Recap: The D’s, E’s, F’s and Two Detours (Greece and Germany)

Now that we’ve finished the D’s, the E’s and the F’s, plus two detours to “G” countries, here are some highlights from the fifteen countries that we visited:

Favorite home-cooked meal:

Jess: This is a tough one. I really liked the socca, the chickpea flour pancakes we ate during our French weekend. Plus, they were very easy to make, and didn’t require any modification to make them vegetarian-friendly. They’re also vegan and gluten-free, so they could accommodate a number of special diets. The Far Breton dessert was also delicious, though not as healthy and accommodating of special diets. I also enjoyed the koshary we made during our Egyptian globetrot a lot. Several of the dishes we made from the Latin American and Nordic countries were also quite good, but if I have to pick just one country and meal, I’ll go with France and socca.

Derek: One of the most enjoyable meals for me was the breakfast of topoi that Jess cooked for Fiji. The chewy balls were very fun to eat!

Favorite restaurant meal:

Jess: We didn’t get to go to very many restaurants during this particular round of countries. Technically, we didn’t go to a restaurant for Greece, but I’d pick it as my favorite meal out. It wasn’t the best Greek food I’ve ever had, but the atmosphere really couldn’t be beat.

Derek: Eating a delicious meal at the House of Hummus and then peering next door to discover that the adjacent Jerusalem Hallal Market sells not only groceries but a colorful array of carpets, clothing, brassware, and other imported essentials as well.

Most memorable “live” experience:

Jess: Again, I’m going to have to go with Greece. Not only did the Greek Fest have a lot of food, but they also had many cultural displays and presentations (which Derek took more advantage of than I did).

Derek: I was very fortunate to be able to stay a bit longer than Jess at the Greek Fest (who was busy cooking a Greek dinner). After hearing a talk on the music of the Greek Orthodox Church, I attended a second lecture on how to cook trahana which ended with an impromptu discussion of where one can harvest wild greens in the area.

Film I’d recommend:

Jess: My favorite film from this batch is Good Bye, Lenin! from our German globetrot. I think it gave us a good sense of a certain historical time period in German history (the reunification of East and West Germany), with some humor.

Derek: the French film Entre les murs, known in English as The Class, was interesting for me because it offered a (fictionalized) glimpse into the pedagogy of an inner-city school. I am always looking for ways to make my own classroom more engaging!

An activity I wish we had been able to find/try:

Jess: A lot of our dishes during our Fijian globetrot reflected Indo-Fijian culture. It would have been great if we could have also done more with indigenous Fijian cuisine. But, I did enjoy cooking with cassava for the first time–the pre-grated frozen cassava in our local grocery store was a wonderful find!

Derek: We missed a couple of stereotypical Finnish activities, namely sitting in a hot sauna and eating black licorice.

Most challenging country:

Jess: I was really intrigued by Equatorial Guinea because it bears the distinction of being the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, but it was difficult to find information about it. I was also hoping we’d have lots of Spanish-African fusion recipes to follow, but didn’t turn up any in our search.

Derek: With a population of only 72 thousand people, Dominica was already going to be a challenge. But then we realized that a web search for “Dominican” anything was likely to turn up results for the Dominican Republic instead!

Recap: The C’s

We’ve finished the C’s! Before we move on, here are some of our thoughts about this diverse group of countries:

Favorite home-cooked meal:

Jess: It was hectic to prepare five items for the same meal, but I’m pleased with how our home-cooked Cuban dinner of rice, black beans, vegan picadillo, fried plantains, and avocado salad came out—lots of flavors and textures all on the same plate.

Derek: One of the biggest culinary surprises for me was the soft and buttery mardouf flatbread from the Comoros islands. My attempts at baking with yeast don’t often end well, but this was a hit!

Favorite restaurant meal:

Jess: Sitting at the chef’s bar at Comedor during our Chilean weekend was definitely a highlight. And while the food was much simpler when we breakfasted at La Abundancia for our Colombian globetrot, the experience felt more immersive than our usual meals out, since most people were talking in Spanish around us.

