Sunday, September 13, 2015

Of cuisine, great and humble.

This morning I cooked this recipe for West African Vegetarian Peanut Stew, and it's delicious.

I think I’ve just discovered the most satisfying, hearty vegan recipe known to mankind. Imagine what you get when you cross an Indonesian satay with an Indian curry—you end up with a West African peanut stew. This traditional stew (also known as groundnut stew, domoda, or maafe) is usually made with meat and vegetables. My version forgoes the meat but bolsters it with a bounty of sweet potatoes, eggplant and okra. The vegetables are enveloped by a silky sauce of tomatoes, aromatics, a mouth-tingling spice mixture and, the magical ingredient, peanut butter.

Throughout 2015, I've been writing about my first trip to Europe in 1985 (last week's installment at my beer blog was about Ireland), and even when other memories seem lost, I can recall many of the meals.

Perhaps this owes to experiencing so many different varieties of food for the first time, including Leberkäse, curry, Moroccan tagine and couscous, steak tartare, stuffed tomatoes, moussaka and pickled herring. I was able to eat well on a strict budget, and it opened my mind to world cuisine.

Then again, I've missed most of the rest of the planet.
Not all cuisines are created equal, so which country has the worst food?, by Adam Liaw (The Guardian)

We have no problem scoring restaurants, ranking them or handing out awards, but what about an entire cuisine? Can we really say that one country’s food is better than another’s? Personal preference counts for a lot but it can’t obscure the truth that not all cuisines are created equal ...

 ... A country’s cuisine is a part of its cultural identity. It can be a source of pride, a catalyst for tourism and even a vehicle for soft power. As such, criticism of it can be dangerous territory, exposing the critic to claims of ignorance, poor taste or even xenophobia. Yet we needn’t be so thin skinned.

The author seems to lean in the direction of Cuba as chief offender, although those of us fortunate enough to reside in or near Louisville have several fine eateries to choose from, including Havana Rumba and New Albany's own Habana Blues.

I wouldn’t go back to Cuba for the food right now, but give it a decade and I might be on to a winner. In the meantime, if someone could point me in the direction of a decent Gabonese buffet, it’d be much appreciated.

Back in the 1980s, once I'd started traveling abroad, it became evident that if I wanted certain meals back home, they'd have to be DIY productions. Fortunately, the raw materials and directions could be acquired with a bit of  diligence, and this is how I discovered Lotsa Pasta.

Meanwhile, our library had a sizable Russian cookbook written by a food writer who'd left the USSR for the USA. In the introduction, she spoke of her career in the Soviet Union, invariably describing meals made with ingredients seldom found there, at least among city dwellers. She concluded that she'd never be able to write the ultimate Russian cookbook unless she moved to a country where recipes were more than theoretical constructs.

I suspect Cuba's been a lot like that, too.

I'd like to go and eat my way through the possibilities.

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