Two months in, and it was time to take stock of my quest. What were the rules Paul and I were setting ourselves? Why were we doing it? And did we have a hope in hell of accomplishing it?
In terms of duration I'm inclined to be lenient. I would like to try to get through all 80 within a year. However, it must be noted that the first two actually took place at the very end of December 2008. Really, I think the timeframe should be defined as 'a year(-ish)'. As long as we make an effort to keep the quest moving along, and try to aim to finish by the end of 2009 I don't think it matters that much if circumstances force us to roll over into 2010.
Location-wise we were limited to Greater Manchester. Anything outside the conurbation would not count. Which proved to be a shame; during February I made a trip down to London (where I ate Turkish, Japanese & Thai), and another to Birmingham (where I had Indian, Malaysian [again], and Italian). They do not count. Otherwise I would just go down to London all the time and eat my way around their much larger and much more diverse food scene. On my February trip I was shocked to see a conglomeration of seven-or-so Vietnamese restaurants, where Manchester would be lucky to have one. Someone mentioned a Burmese restaurant, and I'm pretty sure there isn't one of those in Manchester. And I had eaten at a Peruvian restaurant on my previous London trip at the end of 2008; again, no Peruvians in Manchester. Yet...
Okay then, so what counts as a 'national cuisine'? Just looking on Wikipedia was enough to make my head spin. Do you know how many countries there are in the world? No? Neither does the UN. Would the UK count as one nation, or could the four separate countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland count as four? What would we do for China - as a friend pointed out, Cantonese cuisine is very different from Szechuan, which is very different from Hunan. Essentially these are my rules, and I see fit to change them at any time, but really, if I'm saying an area is a country, then a country it is. So 'Chinese' would be one country (though 'Tibetan' could be another one). Palestine is not really a fully-functioning member state, but I would class it as a country, whereas I would not Northern Cyprus. The Order Of The Knights Of Saint John Of Malta has diplomatic recognition from more nations than Northern Cyprus, and even owns extra-territorial rights in places than Rome, but I wouldn't count that as a country either. This silly little new year's resolution has the danger of getting political, depending on what I preceive to be a country or not...
To begin with I had two motivations. Firstly to increase my knowledge of the world and its cuisines. Secondly, to increase my knowledge of what Manchester has to offer. However, a third motivation has arisen - to do my bit to keep the restaurant scene in business. The recession has started to bite, and it has already claimed some scalps I was counting on - Che in Piccadilly (Cuban), Martin's Swiss Bakers (Switzerland), King Cobra in Rusholme, even Le Petit Blanc (French). There is a bit of enlightened self-interest going on here - try to keep the restaurants going through the lean years so they will still be here when the economy picks up again. It's not really the best time financially for me to be committing to eating out once or twice a week, but I encourage people out there to make an effort to keep eating out.
IS IT POSSIBLE?
Erm. Probably not. While Manchester is pretty multi-cultural and multi-ethnic it is no London or New York. Having had a search on the internet I could only come up with a list of 50 possibles (and that included King Cobra). We're going to have to play it smart and keep our eyes open. And - if it really comes down to it - cheat...
Anyway, the journey continues here.