Derek: I, too, share fond memories of the two restaurants that Jess has highlighted above. Another meal that I won’t soon forget was our Sunday morning visit to the Restaurante Cesaria in Dorchester, where we stumbled into another immersive experience as we joined the local Cabo Verdean community for brunch. Between the authentic cuisine and the friendly atmosphere, it wasn’t hard to figure out why this restaurant was so popular!

Most memorable “live” experience:

Jess: I liked that for both Colombia and Cambodia, we were able to visit communities of people who emigrated from those countries: East Boston for Colombian-American businesses, and Lowell for Cambodian-American establishments. (And yes, we did visit Boston’s Chinatown when we globetrotted to China, but that experience wasn’t so novel for me, partly because I was working near that neighborhood at the time.)

Derek: Our day trip to Cambodia Town in Lowell turned out to be a globetrotting goldmine. With one of the largest Cambodian-American populations in the United States, the neighborhood offered everthing from restaurants and markets to Buddhist temples and roadside shrines. With elements of traditional architecture and Cambodian signage at every turn, it was sometimes hard to believe that we had traveled only an hour from Boston.

Film I’d recommend:

Jess: Our Croatian film, Night Boats, was charming and funny, yet also quite sad.

Derek: I enjoyed the quiet cinematography and powerful storytelling of Daratt, one of two feature films that we watched during our weekend globetrot to Chad.

An activity I wish we had been able to find/try:

Jess: There’s a Czech restaurant in Niagara Falls, Canada, which isn’t that far from Buffalo, called Red Chateau. But we haven’t quite figured out the logistics of traveling to Niagara Falls yet (we don’t have a car). It seems like we should do more on a trip to Niagara Falls than go eat at a restaurant, but we weren’t sure if that excursion would leave us enough time to do other Czech-related things, like making our own Czech-style food, or learning about the country. And does going across the border into Canada still really count as globetrotting from home?

Derek: Our long weekend in China was certainly one of the most extensive globetrots that we have undertaken, partly because the country is so large but also because there were so many opportunities to experience Chinese food and culture available in Boston. Although we spent time exploring Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China, I do wish that we had found more time to explore some of the country’s western regions. So while we did watch a documentary about the recent history of Tibet, we didn’t visit any of Boston’s several Tibetan restaurants.

Most challenging country:

Jess: My two—the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Maybe covering both countries in the same weekend didn’t help us learn what distinguishes the two from each other beyond different governments, but I’m not sure devoting separate weekends to each country would have helped much either.

Derek: Our recent globetrot to Croatia turned out to be a pleasant adventure, but it was also the first country that we had attempted to explore from Buffalo instead of from Boston. As we began to research our new city, we had lots of questions: Could we find an authentic Croatian restaurant, and could we get there with public transportation? Would we be able to purchase as many special ingredients as in Boston?

The good news is that Buffalo—which has a long history of opening its doors to refugee populations from around the world—has turned out to be a wonderful city for globetrotting. See you in Denmark!

Recap: The B’s and a Few Detours (Ethiopia, Iceland, Syria)

Before we move onto the C’s, we figured we should do a quick review of the twenty countries we’ve been to since our first recap.

Favorite home-cooked meal:

Jess: They were a ton of work, but the salteñas we made to eat as a mid-morning snack when we were in Bolivia were pretty fantastic, if I may say so myself.

Derek: I grew to love chechebsa from Ethiopia, a spicy breakfast dish that Jess made on many mornings last fall because she had had extra spice mix, but the dish that really knocked my socks off was her foul bean breakfast from Syria.

Favorite restaurant meal:

Jess: I already liked Ethiopian food a lot before our globetrot there, so maybe it’s not completely fair to say our lunch at Blue Nile. In terms of ambiance, Fusion Andina, part of our Bolivian weekend, was very charming.

Derek: I, too, enjoyed our trip to the charming Fusion Andina in Beverly, though my favorite gastronomic experience of the Bs was eating moules frites (mussels) at the Publick House during our Belgian weekend.

