Author: Sasha Martin

Uzbek Kompot Recipe

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot

Today, we enjoy an autumn fruit punch from the heart of Uzbekistan’s Kyzyl Kum desert, shared with me by Paul Salopek, National Geographic fellow and journalist. The chilled punch quenches with ripe pear, apple, and plum, while a sprig of basil lends the memory of summer. An opportunity for our children At my grocery store, punch typically comes in a bottle or, more commonly, a box with a straw. At seven-years old, Ava has never considered what “punch” is, or how it might be made. This a good opportunity to remind our children that fruit punch is made from soft, sweet fruit – a seasonal thing, reliant on agreeable weather and the absence of pests. Punch came before refrigerators and standardization, each batch unlike the next, tasting only ‘of the moment.’ Once young children “get” the concept behind punch, they may begin to taste the individual fruits (or at least show interest in trying). Let them play with the recipe, and encourage them to invent their own favorite punch. After all, it’s as simple as stewing hunks of …

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Nova Scotian Hodge Podge with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge is a homey one-pot supper of fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. What takes it over the top? The addition of heavy cream and butter, along with a few pearl onions for mild sweetness. A gardener’s delight While there are different ways to go about making Hodge Podge, one thing is for certain: it’s best made straight from the garden, when vegetables are fresh and abundant, just as in the eastern Canadian province that lends its name to this dish. Fresh is fresh. In my research I discovered locals prepare Hodge Podge with baby potatoes just 50-60 days in the ground and the gangling carrots pulled to thin the garden bed. This is a foreign concept to someone who doesn’t grow their own vegetables, but it makes sense in verdant Nova Scotia. When a garden does well, it can produce so much food, it has to be used up throughout the growing season, not just in a final harvest. Farm life is common in the province, as are farmer’s markets – …

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What does it mean to eat in peace?

What we put on our tables tells a mighty important story. In my time so far as a Research Fellow at University of Tulsa, I’ve come to appreciate globalization of our food on an entirely new level. Everything is connected – seeds, weather, harvests, shipping, pricing, grocery store availability, history, cooking, healthy digestion. If there is turmoil in just one part of this system? Everything falls out of whack. Fluctuations in the price of bread have brought about revolt. Even Mr. Death, himself, reflects the importance of the system; he carries a scythe – tool of the harvest. He is the reaper. If we are ever to realize peace, it must be from field to stomach. Our food tells a story, heartbreaking at times. Embroidered in 1929 on the sack above: My great-grandmother Rose, mother of Ashley, gave her daughter this sack when she was sold at 9 in South Carolina. It held a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans, a braid of Rose’s hair. Told her ‘It is filled with my love always.’ They never saw each other again. …

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Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: A tail of her own

The Science & Geography of Mermaids: A Birthday Party

My daughter loves science and mermaids; when she couldn’t decide on a birthday theme, we agreed on an epic sci-fi mashup of mermaids, science, and geography. Mermaid goals A pool party seemed inevitable when Ava wrote in her writing journal that her “greatest aspiration” was to become a mermaid. My goals were similar at 7 years old. Many nights I’d dream I was a mermaid, sunning on a rock, only to wake up abruptly whenever I splashed into the ocean, finding that I’d thrown myself off the bed and, instead of landing in a coral palace, I face-planted onto the hardwood floors. Not all mermaids have red hair I really wanted Ava to think beyond the stock image of “Ariel,” so we spent some time this spring learning about merfolk around the world. We began our study with the Zambian mermaid Chitapo, followed by the Selkie of Scotland (and a few other neighboring countries) – their stories are here and here on the blog, along with recipes to match. As she learned about these amazing merfolk …

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A fellowship of food

A Fellowship of Food

This is my cat, Malky. Sitting on my homework. Moments later, after some gentle kneading, he fell fast asleep, fuzz down on “The Language of Food,” by Dan Jurafsky. I debated the merits of waking him. But instead I’ve decided to use his catnap to tell you about my latest adventure. A Fellowship of Food I am proud (and honored) to announce that this week starts my journey as a 2016-2017 Research Fellow at the The University of Tulsa through the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. That’s right – Ava isn’t the only one going back to school this fall! The powers that be at TU dubbed this year’s fellowship The Year of Food. Every Tuesday myself and 8 other fellows will gather together to discuss our research. Each of us will have a unique perspective: some will look into food law, others food history or geography, still others food art. It’s going to be delicious for the belly and the mind. The Peaceful Table My research will focus on Expressions of Peace & War at …

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What if you could live off Victory?

The Olympics celebrate the human form: bodies that move – blood pumping through veins, muscles twitching, brains firing. A place where gravity seems to be as awestruck as the rest of us. Even as newscasters contextualize the athletes by their nations of origin, the games are a rare chorus in an often discordant world, its very premise a celebration of effort and victory over the latest political skirmish. John Williams, theme composer for four Olympic games, quite possibly said it best: The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us. The food of Victory As I watch the players struggle and triumph, I can’t help but consider the food that makes those heroic bodies move. Despite some athletes endorsing frosted cereals and golden arches, I know the truth about good nutrition is far more complex. Back when I used to lift weights (another, bizarro lifetime ago), there was a lot of oatmeal, fresh fruit, eggs, and …

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Sweet Apricot Bites - Turkish stuffed apricots

