Meal 110: Mexico

Just like other great cuisines like Chinese and French, there’s plenty of regional variety in Mexico’s food. And just like rice with Chinese and bread with French food, there’s a ubiquitous starch tying it all together, in this case tortillas. This meal’s menu is an attempt at a sample of regional foods, all while trying to get good variety at the table. From the oven-baked, olivey-sauced huachinango a la veracruzana representing the Caribbean coast’s fish and heavy colonial influence, to the annatto-coated […]

Meal 105: Mali

Mali sits squarely in the Sahel, the semi-arid band between the Sahara Desert and the more tropical West African coast. It’s the original home of the peanut sauce stew found all over West Africa, while in the north you’ll find influences from across the desert. Our guests were Linda, David, Caitlin, Zoie, Amy, Nicole, David, Stephanie, and friend. Nicole and Stephanie did Peace Corps in Mali, as well as my friend Emily who was a huge help with the menu. Salade […]

Meal 96: Liberia

This little slice of West Africa, internationally infamous for its brutal civil war and more recent Ebola crisis, has an unique origin story: it was founded by freed slaves who returned from the US.  (Note: A Liberian comments that this is the wrong way to portray it. To clarify I should say that the nation in its current political form was founded by those free slaves; indeed there were many people living there prior.) From what I can tell most of […]

Meal 84: Jamaica

I was surprised to read in my research for this meal that a lot of Jamaicans wish they’d never gone independent from the United Kingdom, missing the economic stability and lower crime of that bygone era. It turns out that this tropical island, which on the surface is about as different as possible from that European one, has a fair amount more in common with it than you would think, at least through the lens of food. The patty, for […]

Meal 81: Italy

In the estimation of many, Italy is the true heart of Western gastronomy. France gets so much of the glory, but it wasn’t until Catherine de’ Medici of Florence married French King Henry II and brought her chefs with her that their cuisine set on the road to such lofty achievements. A major flaw of going one-meal-per-country is that even the most culinarily interesting and diverse countries only show up once. Well, except for Italian food — thanks to the Holy […]

Meal 78: Indonesia

Indonesia’s all about the islands. It’s got over 17,000 of them, including large parts second- (New Guinea) and third-largest (Borneo) islands in the world. It also has the most populous island — at 141 million people, Java’s population is about the same as Russia’s, in 133 times less area! While it’s generally not much on our radar from a geopolitical or cultural standpoint, it’s played an important role in world, and culinary, history. For millennia traders from the West have […]

Meal 74: Hungary

Though it’s common to think of Europe as being a jigsaw puzzle of peoples who’ve been there since before recorded history, the people who now populate the land known as Hungary didn’t show up until a mere millennium ago. Known as the Magyars, they brought a herding tradition — and a non-Indo-European language most closely related to Finnish — from Siberia. Over the centuries, they settled into an intensely agricultural society that blended new foods such as paprika from the […]

Meal 73: Guyana

It’s considered Caribbean, though it’s on the South American continent. It was first colonized by the Dutch, gained its independence from England, has a notable native population, yet the two largest populations are of (East) Indian and African descent. No doubt, Guyana — pronounced like the first names Guy and Anna together — is quite the blend of cultures, a study in miniature (the population’s under one million) of many of the influences of the colonial age on the Americas. […]

Meal 68: Guinea

Teeny dried shrimp. Pre-cooked fonio grain. Okra powder. Unlike shopping for Ghana, this time Diaby had everything I needed. As I got to talking with the man behind the counter — finally, for the first time in a half-dozen trips, we broke the ice! — it turns out he’s from Guinea. (I was startled to hear the name of his city, Mamou. That’s pronounced the same as the family name for my grandmother who passed away last month. I suspect […]

Meal 65: Germany

What a convergence — my 30th birthday, the one-third point for United Noshes, a gorgeous day, an apartment with a backyard…and a cuisine and culture renowned for good cheer around food. While German food rarely makes the rounds of haute cuisine, for those who enjoy meat and beer it’s a wonderful, homey way to get a lot of calories. New York City used to have a distinct German immigrant population. Much like Chinatown today, Kleindeutschland in the Lower East Side and […]