Meal 126: Oman

Out of the 193 UN members, Oman’s the only one that begins with O. It sort of stands alone geopolitically, too. It’s a lot lower-key than its Middle East neighbors, with neither the flashiness of other sultanates, nor the strife of some neighbors. On the other hand, Oman has a rich history given its strategic position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf: its traders plied the Indian Ocean for centuries, and it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th […]

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 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 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 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 113: Mongolia

To get one thing out of the way: Mongolian barbecue isn’t Mongolian. It was invented in Taiwan. So we didn’t make that. Mongolia isn’t a good place for growing produce, so the cuisine barely has fruits or vegetables. For a bit of perspective, Mongolians following a traditional diet get their Vitamin C from organ meat, and at least one guidebook recommends that vegetarians bring whatever food they may need into the country. Instead, animals, especially sheep but also camels, yaks, […]

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 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 […]