Author: Sasha Martin

Swedish Cheese Custard Recipe

Swedish Cheese Custard

“Winters are long in Sweden,” Alex reminded me. I’d just flipped to the Swedish Cheese Custard in my 100-year old copy of the “Pan Pacific Cookbook” and lifted my eyebrows. My eyebrows lifted further as I scanned the main ingredients – cheese, eggs, and milk. She laughed and nodded. Turns out Cheese Custard is a dairy farmer’s happy place. Perfect after a casual ski through deep snow. But one question remained… Is cheese custard good? Cheese custard is a question mark on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. We don’t typically eat savory chilled custards. But Swede’s know it is a silky, indulgent affair. It’s as if someone took the ingredients to a quiche and mixed them up – there’s fewer eggs, more cheese and much more milk. All that milk? It makes for a delicate spoonful. The most fun? As the custard cools the cheese creates a soft, flaky crust. The golden top looks similar to the crust of France’s often swooned over crème brûlée. My friend recommended using Jalsburg cheese – unless you can find Sweden’s whiskey-cured Prästost. Jalsburg gives the custard a mild, nutty flavor with a little extra …

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"Watching Sunset Salar de Uyuni Bolivia Luca Galuzzi 2006" by I, Luca Galuzzi. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

Trade fantasies & overcome hate by cooking together

In my early 20’s I had a few friends who liked to play Grand Theft Auto. They’d lay on the floor for hours, only emerging to pay the pizza delivery boy and refill their coozies. Curious (and eager for a slice), I grabbed a controller and joined them a few times. Here’s what I discovered: “GTA” is a really violent game based on the premise of becoming the most powerful criminal possible. Stomping characters until they… perish… (something many young players do while laughing) is not uncommon. It’s completely gross. And this isn’t just about violence – its about choosing to be the bad guy.  If I really step back and look at the “fantasy” this game provides, I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed for the game developers and I am embarrassed for ever picking up a controller. The fantasies we engage might never affect our lives, but they definitely reflect our realities. Lots of people would tell me to lighten up – they might say “it’s just a game” or  “a video game does not make killers.” And perhaps they’re right. I haven’t done a …

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Recipe for Colombian Steak & Eggs | Bistec a Caballo

Colombian Steak & Eggs | Bistec a caballo

Bistec a caballo is the kind of hearty, Colombian chow that will feed a child with a full grown appetite – and grow the appetite of an aged person. The seasoned steak and eggs are as easily gobbled up by children on the back porch (barefoot from playing in the creek, their minds already on the next adventure), as they are sliced up during a late summer dinner party (complete with twinkling candles, and bottles of Cerveza Ancla – a popular Colombian brew). Feeding children’s imagination Though I had an overactive imagination as a child, I was never much good at certain types of pretend. I specifically remember trying to make myself have an imaginary friend because all the other kids had one. I drug a rope around as a leash for two pitiful minutes before I gave up. Even though I couldn’t conjure up characters, going on adventures in character was one of my favorite pastimes. My brother Michael and I ran the neighborhood as any number of characters. Often he was the Lone Ranger and I was Tonto …

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Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexicans offer up an unexpected appetizer for the margarita lover in all of us. Take a walk along a Mexican beach and you’re likely to find carts of mangoes being peeled and cut into elaborate flowers and wands. Mango carving is not unique to Mexico – the art can be found wherever the fruit is grown – but Mexican mango flowers smack of lime juice with puffs of chili powder and salt. Just look at this video: I planned to make a mango flower for you today. How could I not? Real Talk: When I tried to replicate his mango carving technique I ran into trouble. My first problem was that the ripe mango slid down any stick I put it on (I tried chopsticks and skewers). And, without the proper handle, carving the flower became a slippery, dangerous mess. By the end of the afternoon I’d hobbled together a few cranky looking flowers but, as I had nothing to stand them on, I’ll leave their appearance to your imagination. The happy solution? A ridiculously simple approach …

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"EarthRender" by Tesseract2 - Own work{{Created wfrrrr xith Blender}}. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

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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"Die Gartenlaube (1887) b 437" by Various - Scan from the original work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

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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book club meal

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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