Impressions

A Bioluminescent Meal

Travel writer Adam H. Graham on waiting to see Lenin’s body, eating bioluminescent squid, and his favorite French phrase.

Highly subjective takes on life’s most interesting experiences.


What was your most surreal travel experience?

It’s a three-way tie. Standing in line and listening to Madonna on my Walkman while waiting to see Lenin’s body encased in a glass tomb in 1988 during the final days of the U.S.S.R. Flying in a Black Hawk helicopter with Colombia’s President Uribe over the FARC-infested jungles of Santa Marta. Sipping coffee before skiing while listening to a fully gowned harpist, who regularly performed during breakfast service, wildly pluck the strings at St. Moritz’s Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.


What’s the most unexpected meal you’ve ever had?

I once wrote a story about Japan’s bioluminescent firefly squid (hotaru-ika), which required me to go out to sea with Japanese fishermen in Toyama Bay at 3 a.m. during the Ides of March. It was freezing cold, windy, pitch-black, and sleeting. But none of that stopped the fishermen from hauling millions of beautiful glowing creatures from the deep, cold, black sea. Eventually, one of the fishermen threw together an impromptu grill and somehow lit it on the upper deck in the middle of the storm. He chucked a few still-glowing squid directly on it while the boat keeled to and fro in the rocking waves. To some it might sound like super fresh seafood, but it was slightly off-putting to eat something whose beauty you were admiring moments before.


Favorite word or phrase in a language not your own?

The French have a great term that you don’t hear or read enough: épater les bourgeois. It means to intentionally or deliberately shock middle-class or bourgeois folks who have conventional or complacent values. I believe that everyone’s core philosophy and values should be rattled from time to time. Guess that’s why I travel so much. If every new destination you visit doesn’t shake you a little, you probably aren’t paying close enough attention.


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Our Contributors

Adam H. Graham Writer

Adam H. Graham is an American food and travel journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He’s a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Afar, and more. He typically spends a few months every year in Japan, and recently spent several weeks visiting Japanese vineyards in several different prefectures.

Giorgia Ascolani Illustrator

Giorgia Ascolani is a half-New Zealander, half-Italian content artist currently based in London. She has created content for Zac Posen, Inglot Cosmetics, Prada, and Mulberry, to name a few.

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