Sunday, 27 April 2014 | 45 comments

you ought to prize this

I was the lucky recipient of an unexpected windfall last weekend. Ben’s grandmother is in the process of moving out of her home of 50 years, and, in that sad-ish but grateful way, her son and daughters are kept busy divvying up the accumulated belongings that would otherwise become the casualties of downsizing.

My haul from this process was a yellowing envelope, cracked and brittle at the corners. Ben’s mom placed it in my hands, telling me, “I knew this was for you.”
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Monday, 24 March 2014 | 27 comments

Good food/bad food

It’s no secret that I’m troubled by a lot of dictums that accompany food culture nowadays. I end up coming home from travel all keyed up about it, though. There’s nothing like a little perspective to show you how inadequate a lot of “food rules” are.

The party line of virtues that popular food rhetoric deems “good” includes food that is, among other things, locally produced, organic/sustainably grown, processed as little as possible, and/or homemade. Applying these concepts as a meterstick in other settings can make your head spin a bit. In Tanzania, I have found eggs at the market from Dubai, even though you can’t drive 50 feet without seeing someone’s “urban chicken”. In parts of Mozambique, refined white cane sugar is a local product. Some of the most famous coffee in the world is grown in Kenya or Indonesia, but you can’t get your hands on it in-country (although I think this is changing!). Most ex-pats in sub-Saharan Africa have housekeepers who double as cooks: this is “home cooking”, right? Does it still count, even though they aren’t doing the cooking (nor do they even necessarily know how to do it)?

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Monday, 3 March 2014 | 16 comments

In like a lion

If the past three years (!) of March entries are any indication, right now I should be writing something about being ready for spring. The half a foot of new white stuff outside is telling me to hold my horses, though. I don’t mind the winter weather and the snow as much as other people seem to, especially now that the days are getting longer. I like seasons. Besides, there are new baby goats down the road, which means that green sprouting things can’t be too far away.
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Friday, 31 January 2014 | 7 comments

Field notes

Conakry, the capital of Guinea, in West Africa, is on a very narrow peninsula projecting out into the Atlantic. I was there all this week. You can’t really drive from one part of the city to another without seeing a glimpse of water, and my commute from my hotel to the office was no exception. The driver weaved in and out of the hordes of uniformed kids walking to school, vendors selling soap, people burning trash, and then, boom, la mer. It nearly reaches the road in some protected areas when the tide is high.
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Wednesday, 22 January 2014 | 38 comments

A cup of kindness, yet

After Christmas, we packaged up the remains of the rib roast with horseradish cream, the mashed potato casserole, the creamed kale; stuck the house keys and car keys in someone else’s hand (along with instructions for chicken and duck care and keeping); and got on a plane.
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