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 115: Montenegro

While the language, culture, and some of the food of this little seaside country are definitely Slavic, the food of Montenegro evinces a strong Italian influence. It’s the consequence of centuries under Venetian rule and influence, plus the lingering effect of being a hop across the Adriatic from the boot of Italy. The result is a cuisine that is both high in milkfat but that also has a place for delicate flavors. Really, it was quite delicious. Ellenby Ellenby Ellenby […]

Meal 112: Monaco

Another beachside birthday party, another meal from a tiny, rich European country! The principality of Monaco is a Central Park–sized nugget on the French Riviera, whose Italian-sounding name is a giveaway of a linguistic, cultural, and culinary heritage that’s more closely connected to northern Italy than southern France. For such a small place, there’s a surprisingly thorough culinary heritage, which is far better documented online than those of countries several orders of magnitude larger. Of course, it’s squarely within the […]

Meal 111: Micronesia

At 1 million square miles with only 100,000-ish people, the Federated States of Micronesia is both huge and tiny. (Obviously, almost all of that square mileage is ocean.) As with much of the rest of the Pacific islands, the traditional bland starches and simply cooked fish aren’t the most stimulating cuisine. Micronesians have swung the pendulum far to the other side, with some really intense and novel uses of imported flavors. (Read below for what they do with ramen and Kool-Aid.) There’s […]

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 109: Mauritania

Writ large, Mauritania is where two larger regions converge in the far west of the African continent. The north is the southwesternmost portion of the Maghreb, bordering Algeria and the disputed Western Sahara which is occupied by Morocco. The south is where the Sahel, the semi-arid strip south of the Sahara but north of the rainforests of West Africa, meets the sea; it borders Mali and Senegal. The population, and thus the food, reflects this division. To generalize over the complexities, it’s people […]

Meal 108: Mauritius

What happens when an uninhabited tropical island in the Indian Ocean suddenly gets people of various backgrounds showing up? Well, aside from other things including the extinction of the dodo, a complex and delicious cuisine emerged in Mauritius. French, Indian, and Chinese cuisines, plus rich soils, waters, and a longstanding sugarcane industry, make for an abundant cuisine whose variety far outpaces the island’s modest population. Mauritians are also enthusiastic about their cuisine to the extent that there are a lot […]

Meal 107: Marshall Islands

For centuries, the fate of this Micronesian island group has been entirely subject to the machinations of much greater powers. Its very name, after an English explorer, was consecrated in maps by French and Russian explorers. It’s been a territory of Spain, Germany, Japan, and the US. It saw major battle and deprivation in World War II, and was the site of enormous nuclear tests with all the destruction and long-term consequences you’d expect, and many displaced Marshallese who haven’t moved to […]

Meal 106: Malta

Situated between Sicily and Tunisia, this tiny cluster of three islands blends Italian and Arab influences with smatterings of the legacies of the empires that ruled over the centuries. As a linguist I’m fascinated by the Maltese language, which derives its structure and pronunciation from Arabic, yet takes plenty of vocabulary from Italo-Romance and other languages. With food, it’s the opposite: the structure comes from the north, with breads, stews, and pies reminiscent of the cuisine of southern Italy, but with spices and […]

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 […]