All posts filed under: Monday Meal Review


Monday Meal Review: Ukraine

It’s almost my husband’s birthday. In his honor, I found myself thinking about love. This week, Ukraine helped me understand what works and what doesn’t, in a whole new way. LOVE. No matter where a couple is from, you can always tell if they are in love. Real love. You don’t need to speak their language. You don’t need to hear what they whisper to each other when the rest of the world slumbers. Over dinner, two people might lean into each other, while others shift their bodies apart. Between the entree and dessert, some couples smile (and frown) with all their attention on each other,  while others’ eyes glass over, vague and disinterested. Perhaps there are those that spend their meal checking their phones while in their “loved ones’” company. I’m not here to judge, but I do believe this: it’s easier to see what love isn’t than what it is. If we feel isolated in another’s company, that is not love. If we feel anxious in another’s company, that is not love. But if …

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Monday Meal Review: Uganda

“It is better that trials come to you in the beginning and you find peace afterwards than that they come to you at the end.” Proverb from Uganda I spent our Ugandan meal talking about one thing, and one thing alone: our Global Table Experience event on October 12th. We’re attempting to put a dish from as many countries as possible on a stretch of tables at Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The goal? 196. Gulp. I’m officially one of those people – so obsessed and focused on this amazing feat, that I can literally think of nothing else. My poor neighbor was focused on figuring out the lemon, rosemary, peanut oil, and harissa on his kebab, but I kept blabbing about the event. I sleep, eat, and dream about how on earth we are going to achieve our goal of putting a dish from every country in the world on a single stretch of tables. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Even if we get halfway there, what a feat! Especially considered all this food will be offered to the public – that’s you – for …

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Monday Meal Review: Tuvalu

  In times of plenty, it’s easy to forget about times of scarcity. When we have electricity, we forget what it feels like to read by candlelight (or not at all). When we have food, we forget what it feels like to not know where our next meal will come from (if we ever knew what that felt like at all). When I was a tiny tot, I spent some time in a homeless shelter. My mom was a single mom, doing the best she could (I love you, mom!), but one thing led to another and we found ourselves on the street. I don’t remember those days – I was too little, but mom does. She remembers, in particular, the long lines to get into the shelter, and the congestion once inside. She remembers not knowing what the next hour would hold, let alone the next day. Soon after, a friend took us in and mom gradually saved up enough money for us to get our own place. We persevered with assistance; I remember …

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Monday Meal Review: Turkmenistan

Our week cooking Turkmenistan was all about the bubble… bubbling Watermelon Jam, bubbling Central Asia Tea, and bubbles on the forehead. It was the bubbles on the forehead that really made me smile. In Turkmenistan, tapping your tea bubbles, then tapping your forehead is said to bring good fortune. This little ritual definitely falls in the realm of superstition. I felt a little silly doing it. At first, I couldn’t figure out why. The awkwardness wasn’t really about getting my forehead wet, although that certainly played into it. And it wasn’t about having to demonstrate to my skeptical family, although their giggles definitely made me feel extra silly. Here they are.. tap, tap. And then I realized what it was. The superstition felt weird because I haven’t been following any superstitions of my own lately. When I was in high school, I’d say “If I get this trash in the basket, then I’ll have an awesome day.” When I was in college, I’d say, “If I tap my pencil three times, I’ll pass the test.” …

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Monday Meal Review: Turkey

After my crazy weekend in Portland speaking in front of 3,000 people, I needed some time to unwind. I was like a hot, thirsty wanderer, begging for a glass of water. But in my case, the “water” was my husband and daughter. I wanted to soak in their company, I wanted to be quenched by their spirits. Because, even if every stranger in the world could hug me, there’s nothing cozier than the embrace of my husband and little girl. And that’s why, when my little four year-old said “I’m glad you’re home, mama,” I can say, with all honesty “me, too.” The only catch? I didn’t have time to mellow. Not completely. You see, I’d planned a big party for Ava’s Fourth Birthday. The party was scheduled four days after I got home. It was about 35 minutes away, at Lake Oologah. So… yes, I could soak up my family… and enjoy their love… but it had to be in those snapshot moments … in between all the birthday planning chaos. Oh boy. Having a birthday …

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Photo courtesy of World Domination Summit, taken by Armosa Studios.

Monday Meal Review: Tunisia

Crying in front of 3,000 people. Last week, I did that. We ate Tunisia and celebrated Ava’s fourth birthday right before I hopped on a plane to go to the World Domination Summit, hosted by Chris Guillebeau. Keith and I were sticky with the honey almond samsa. Ava ate two pita sandwiches spread with the grilled Tunisian Salad. (She must be growing. Again). Then, I hugged my family goodbye and flew to Portland with a belly full of Tunisian goodness. I’d been invited to speak in front of 3,000 people at the Summit. I’d rehearsed my talk for a month or two, twice a day. I had it down pat. I was going to talk about the spiced life. How this blog helped me achieve it. How it’s kept me from running away from my happy ending. But the night before I was to deliver the talk, I received a phone call. My talk might be cut down. Way down. They’d know more in the morning. Bright and early on the big day, I got confirmation. I …

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View of the Five Islands, Carrera Island and Point Gourde near in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. Photo by Jean-Marc /Jo BeLo/Jhon-John from Caracas, Venezuela.

