Meal 104: Maldives

If you go to the Maldives, off the southwest coast of India, for a tropical beach vacation, you’re more likely to find steaks and French cheese than any of the local cuisine. I’m not entirely surprised, because the intense flavor of sun-dried and smoked tuna runs that through nearly every meal is probably a bit too intense for the holiday-package crowd. This is only the second meal for which I’ve ordered an ingredient online, but there’s simply no way to cook […]

Meal 93: Lebanon

As I caught myself grumbling about having to clean my two food processors and the mixer with a meat-grinder attachment, I realized how it’s unlikely I’d take on this project without the aid of electric appliances. I shudder to think of how long it would have taken to mash the hummus, emulsify the garlic sauce, and grind or chop the meat with only the power of my arms. I wouldn’t have cooked nearly as many dishes if I’d had to do […]

Meal 86: Jordan

When you think of Middle Eastern food, you probably imagine hummus, tabbouli, falafel. While those foods are indeed popular throughout the region, they come from the Levant, essentially the region between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates which contains modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, plus pieces of Iraq, Israel, and Palestine. (Incidentally, confusion about how to translate the Arabic word for this region, ash-Sham, is why the terrorist organization based in Syria is sometimes translated ISIS (where the second S is […]

Meal 82: Iraq

Look beyond the horrible news coming out of the country these days, or the past few decades — way, way beyond, because agriculture and civilization in the lands that now comprise Iraq goes back at least ten thousand years. The soils along the Tigris and Euphrates river are fertile and relatively moist, and the surrounding lands held forth wild grasses that became such staple grains as wheat and barley, and soon after domesticated animals, and writing, and even beer. The cuisine of Iraq has […]

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 64: Georgia

“In the center of Tbilisi, the capital, there is a statue of a woman with a sword in one hand, and wine in the other. It shows how, if you come in war, the Georgians are so fierce the women as well as the men will fight you. But if you come in peace, you’re invited to feast.” Throughout the evening, on our friend Mark’s rooftop in Williamsburg, was punctuated by two periodic events: the rumbling of the elevated J […]

Meal 63: Gambia

The Gambia, a former British West African colony, is a little sliver of a country, hugging a river of the same name and surrounded by the formerly French Senegal. I find it appropriate that we held this Nosh in Portland, Oregon, a riverine city — and, thankfully, one that has a few African markets! While Gambia is squarely in West Africa, the food struck me as borrowing major parts from both Central and North Africa. The stew, with peanut butter […]

Meal 53: Egypt

For 12 millennia, people in what’s now Egypt have successfully built civilizations around agriculture in a virtually rain-free desert environment. While there’s plenty of evidence that they grew fruits and vegetables, the annual cycle of the Nile’s flooding made it much easier to grow plants that could thrive on their own in properly inundated soil — which means grains and legumes were much easier than relatively more fickle fruits and vegetables. So, it should be no surprise that our meal was […]

Meal 22: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Upon stepping into the EuroMarket at 31st Street and 30th Road in Astoria — and residents of Queens wonder why we make fun of their street naming! — I was assaulted by the smell of smoke and meat, from bins labeled suho meso, which a quick search on my phone confirmed is Bosnian smoked, dried beef. I agonized for several minutes over whether to cram a kilo sack of Bosnian flour into my bag, and decided to go for it, since […]

Week 8: Armenia

Armenia has a very long and tough history. The country as it currently stands is a small patch of just a few million people in the south Caucasus, with a diaspora of many million more around the world. As with many diaspora populations, the culinary tradition is a core part of identity, so I was glad to have our friend the nomad, Ed, helping me through it properly. The meal was quite delicious and a heck of a lot of […]