said.
She also fell in love with the country of Oman in the Middle East.
“I loved Oman, especially Muscat, with its dramatic desert landscapes and sandcastle-like forts dotting the sand dunes. I felt like I had gone back in time 1,000 years,” she said. Although she loved Oman, she had one of her worst meals there — a stew that “was completely inedible and I suspect was camel road kill.”
Her worst date took place in Ireland with “an Irishman who will remain nameless.”
“He was a journalist who clearly had a chip on his shoulder as he questioned why I thought I was special enough that anyone would want to read my book! He was pretty much insulting during the entire meal. Needless to say I cut him out of the book completely. In comparing him with a local dish I chose one of those potatoes (suitably Irish) that has gone green and becomes toxic.”
But she did manage to try a lamb and Guinness stew in Ireland that she paired with another date she still raves about. “Rich, flavorful and very Moorish,” she said.
Monaco was a tough place for dating.
“Although it was beautiful, it had no had no soul or heart and the men there made me feel completely worthless because I wasn’t attractive enough for them,” she said.
The author in her official headshot. (Photo: Bambi Smyth)
Traveling for 81 days straight comes with lots of lessons — not just about men and meals, but how to get the most out of every trip. Smyth suggests packing light, being adventurous, having a sense of humor and always eating the local food.
“The food of a country often describes the very essence of the people. Sparkling Champagne in France. Nourishing feijoada in Brazil. Exquisitely wrapped sweets in Japan. Discover the flavor of the people through their food,” she said.
As for her love life, without giving away too much, Smyth said she found love at the very end of the trip.
“It had a very happy and somewhat unexpected outcome.”
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”