Monday Meal Review: New Zealand


Anthony Bourdain tumbles down a steep sandy embankment on the New Zealand shore, drug down by the weight of his four wheeler. His body twists and flops like a rag doll, swapping places with the four-wheeler in a death-defying dance. He finally manages to leap out of the way, narrowly escaping a bone crushing end by mere seconds.  As the scene replays in slow motion, I white knuckle the couch and hold my breath. One really bad word escapes my lips – consider it a foul-mouthed prayer for his safety – followed immediately by “thank goodness that’s not me.”

Seriously. What a lucky, lucky man. I’ve toppled a motorcycle twice now – once during a track day and once on the street. I have zero interest in a GSXR 750 landing on me, let alone a four wheeler.

But then I think about my reaction. That fleeting, knee-jerk thought: “Thank goodness that’s not me.”

The show was filmed years earlier and half a world away, yet my desire for self-preservation kicks so hard, I find myself a little glad I’m sitting on my couch in Tulsa, Oklahoma instead of in New Zealand by the beach (what!? how could this be??). If I’m not vigilant, watching this terrible accident can, like a wet chalkboard eraser, wipe clean any traces of good from Bourdain’s New Zealand episode and make it difficult for new impressions to form. For a little while, at least. The fun, free spirit of the New Zealanders evoked in a traditional Māori feast, the seafood-laden barbecue, and the pavlova and fresh boar meat which Bourdain, himself, helps prepare – it could all just… vanish.

My hunch is I’m not alone.

Many are driven by irrational travel fears based on rumors, things they’ve seen, or heard about.

“Oh, you want to go there? The worst thing happened to my cousin’s-wife’s-sister’s-baby in that country.”

And, boom, just like that, the would-be traveler is shaken. 

Especially if they’re a novice who, perhaps, has never been out of the country.

Some of you might retort ‘don’t get on a four-wheeler.’ Or ‘keep to flat terrain.’ And you’re right. In this case, this is the easy solution. But what about those intolerably rude people in that one country? Or those lazy-good-for-nothing people in that other country?

While taking proper precautions is always wise, these are insidious rumors – nothing more than high school gossip sessions on a global scale.

It’s ugly, hateful, and often a misrepresentation (and misunderstanding) of reality. And it keeps people from getting out there.

What a thing to travel the world.  To really, really see the world. To feel the dirt on your face. The salt on your lips. To brush with danger and live to tell the story fifty years from now to awe-struck great-grandchildren.

For me the choice is clear.

When the timing is right for us, I look forward to bringing Ava on adventures around the world. And I’m not going to let a little knee-jerk reaction get in my way. In the meanwhile, we’ll continue on our virtual journey. It’s true that stovetop travel hasn’t put me in any real danger, nor has it dusted my lips with the salt of the sea, but I can shut my eyes as I eat and imagine myself elsewhere. In the process I’m learning how people around the world celebrate food while teaching my daughter to appreciate others. This is the best I can do right now and, for many, stovetop travel is the closest they’ll get to experiencing this vast world.

And so my fate is sealed. Instead of tumbling head over heels with a four wheeler, I tumble egg whites in my standing mixer. I whip and I whip, until mountains form, until clouds form above those mountains, and until our smiles are sticky with pavlova. Then I close my eyes and tumble myself through the world, from my little kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to New Zealand.

And I cross my fingers for Bourdain.

Until, that is, I can meet him on the dunes.

(Hopefully on foot.)

I’m curious about what you think. What are your experiences with “travel gossip”? Is it ever helpful? What fears limit your travel adventures? What fears limit your stovetop travels?


Grilled Sweet Potato & Bacon Salad | Kumara [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

Since my last meal will certainly include one or more sweet potatoes, this salad was a sure win. The fact that it has bacon, green onion and honey mustard dressing on it? And it was grilled? I never stood a chance. I wasn’t alone; the whole family loved it. Miss Ava ended up dipping her potatoes and her grilled lamb into the tangy dressing. Mr Picky, who once told me he hated sweet potatoes gobbled it right up (I later figured out that this is because he’d only ever had canned sweet potatoes).

What I love least about this dish:

Nothing. Just be sure to send me some when you make it.

Pavlova with Summer Berries & Kiwifruit [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

Pavlova is so fresh, beautiful and summery. Ava immediately wanted to eat the crackly, yet soft meringue – I could hardly hold her back from biting into slices. Mr Picky was in sugar-loaded heaven and was sure to add extra strawberries to his piece.

What I love least about this dish:

While this recipe might appear difficult it really isn’t. The main concern is making sure you eat it relatively soon after making it, so the outer crust doesn’t have time to soften (although, if it does, no biggie. It’ll still taste grand).

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

From it’s shattering texture to sweet, honeyed flavor, this honey confection combined with French vanilla ice cream is so good I can hardly stand it. I brought this to my writer’s group and sixty year-old men swooned. Since hokey pokey is easy to transport in an airtight container, the dessert is a great addition to any international potluck.

Mr Picky said he didn’t want any, until I offered him a nibble from my bowl. His response? “I’m going to have to have a bowl of that.”

What I love least about this dish:

Just be careful not to overflow your pot (see the recipe photos). Yikes!

Ava’s Corner


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