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 […]

Meal 118: Namibia

Namibia is a dry place. Most of it is desert, the best-known of which being the Kalahari, with a little strip classified as “semi-arid.” In such an environment, few vegetables grow, so for thousands of years people living in this part of the world have relied on animals to turn meager grasses and shrubs into edible food. Accordingly, everyone, including the poor, makes meat a large portion of their diet, so naturally this meal featured meat in several forms.  It was hard […]

Meal 117: Myanmar

Burmese food is intense. Funky, fiery, crunchy, soupy, tangy, herby…a full meal is a real workout for your palate. It bears some resemblance to Thai food, but with more crispy bits, more turmeric, and a lot more fermentation. It’s also a good amount of work to prepare! A birthday gift of an outdoor street-vendor-style wok was extremely well timed, as there were several smelly, splattery things to be fried up. I’m never going to claim my cooking is authentic, but […]

Meal 116: Morocco

I love spices. I love meats cooked with sweet flavors. I love Moroccan food. This was one of our very most anticipated meals, and I went pretty overboard with all the dishes and condiments. But with all the meats and flavors, how could I have cut back? The house smelled fantastic, we all got super full, and there was so much food going on that I even left one whole dish uncooked to be enjoyed later. Thank goodness for mint […]

Meal 114: Mozambique

Wherever the Portuguese colonized, the exchange of ingredients and dishes was intense. Mozambique’s spicy grilled chicken spread throughout the empire, becoming beloved from Lisbon to Goa, while bread is still baked everywhere throughout the Southern African country. I was also struck by how, even though the country is halfway around the world, this was one of the easiest meals to shop for, as every ingredient is available at a standard American supermarket. This was our second Nosh at Laura’s parents’ place on Anderson Island […]

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 103: Malaysia

It turns out there’s a subtle but important distinction between “Malaysian” and “Malay.” The latter refers to an ethnic group and their language; the former is the name of a country composed of many ethnicities of whom the Malay are but the largest. There are large populations of both Chinese and South Asian origin, as well as indigenous groups. And naturally, all of them, plus the English and Dutch colonizers, have sprinkled their spices and poured their sauces into an […]

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 92: Laos

If a lot of this food looks like what you’ve eaten at a Thai restaurant, it’s no mistake. Much of the population of northern Thailand is ethnically Lao, and many “Thai” restaurants in the US are actually run by Lao families, or Isan, which is a term for people in northern Thailand whose language and culture have Lao roots. In fact, the Center for Lao Studies is encouraging “Lao people laying claim to the food that is rightfully theirs.” So if you […]

Meal 90: Kuwait

When I asked my parents if we could host the Kuwait nosh at their house while visiting over Thanksgiving, I had no idea that their new neighbor across the street, Amira, had grown up in Kuwait! The happy coincidence made planning and cooking this meal a dream, especially because Amira’s father Al, now living in northern Wisconsin, was more than happy to dictate his family recipe for a chicken-and-rice dish with a great deal of precise advice. Amira taught me a […]