Author: Sasha Martin

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To the person who thinks eating international food is an act of white supremacy.

When you say that eating food from other countries helps perpetuate white supremacy – that the very act of eating another group’s food oversimplifies and subjugates the “other” as perpetually foreign – you are conveniently ignoring a few simple truths. If one cannot travel, eating a meal to experience another culture is one of the few visceral ways available to learn about people around the world. Stovetop travel brings book knowledge to life. Consider the poor. The poor do not have the luxury to travel to other countries. Getting a bus ride to work can be a challenge, making the financial burden of crossing the ocean laughable. I grew up poor. My brother and I slept in the living room. My clothes were kept in a dresser in the kitchen. We couldn’t go to other countries for family vacations. We snuck onto empty campsites instead, sleeping in our beat up car whenever we were caught. Many families were and are far worse off than us. But get this. My mother used food as a way to help …

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Think you can’t handle spicy food? Think again.

I never thought I could learn to tolerate spicy food, let alone love it. The very idea of enjoying a cup of hot salsa once seemed as unlikely as camping at the North Pole. But recently – somewhere between spooning hot chili sauce on my rice during dinner and eating a piece of ‘scorpion cheddar’ from the sample bin at Whole Foods (complete with warning label “eat at your own risk”) – I began to ponder my path towards eating food high on the Scoville scale. What is the Scoville Scale? Think of it as a game of Mercy… for your mouth. The Scoville scale was developed in 1912 by a man of the same name – Wilbur Scoville. At first sugar water is given to trained testers. Then, little by little, the hot part of the pepper (a.k.a. capsinoid extract) is added to the water until the testers feel the heat. Thanks, Wilbur! For reference: Bell peppers have no heat, while a pepper called the Carolina Reaper tops the charts at 2,200,000 Scoville heat units. That …

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Mary Poppins Birthday Party

A Very British “Mary Poppins” Birthday Party

Why stay home for your child’s birthday party when you can “journey” to 17 Cherry Tree Lane with a very magical Mary Poppins Tea Party? I began reading Mary Poppins to my daughter earlier this year and we soon found ourselves delighted by the adventures. It wasn’t long before Ava asked me if she could have a Mary Poppins themed birthday party. The more we read of the 1024 page story, the more ideas we got. Here are the highlights of my daughter’s Mary Poppins Birthday party. Set the Tone with Floating Invitations Mary Poppins is associated with unexpected, magical adventures. To set the tone, I made “floating” invitations a few weeks before the party. Make it a Costume Party Everyone loves an excuse to dress up! We invited Ava’s friends to wear a costume inspired by the movie, book, or tea parties in general. They did not disappoint! There were several Chimney Sweeps… An adorable Bert in red stripes… And, as is to be expected, several Mary Poppins! We assembled Ava’s costumes from items found at second hand shops, …

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Ugandan Rolex Recipe

Ugandan Rolex | Breakfast Wrap

Uganda’s “Rolex” is breakfast luxury that can be purchased on any street corner. Whipped egg is the gold setting. Precious studs of tomato and purple onion glitter across the surface like garnet and amethyst, while fine strands of cabbage sparkle like peridot. The completed jewel is nestled safely in a soft chapati wrap. Ridiculous? Maybe. But shouldn’t every day food be as precious as a “real” Rolex? What is a Ugandan Rolex? Rolex is classic Ugandan street food. The similarity to the luxury watch brand is happenstance: Once upon a time the vendors who made this treat called out “Rolled Eggs” – nothing more. The basic idea is eggs cooked with cabbage, onion, tomato, and sometimes peppers, which is then wrapped in chapati. But, as the words careened off their tongue, “Rolled Eggs” sounded more like “Rolex” to visitors. Gradually the (quite fun) misinterpretation stuck. How do you make a Rolex? To prepare a Rolex in the true Ugandan spirit, a few steps must be followed. First, make your way to Uganda… … and find a welcoming village …

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5 creative ways to bring the world into your kitchens

These are 5 stories of ordinary people who brought the world into their kitchens in fun, creative ways. Their culinary adventures have spiced up dinnertime, taught them something new, and connected them to the world at large. I hope you find their stories as inspiring as I have. 1. Charlie’s Odyssey Charlie is a 10th grader. His class recently read The Odyssey and the teacher challenged each student to take on their own odysseys. Charlie decided to learn about food on different continents by trying several new recipes. He sent along pictures of the Pope’s Fettuccine and Horiatiki (Greek Village Salad) he tried (with an extra fancy glass of grape juice, of course). Well done, Charlie! 2. A birthday ritual on the riverbank Susan has used our Afghani recipes and articles to celebrate her friend’s birthday… for three years in a row! Here’s Susan’s story: When I first found your food adventure blog it was time to plan a birthday party for a friend who travels to India several times a year. […] Afghanistan became the menu for her outdoor party. We sat …

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Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas Recipe

Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas

What if summer’s best moments could be frozen in time? Picking berries… Running barefoot through tall grass… Dancing in sun and water alike… The smallest nibble of Paletas delivers a slush of ripe berries, sunshine, and laughter – about as close as I’ve ever gotten to capturing the glitter of the season… a frozen treat straight from Latin America and as precious as these Mexican garnets…   … but with much more color. Seriously. These are lovelier than any gemstone… The story behind these paletas is a simple one: I was looking for something my daughter could share with her classmates for her birthday celebration. Keith and I wanted to bring something nutritious and festive. She wanted something sweet and summery (she’s a July 4th baby after all). Meanwhile, some of her classmates are lactose intolerant and gluten-free. The happy solution came in the form of raspberry hibiscus paletas… a Latin-American recipe adapted from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas. You don’t need much. Freshly brewed hibiscus tea. A mound of crimson …

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Grilled lunch with a taste of Argentina

When I flip open my grill it’s rarely to flip burgers; My vegetarian 5-year old inspires me to think beyond hamburgers and hot dogs in the summer. Argentina is known for her amazing meats, but beyond that she’s earned a special place in my heart for this acorn squash salad. The charred gourd stuffed with peppery arugula and aged goat cheese first entered my awareness through the campfire cooking of Francis Mallmann. His recipe entails roasting an entire pumpkin buried under the embers of a campfire. My recipe is simplified for the home chef – an acorn squash is easier to manage and cooks twice as fast. Ever since we first made it on this blog, some version of the salad has been in our regular rotation. We even made it on our recent camping trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest. Tips Don’t restrict yourself to making a meal that’s 100% foreign to you and your family – too much work can dampen motivation for international eating. Also: some people are more likely to try …

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How obsessively cooking the world helped me face my past

Have you ever heard someone mutter “I just want to leave the past behind me”? When I started this blog, I thought it was about three little things: teaching my picky husband to look at food as an adventure, not an attack; raising my daughter with international perspective; and satisfying my own wanderlust. But when I began writing my memoir, my editor challenged me to dig deeper. She said something like: “Cooking the world, week after week, isn’t exactly a normal thing to do.” She sent me away to think about what my obsessive behavior was really about. The past kept coming up. The foster homes. The separation from  my mother. The search for an unconditional home. I soon realized cooking the world was not simply about the food. It was about finding a sense of belonging. But, no matter how many countries I cooked, I’d never find my place in this world if I didn’t make peace with my past. We all have struggles. I very clearly kept them off of this blog and, for the most part, …

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Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad | Nasi Ulam

Do packaged herbs ever go on strike at the back of your fridge? Now, thanks to Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad, bundles of herbs can finally go to work in a dish that everyone will love. When herbs go on strike I wonder how many partially used packages of fresh herbs lay wilting at the back of fridges across America. I’ve certainly been there. Even though I “store” my herbs in the garden, disgruntled leaves occasionally congregate behind the eggs and mustard (the few remaining upright stems looking like picket signs). The problem? Outside of a putting basil in pesto or parsley in tabbouleh, it’s hard to use most fresh herbs up. To give our herbs a chance, we need to rethink how we use them. A pinch here or there doesn’t really do the trick when it comes to adding flavor or using them up. Standing them in a jar of fresh water helps tremendously (sometimes adding a couple of weeks of life to them). Another idea is to find a recipe that makes good use of …

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Imagination born from a Kenyan Storytelling Chandelier

The stories we share during mealtimes nourish us as much as the food we eat. But sometimes we need a little jump start to get conversation flowing. Kenyans use banana leaves to create artwork that not only evoke ancient folk tales but that inspire the telling of new stories. I found our Kenyan storytelling chandelier at a garden festival called Springfest here in Tulsa. My daughter and I almost breezed right past the booth. The rain had just started coming down in earnest: Ava was dancing in puddles with a friend and I was hunkered beneath my umbrella, feeling grumbly about my wet socks. But then those dancing figures caught my eye. Turns out the chandelier was made by a group of women in Kenya. Proceeds of our sale went back to helping their village. The vendor told me there was a story behind each figure and when I asked her what they were, she coyly responded that it was up to us to tell it. While most might use this sort of art over …

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Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

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A Japanese Sushi-rolling Birthday Party

A Japanese birthday party is a fabulous alternative to the standard princess or pirate birthday party. A couple of years ago my good friend and artist Annie Ferris had a Japanese-themed birthday party for her daughter and was kind enough to share the photos. The girls are 4 years old, proving there’s no age limit to having a fun and educational birthday party. I love how Annie managed to throw together a totally immersive experience while maintaining a down-to-earth vibe. Here are some of my favorite features of her daughter’s Japanese Birthday Party. Sushi Rolling station Ava still asks to make homemade sushi and this party is one reason why. How to set up a Sushi Rolling Station: Set up several low tables – kids craft tables or coffee tables work well – and use cushions for seating. Not only is this set up very Japanese, but it’s also easier for wiggly little ones to manage. At each child’s place you’ll need: a placemat to catch spills (hers were Japanese flags) a bamboo rolling mat a set of children’s chopsticks (plain or zoo animals) a bowl …

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