Meal 130: Palestine

Palestine isn’t a full UN member, but has been a “non-member observer state” since 2012, which is good enough for us. Politics aside, Palestinian food is distinctive in its own right. Particularly notably for a region where much of what’s eaten is characterized by regional variations on a theme — note how it’s common to refer to a restaurant as “Middle Eastern” — the West Bank claims a distinctive dish as the core of their culinary corpus, a layered dish […]

Meal 129: Palau

Palau is another one of those low-population island countries in the vast Pacific. We’ve discovered along the way that the traditional foods tend to be quite straightforward, and that recipes are quite hard to come by, as often the cooking is more defined as a way to put things together rather than a set of instructions and ingredients to follow. Once again I ended up figuring out what, if not now, to cook by scrolling through Facebook groups.  Joining us […]

Meal 128: Pakistan

Pakistan was, until 1947, part of India. While the intention was to create a new country for Muslims, the dividing line was in many ways arbitrary, ill-informed, or simply doomed, given that religious communities intermixed plenty. In particular, the huge state of Punjab was split in two. Then, millions of people moved across the lines in both directions (or died in the attempt) to the country that reflected their religion. Both of these factors explain why Pakistani food seems so […]

Meal 127: Norway

The Midsummer festival, which is celebrated in Norway with the rest of Scandinavia, is a bit of a misnomer, in that it’s actually around first day of summer. But whatever, it does celebrate the peak of the year, when days are super long and gardens are finally abundant with fruits and vegetables. We held ours a few weeks earlier, which actually worked out in Portland’s seasons because we got the new potatoes, strawberries and rhubarb at their peak. Certainly not […]

Meal 126: Oman

Out of the 193 UN members, Oman’s the only one that begins with O. It sort of stands alone geopolitically, too. It’s a lot lower-key than its Middle East neighbors, with neither the flashiness of other sultanates, nor the strife of some neighbors. On the other hand, Oman has a rich history given its strategic position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf: its traders plied the Indian Ocean for centuries, and it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th […]

Meal 125: Niger

Niger is Nigeria’s much lesser known northern neighbor. To reduce the inevitable confusion, its English pronunciation imitates the French: nee-ZHEHR, and the demonym is Nigerien, with only that second E providing the needed distinction. It’s a Sahel nation, meaning it’s in the transition zone between the Sahara and the tropical West African coast. Mercy Corps, our fundraising beneficiary, does a lot of work in Niger, including both emergency food relief and helping farmers improve their long-term resilience. Joining us for […]

Meal 124: Nigeria

For our first ever Nosh in LA, a very Portland thing happened: it started raining while we were barbecuing. It wasn’t too hard, and it actually made standing near the glowing coals really pleasant. And who knows, maybe that extra bit of moisture helped the beef suya skewers turn out as well as they did. Nigeria is by far Africa’s most populous country, ranked #7 in the world at 192 million — with a median age of eighteen and the highest growth […]

Meal 123: Nicaragua

I try not to knock the countries whose food we cook, but I have to admit I’ve generally found Central American food to be pretty boring. The Nicaraguan food we cooked mostly fits the pattern, with one huge exception: enormous, overloaded, rich nacatamales. The variety of ingredients, from raisins to olives to rice to pork, is so enshrined in each family’s recipe that it’s like canon; as one fourth-generation nacatamal vendor put it, “We don’t innovate. We make everything step-by-step the way […]

Meal 122: New Zealand

A little over two years ago, when our now-good-friend Deena did an NPR piece about United Noshes, someone in New Zealand noticed and I did a phone interview on Radio NZ. I promised that when we got to their country, I’d get back in touch. And I did! We did a fun bit where they had listeners send in advice through social media of what to cook, which we chatted through live on the radio. So what do Kiwis eat? Well, lamb, […]

Meal 120: Nauru

If you’ve heard of Nauru, it’s likely because of the refugee detention center that Australia operates there. It’s just about the only thing going on economically there, since the decline of the phosphate mines that briefly made the country the richest in the world per capita in the 70s. It’s a strange and sad story, in which a small population decides to turn over most of the island to mining bat guano, making everyone on the island instantly wealthy with no reason to […]