When Aryn Baker, one of TIME's correspondents based in New Delhi, goes to work in the badlands of Afghanistan, she sometimes does soas you can see from the photo to the rightin full war-correspondent kit, helmet and flak jacket in place. But Aryn has another side; after graduating from college she spent four years working as a cook in Costa Rica, New York, Corsica and Paris. So when we hit on food as the topic for this year's summer journey double issue of TIME International, I knew she'd want to contribute. Turns out that Aryn has always been mesmerized by the subtle flavors and techniques of kaiseki, the formal, elaborate cuisine of Japan, so she took herself off to Kyoto for a week to brush up her seaweed-cutting skills. You can read her terrific report of how she did inside.
The summer journey double issue is a chance for all our writers to get out of their daily routines, and this year, like every year, they leapt at it. Bryan Walsh left Tokyo to trot round Indonesian villages looking for diseased chickens; Simon Robinson (who learned to love spicy food when southeast Asian cooking first came to his hometown of Sydney) tracked down the hottest chili in the world; Hannah Beech touched both economic ends of the food chain, zipping around the world with superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and visiting Ethiopia to examine what food aid actually achieves. Jeff Israely's journey was a little shorterjust round the corner from his apartment in Rome to have a coffee and a chat with his local barista, Vincenzo. Peter Gumbel discovered the many varieties of packaged tomato soup. Lydia Itoi went deep into the green hills of Galicia to her husband's family village, and wrote a magical piece on how food used to be, before the modern world's ever-accelerating cultural exchange made sushi as familiar in Naples as it is in Nagoya.
As always, our picture departments, led by Maria Wood in Hong Kong and Mike Bealing in London, threw themselves into the issue with gorgeous, memorable results. International art director Cecelia Wong looked after the bright and crisp design, and Zoher Abdoolcarim in Hong Kong, together with William Green and Jim Frederick in London, handled much of the editing, with Hanna Kite as marshal.
We're fortunate with this annual issue to call on friends from outside the magazine to contribute essays. Mark Kurlansky, whose books on salt and cod started a whole genre on the globalization of food, leads the package off, and Carlo Petrini and Alexander Chancellor offer their unique views to the package. As for my old friend Pico Iyerthe writer whose work perhaps more than that of any other has defined the social aspects of globalizationhis closing essay on the unexpected joys of fast food is a delight.
I'm grateful to all of them for the hard work that they put into the issue, and, as always, trust that you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed producing it. As for Aryn, she's off now for Kabul, with a suitcase (she tells me) of bonito flakes, wasabi and miso paste. A friend is flying in from Dubai with a supply of fresh fish. "With a little foraging at the neighborhood vegetable stand" she says, "I think I'll be able to create the world's first Afghan kaiseki meal." In spirit, we'll all be there.