Monday Meal Review: Vanuatu

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httpv://youtu.be/Dedk-cZn6dI Last week someone asked me if I was going to cook with rocks because that's how they cook in Vanuatu. It was a fair question and one that, about two years ago, would have gotten me all sweaty and stressed out. I would have asked myself if I was treating the people of Vanuatu fairly by not  digging a pit in my back yard, scavenging large rocks from local hiking trails, then cooking the meal beneath our Oklahoma red dirt. But now, three years and seven months … [Read more...]

Recipe: Green Papaya Salad

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  What do you do when you're running low on inspiration? Do you sip a cup of tea, take a walk, paint, write a poem, cook something? Or do you freeze up, unable to create? Writing a book for the last several months has had an interesting effect on my brain-space. The book is incredibly daunting and takes all my creative juices. I find myself sopping through my house like a wrung out rag. I once read that we are only capable of making a certain number of decisions each day. After … [Read more...]

Recipe: Sweet Potato Simboro

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It only takes five minutes of grating sweet potatoes to make me wax poetic on the brilliance of the food processor. Friends, I certainly don't have biceps of steel. Most days, I don't even see my biceps beneath the jiggle. Today's recipe for Simboro gave them a work out. I first learned about Simboro from a reader named Benjamin who spent some time in Vanuatu. This comforting side dish is made with a grated starch, like cassava, sweet potato, or yam, wrapped in "island cabbage," then … [Read more...]

Menu: Vanuatu

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"A woman is like a stick you throw." Proverb from Vanuatu On the surface, this proverb from Vanuatu does not exactly sound flattering. But it turns out it is. In fact, it's a term of endearment. In Vanuatu, there's a plant called nanggalat, which takes root and thrives wherever you throw it - even on the jagged edge of a cliff.  Comparing a woman to a thrown stick - in Vanuatu - is saying she can adapt and thrive anywhere. (Source) It's all about context. This week we're making two … [Read more...]

About the Food of Vanuatu

Port Vila treescape, Vanuatu. Photo by Phillip Capper.

Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. But what about those who live in wood, bamboo, and palm leaf houses?  In the 80 islands that make up Vanuatu, the hot, humid weather makes for an entirely different living experience, one where - traditionally speaking - thatched roofs keep out the rain instead of tile. While stones aren't exactly thrown, in Vanuatu they are heated and piled on top of food. This traditional method is typical of Oceania. Lap lap the most notable of … [Read more...]

Monday Meal Review: Uzbekistan

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httpv://youtu.be/_EPqwvfEGds Stirring, stirring, stirring. Uzbekistan requires no stirring. Just a layering of this vegetable, then that... a stuffed quince and few chopped nuts. But no stirring. Definitely nothing of the sort. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to just wait? To wait and do nothing? To wait and trust that everything will come out okay, no burning, no overcooking, no drying out? How hard it is to not stir the pot? With just three weeks until our big event at … [Read more...]

Recipe: Honey & Pistachio Stuffed Quince

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Say "Quince" to an Uzbek lady, and you just might see her flush with delight. Though they aren't eaten raw, baked quince are soft and tender, like a pear.  The taste is mild, something like an apple, but with traces of pear, too. Uzbekistan is the third greatest producer of quince, after Turkey and China. They include the fruit in plov, stir it into preserves, and they bake it up with honey, and sometimes even stuff it nuts... as we're doing today. How to choose a quince: - look … [Read more...]

Recipe: Harvest Stew | Dimlama

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If it were up to me, every gardener would know about Dimlama, the Uzbek one-pot answer to harvest-time (no canning required). While every Uzbek family makes it a little differently, potatoes, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes are standard fare, as is a hearty sprinkling of whole cumin seeds. The key to dimlama rests in the layering. First of all, lamb is browned, then onions are added in the mix. One they submit to browning, the remaining vegetables are layered (and, once they're added, you … [Read more...]