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 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 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 81: Italy

In the estimation of many, Italy is the true heart of Western gastronomy. France gets so much of the glory, but it wasn’t until Catherine de’ Medici of Florence married French King Henry II and brought her chefs with her that their cuisine set on the road to such lofty achievements. A major flaw of going one-meal-per-country is that even the most culinarily interesting and diverse countries only show up once. Well, except for Italian food — thanks to the Holy […]

Meal 70: Guatemala

Corn, beans, tomatoes, squash, peppers, turkey…if it’s a classic New World food, chances are you’ll see it in Guatemalan cuisine. While it’s incorporated smatterings of good stuff from Europe (note the olives in the tamales), by and large this meal could have been cooked six hundred years ago, before a conquistador set foot on Mayan lands. However so ancient the ingredients may be, the techniques  aren’t: I made liberal use of the blender, and really wish I’d had a food […]

Meal 66: Greece

Greece has seen myriad civilizations, invaders, and influences over the millennia, and a climate in which most anything can grow, all of which have contributed to a cuisine that is both abundantly flavored and for the most part extremely healthy. It’s also built to be sampled in abundance, with a wide range of mezedes for nibbling and sharing. Fortunately, most of these dishes didn’t need to be served piping hot, which made it a little less insane to prepare ten dishes in […]

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 54: El Salvador

After a three-week trip to India, where our senses were entranced with spices, I was afraid that Salvadorean food would prove mild and uninteresting. While it’s true that pupusas are a pretty straightforward food, I was surprised by the creative combination of ingredients, such as aged cheese in dessert, cloves in a soup, and coriander seed in a drink. While the food of this small, dense, Pacific-facing nation shares most of its base ingredients with its Latin American neighbors, a […]

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 35: Chile

Chile has gone through a nutritional upheaval in the past half century. Whereas a few decades ago malnourishment was a worry, now their obesity levels are in the same league as the US. With flaky pastries and tasty breads, it’s easy to see where the temptation lies. For this long Memorial Day weekend, we shook things up by heading up to the Catskills. Our friend Sarah-Doe spent much of her childhood in this big, rambling structure, a former grain mill […]