Monday Meal Review: Trinidad and Tobago

This week, gorgeous Trinidad and Tobago helped me question what was real about my relationship in a way I’d never thought about before. The timing couldn’t have been better, since Keith and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. The lesson came in an unlikely form: The Swiss Family Robinson. The Swiss Family Robinson was filmed in Tobago in 1960.  The filmmaker, Ken Annakin, emphasized how perfect the location was for shooting…  After visiting countless less-than-desirable locations, they called Tobago “love at first sight.” It was beautiful. It was serene. The island was everything they’d been looking for. And yet – even with this “love at first sight” location – they still flew in countless animals from around the world (think elephants, cranes, parrots, tigers, anacondas, and more), to build the ambiance of the film. They still constructed their own set in Tobago, bending the location to suit their needs. All this was done to make the story of a shipwrecked family seem more real. I thought about this story, while my stew chicken simmered. A few questions kept popping back …

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Monday Meal Review: Tonga

  My family almost didn’t get to try the Sweet Potatoes this week. Twice I screwed up the caramel. Once, Ava was too tired to eat. When she was better rested, I was out of sweet potatoes. It was a comedy of errors. Except I wasn’t laughing, To blow off some steam, Ava and I decided to wash the car. We got on our bathing suits and began to scrub. Dust and bird gunk (and so much more) gradually peeled off the car. As the car cleaned up, something curious began to happen. I began to feel better. Cleansed, even. Ava laughed – no squealed – as she got caught in the spray. And I found myself joining in her joyous refrain. When we were done, we had the watermelon ‘Otai. It was just hot enough, and we were more than thirsty. Ava wasn’t crazy about the chunks of watermelon (although I loved chewing them)… but that wasn’t the point. It never really is. The point is to try it. And to have a little fun in the process. …

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Monday Meal Review: Togo

“How many bites do I have to take?” “Do they have to be big bites?”  “Does this count as a big bite?” The questions kept coming from Miss Emma, one of the most picky eaters to grace our Global Table. She showed us her spoon, topped with Djenkoume (a.k.a. cornmeal cakes). This is what her big bite looked like: Thus far. Emma has spent the majority of her childhood “losing her lunch” when faced with new textures and flavors.  She couldn’t keep mash potatoes down until she was five… hers isn’t your ordinary finickiness. We were on very tenuous ground. I wanted to keep my furniture and rugs clean 😉 It was hard for me to relate to what Emma goes through when faced with new foods. Only rarely have I been physically affected by the thought of trying something new. There’s old Togolese proverb which reads: “It is impossible to go and look into the stomach of another.” How true. Even though I couldn’t put myself in Emma’s shoes, I was able to create …

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Monday Meal Review: Thailand

It took a Green Papaya Salad from Thailand to make me think about the rhythms of my life. Rat-tat-tat-tat…. Rat-tat-tat…. Rat-tat.. Rat… Rat… Tat-tat… Thwap. As I pounded the garlic and chili peppers into a paste, feeling both awkward and unskilled, I began to ask myself some questions… Namely, how is it that something as simple as pounding food can be so hard for me, yet be so easy for another person – like… oh, say… someone from Thailand? I understand that Thai people learn how to use mortars and pestles at a young age… but … still… the question popped up. And then things got really existential.  I’m not sure if it was a full moon, or the barometric pressure, but I got much, much deeper. As in, I began to compare myself to a mortar and pestle. I asked: “Am I moving smoothly through my life, making smart choices, or am I a mess of starts and stops, pounding the pavement hard for a while, then resting for too long before picking up the pace again?” You see, I’ve heard rumors wives …

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Kilma'njaro, captured out the window of a flight from Dar es Salaam. Photo by Paul Schaffner.

Monday Meal Review: Tanzania

  Moving Beyond Your Breaking Point Summer sweat is a near constant, now. I haunt my house, barefoot, draped in loose flowing dresses, completely aimless thanks to this seasonal fever. It’s all I can do to stay awake when the temperatures hit the nineties and the humidity approaches 100%. Eating Tanzania in this thick sort of summer heat was just perfect. All I had to do was close my eyes, and I was there. At least, I was there on the flatlands. But I wasn’t where I really, really wanted to be. Where I really wanted to be was Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. Unlike the sizzling flatlands, Mount Kilimanjaro is covered with a perpetual blanket of snow. This epic mountain has fascinated me ever since I read about it in Michael Crichton’s book Travels. Have you read it? It is one of his least known books, but by-far my favorite because it covers Crichton’s globetrotting days. In the book, Michael Crichton attempts to climb Kilimanjaro. He approaches the mountain with all the swagger and arrogance of someone who’s …

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Monday Meal Review: Tajikistan

It is often said that family who live in close proximity take each other for granted. But in many ways, I think it’s just as easy to take each other for granted when family is scattered around the country. We get used to a certain state of … loneliness… of missing each other. We resign ourselves to the distance, and take for granted that it can be no other way than to be apart. It got so bad, for me, that I hid behind my work and responsibilities. I didn’t take trips, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know how to shut off the flow of work and make time. The result? Until this week, I hadn’t seen my family in over a year. Fifteen months to be exact. Some of them I hadn’t seen in more than three years. I’d resigned myself to being too far to help, too far to matter, too far to influence. When my sister announced she was throwing a graduation party …

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