Author Nevin Martell discusses his latest book, Freak Show Without a Tent.
Nevin Martell launched his sixth book this summer: Freak Show Without a Tent, an autobiography of sorts, chock full of food-related (and other) anecdotes highlighting the Martell family’s world travels. He calls it “a memoir misadventure that is equal parts National Lampoon’s Vacation, David Sedaris, and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.”
How did you go from pop culture to food writing? I grew up as the son of a restaurateur and a mother who loved to cook, so I’ve always had a deep appreciation for food. A revelatory dinner at the Inn at Little Washington inspired me to start thinking beyond band profles and album reviews.
How did this book come about? Sometimes there’s a story inside you that you feel compelled to tell. I’ve been dreaming about writing this book for more than a decade. I didn’t know it was going to have such a strong food-focused element until I started writing. Going through old journals and talking to my family made me realize how important food has been.
Is there any one experience, detailed in your book, that stands out to you in particular? The trip I took to Costa Rica with my father as an adult had the biggest emotional impact. We went just before my son was born as one last father-son bonding experience. It was an incredible trip, which brought our lives as travelers and as friends full circle.
Any memory that didn't make the book? Some elements of my family's life felt too personal to share, or didn't fit into the narrative, so there's a lot of material on the cutting room floor. The time we spent living in New Zealand remains unexplored, as do family trips to Dominica, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and many others. I feel like I've put this part of my life to bed, but I might have a sequel in me if the stars align again.
Let's finish off on a cliffhanger. While on a trip into the Amazon, I accidentally dropped my father's bottle of scotch into the piranha-infested waters of the Rio Negro. He ordered me to dive in after it, so I brought up that the river was teeming with carnivorous fish. "Piranhas don't drink scotch," he told me. "I do." Find the book at Trohv, 232 Carroll St. NW, 202-829- 2941