Today I launch a Travel Book Club. If you love to read, I hope you will join me. Let’s discover books that make us want to get out of our comfortable homes and explore the planet.
My first pick: Take Big Bites by the irrepressible Linda Ellerbee. Heads up: Her book came out in 2005, so it’s not exactly on the current NYT Best Seller List. But, it’s widely available, so stick with me.
Linda Ellerbee is an inspiration. In her own words: “I grew up in Texas, dropped out of college, gave birth twice, and married thrice too often.” She’s being modest. Remember the television show “Murphy Brown?” Widely rumored to have been based on Ellerbee.
A pioneer in broadcasting, she was one of the first women in the ’70s to become a news correspondent with Associated Press. In 1982, she joined Lloyd Dobyns to co-anchor “NBC News Overnight,” recognized by the jurors of the duPont Columbia Awards as “possibly the best written and most intelligent news program ever.” You may recall her signature sign-off, “And so it goes…”
She began producing news specials for Nickelodeon in 1992 to help kids understand the war in Kuwait. She went on to do shows about other important topics: AIDS, the 1995 Oklahoma bombing, the 9/11 horror, and Hurricane Katrina. If it was an important event for adults, Ellerbee made sure that children could be informed as well.
And she traveled. Always. Twenty years as a news correspondent, she went everywhere. Everywhere.
Along the way, she met Rolfe Tessen, who has been her partner since the late ’80s. He was tired of globe-hopping, so Ellerbee went without him. And that’s how Take Big Bites was born.
Each delightful chapter of the book describes a destination, adventure, memory, or lesson from Ellerbee’s travels. Her stories weave in facts and information; you learn about a place without realizing it. She starts with Vietnam, returning with her son and introducing him to phở–maybe the best soup in the world. Meanwhile, she finds a Zippo lighter from the Vietnam war and doesn’t quit until she returns it to its owner. At the end of the chapter–each chapter–she gifts readers with a recipe from the destination.
The chapters meander around the world. Turkey, France, Mexico, Afghanistan, England, Bolivia. All over the United States, including a stint on the Appalachian Trail. Ellerbee shares personal stories, too. How she met Rolfe, her son’s wedding, the messiness of families and holidays. How she changed her mind about taking a cruise. How she loves being alone in Italy.
This is the perfect book for women “of a certain age” who need a little nudge to travel solo. Boomers will love it, because Ellerbee, born in 1944, writes about the events we remember and the times that shaped our generation.
She’s funny and outspoken. You want to be her friend. Her recipes are delicious. Go ahead, Take Big Bites!