Most memorable “live” experience:

Jess: The Icelandic film festival was a great way to see multiple perspectives on Icelandic life and culture. I’d already been interested in visiting Iceland someday, but the films—particularly the short documentary on horses in Iceland—made me want to book a plane ticket even more.

Derek: Watching the Syrian artist Kevork Mourad paint in real time during the performance of Home Within at Brandeis left a huge impression on me, both emotionally and in terms of my academic research into the nature of creativity.

Film I’d recommend:

Jess: I especially liked Everybody’s Famous!, which we watched during our Belgian weekend. The protagonist is clearly in the wrong here, but you can’t help rooting for him anyway.

Derek: I really enjoyed watching the episodes of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency during our weekend in Botswana. How about a cup of bush tea?

An activity I wish we had been able to find/try:

Jess: Since the Bulgarian Rose Festival wasn’t what we had hoped for (we’d imagined an event that was open to everyone, but definitely didn’t get that vibe when we arrived), I do wonder what it would have been like to go to some of the other Bulgarian events we had also heard about instead, like the party for the Bulgarian women’s chorus.

Derek: During our visit to Blue Nile, the restaurant was sold out of honey wine, an Ethiopian specialty. We’ll have to seek it out in the future!

Most challenging country:

Jess: I’m not sure if much of what we did for Bahrain was authentic.

Derek: I had a great time in Brazil, but our weekend didn’t teach us very much about the country’s vast rainforests, nor the indigenous peoples who live there.

Recap: The A’s and Two Detours (Mali and Russia)

With thirteen countries under our belt (or, should we say thirteen stamps in our passports), we thought it might be a good time to do some reflecting on the experiences we’ve had thus far.

Favorite home-cooked meal:

Jess: The Catalan coca (flatbread) with spinach, caramelized onions and raisins we ate as part of our Andorran weekend. I don’t know how authentic the recipe was, but it was so delicious that I don’t care! I was also pleasantly surprised by Vegemite, when we used it in very tiny amounts during our Australian weekend.

Derek: The Albanian vegetable pie marked our first encounter with phyllo dough, but it was worth the frustration. Besides giving me an entire week of microwaved dinners (perhaps that has something to do with its memorability?) the pie also produced what I believe has been the most artistic globetrotting photograph taken thus far.

Favorite restaurant meal:

Jess: Sitting right by the bread oven at the Helmand (during our Afghanistan weekend) was the perfect spot to be on a February night.

Derek: Our first restaurant outing, to the Helmand, showed me that globetrotting was really possible. Having already learned so much about Afghan culture and cuisine, we were now surrounded by it.

Most memorable “live” experience:

Jess: I’ve never seen the audience and the performers interact as much as they did at Trio Da Kali concert (part of our weekend in Mali).

Derek:  Sitting in the restaurant Tango amidst dozens of cheering Argentines as their national football team fought the final match in the 2014 World Cup. I couldn’t understand a word!

Film I’d recommend:

Jess: For a cutesy movie, Valentin, even if it’s not the best film ever, and I’m sure others are more representative of Argentinean cinema. The majority of the movies that we’ve watched have been pretty somber, though. Of those, The Counterfeiters stands out the most in my mind.

Derek: The film 14 Kilómetros made a big impression on me not only for its realistic depiction of life in several West African countries but also because it featured a pair of desperate refugees—globetrotters of a very different sort. I’ve enjoyed the travel documentaries such as those hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Michael Palin because they have also offered me a realistic view into the countries we’ve toured.

An activity I wish we had been able to find/try:

Jess: Given how much I like cookies, is it really surprising for me to say the Tim Tam Slam? I’ll still keep an eye out for Tim Tams–it’s never too late!

Derek: We learned that the Armenians play a tables game called narde, which would have been fun to learn.

Most challenging country:

Jess: The cultures of African nations aren’t too well represented in Boston, so Mali and Angola were especially tricky.

Derek: I had thought that Mali and Andorra were tough, but after trying to explore the island country of Antigua and Barbuda I’ve come to realize just how little of the culture had made its way to Boston.