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 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 119: Nepal

The core of Nepalese food can be summed up in one very simply named dish: daal bhat, meaning “legumes [and] rice.” Along with tarkari — a spiced dish we’d probably call a curry — and achar (pickles), this is the dish that many people in Nepal eat pretty much every single day. Fortunately, there’s variety to be found in the type and preparation of the dal and the tarkari, and a wide variety of achars can bring all sorts of flavors. Characteristically, I tried to […]

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 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 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 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 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 […]