Turkish Stuffed Apricots – Sweet Fairy Food

These golden morsels are inspired by a place where giant fairy chimneys rise above yellow brick roads, leading travelers past a network of underground cities. It sounds like fantasy. But this surreal scene lives – as real as you and me – in Cappadocia, Turkey. What are Fairy Chimneys? The fairy chimneys of Turkey (Peri Bajası) are geological remnants created by volcanic debris. These colossal outcrops can be as tall as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil and almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty on the eastern US coastline. But unlike those human made structures, fairy chimneys were sculpted over millions of years by rain and wind, in the end weathering the elements better than the dinosaurs. This not to say humans never set chisel to chimney; over the last millennia humans carved into the fairy chimneys to create secure homes and places to worship. These weren’t basic dugouts – many of the cave dwellings are connected with a network of tunnels and vent shafts, and decorated with mosaic floors and frescoes. The underground …

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New Orleans street art by Brandan Odums / Photo by Sasha Martin

Peace is not a verb

Peace is not a verb Peace does not twist or rush between bodies of water or flesh; There is no giving or delivering of peace. Peace is not the catch in a mother’s throat before her scream scales the body nor does it rise from vacant eyes Peace does not love or die. Peace does not lift, does not hoist. There are no weeds peace uproots and replants with purpose. Peace is not something I do to you or force upon you; Though a lover makes love and a rapist rapes, Peace is without clambering, bargaining, begging for change. Peace is the weed being the weed; Peace is mourning all morning – if that’s what’s to be done. Peace is knowing things aren’t well and scraping breath over lung anyway. Peace is stillness in the storm – Finding the eye, the gaze; Lone requirement for clarity Lone requirement for change. *** This poem came to me last night. My cat had just brought in a mouse, which my husband and I proceeded to chase around …

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Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

Falafel Scotch Eggs – Snacking with Selkies

Let’s travel to Scotland and enjoy a traditional Selkie legend paired with a Selkie-friendly recipe for Scotch Eggs. But first… what is a Selkie? On the cold, northern shores of Scotland you’ll find smoke-grey seals basking on the wet rock, backs glistening with ocean spray. On an ordinary day the seals might sit for a time then slip into the water, hardly making a sound as they go about … well… whatever it is that seals normally do. But when the light is dim or fog blankets the horizon, some report having seen the seal skins drop away, revealing men and women of great beauty, whose big, brown eyes give their gaze a look of dewy grace. These are Selkies – merfolk who can shed their skins and walk about on land. But there’s a catch with the Selkie’s freedom: if they lose their skin, they cannot return to their natural form. Instead, they are trapped on land, destined to remain human until they discover their skin again. A note on the Biology of a Selkie: Unlike …

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"Ritual001" by NAEINSUN - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Dear Chris Kimball: Welcome to cooking the world!

Dear Mr. Kimball, At first, I was saddened to hear you left America’s Test Kitchen. Like so many, I’d come to rely on your impeccable standards and trustworthy recipes over the decades. They were a sure thing – dare I say, as sure as death and taxes but a lot more palatable. For me, this was more than a need for robot-like precision on my counter and in my oven (such an aim would be fruitless anyway: my oven runs hot – and it’ll be a long time before my pennies pile up enough to upgrade). My interest in your work started in 1998, when I was 19 years old. My mother is the one who introduced me to you, your recipes and your bow tie – an introduction wrapped up in the messy business of getting to know a mother who I had only seen once since I was 10 years old. Circumstances were challenging in my early childhood. My older brother and I slept in the living room, while Mom slept in the breadbox …

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A book signing for children

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

Creative writing is peace education. The process of creating a world on paper helps children understand the real world. When a child imagines themselves in strange situations – or better yet, when they imagine what another person would do in their story – they learn to “walk in other people’s shoes.” A question like “What would your character feel like in the desert, looking at up at a massive pyramid” gets at a deeper question – what is it like to live in another part of the world? Suddenly, a child who has put no thought into what it would be like to be born into a different situation is considering it. Creative writing helps children learn empathy. When done with care, creative writing is also a lesson in conflict resolution.  Writing exercises should be built around traditional story structure, meaning the children must put their characters in some sort of peril. If a character’s boat tips over, then the child must imagine a way to get their characters to safety. If two characters have a disagreement, …

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Zambian Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Zambian Pumpkin n’ Peanut Oats: To keep Mermaids away

Forget what you know about The Little Mermaid. Zambia’s infamous mermaid, Chitapo, is no dewy-eyed, red-haired princess. To set eyes on this fierce water spirit, paddle along the Zambian/Congolese waterways – along Lake Namulolobwe, down Victoria Falls, into any number of smaller ponds. You might even find her cresting the salty Atlantic. How will you know it’s her? See that shadow caught up in a whirlwind? An elusive figure sunning on a rock, with the body of a woman and the tail of a fish or serpent? That’s Chitapo. Beware: Beautiful Chitapo is not content to observe humans from afar. Pay attention if things seem amiss in your village. Did a woven mat or a few beloved baskets vanish, then reappear a few days later? Is a neighbor’s missing collection of pots and pans now floating on the murky lake? Chitapo pushes this shiny bait in the shallows, luring unsuspecting victims to their untimely death. Tempted to wade into the water to retrieve these prizes? Think you can outwit, or out-muscle this water spirit? Good luck. Even those with unflinching biceps and …

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