The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

And the Alices go to … these 7 writers for their revealing posts on food and world travel

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

Autumn is finally here, and those of us who lost our appetite during the onslaught of this summer’s heat and humidity find that we can breathe — and eat — again!

Accordingly, the Displaced Nation has turned its attention to food — though in a way that conjures up the magical dreamscape of Alice in Wonderland rather than a blog populated by posts on typical and traditional world cuisines.

On the one hand, we’ve heard from the Top Hatter — I refer to Anthony Windram’s avatar — on the pleasures of indulging in beef tongue at a Kyoto restaurant. On the other, we’ve encountered Duchess Kate (Allison) just as she was pronouncing on the Queen’s favorite chocolate and inviting us to join her in a chocolate cocktail.

Last week when Tony James Slater appeared on the site, he was looking for all the world like Lewis Carroll’s Caterpillar, smoking his hookah and talking in short, somewhat rude sentences. His topic was the time he became violently ill (to use more polite language than he did) on mansaf on his visit to Jordan.

And personally I’ve yet to recover from last week’s encounter with the curious and curiouser Mark Wiens, who said he

would be very happy to fly to a destination and not do any of the normal tourist attractions, but just eat.

What’s more, he had the cheek to propose serving durian to The Displaced Nation! Off with his nose!!!

While putting together this menu of “It’s food!” posts, I’ve found it entertaining to read as many foodie posts as possible on other expat, repat, and travel blogs. And today I’d like to acknowledge some of their writers for what they’ve taught me about food and world travel.

A year-and-a-half ago, I had the pleasure of handing out the Displaced Nation’s Alice Awards to 7 writers who clearly understand — and aren’t afraid to reveal — the curious, unreal side of international travel.

Today I will hand out another set of Alices — you might call them the “Foodie Alices” — to writers who share the Displaced Nation’s down-the-rabbit-hole disposition toward world cuisines, i.e., who aren’t afraid to try mushrooms that make you grow, potions that make you shrink, tea parties where they don’t serve tea, and also feel duty bound to report these experiences to the rest of us.

So, without further ado, the Alices go to (in reverse chronological order):

1) AMANDA VAN MULLIGEN

Awarded for: “Do I Not Like Mushy Peas”, in A Letter from the Netherlands (personal blog about life as an Englishwoman in Holland)
Posted on: 19 September 2012
Choice morsel:

[Regular readers will know I am a fan of the Great British fish and chips.] However, there is no way, no how, I will eat fish and chips with mushy peas. They are vile. Foul. By far, mushy peas are … [t]he most disgusting monstrous green mess that has ever passed my lips. They turn my stomach.

Citation: Amanda, we award you this Food Alice or the feat of turning the typical “foods I miss from home” post on its head. That’s what it means to step through the looking glass. You’re a smart cookie and the rest of us would do well follow your example and focus on the “evil” accompaniments to our native cuisines that for health reasons alone, we’re lucky to have escaped from.

2) ANDREW COUCH

Awarded for: “Making Pancakes from a Bottle,” in Grounded Traveler (personal blog covering expat life in Germany), Posted on: 21 September 2012
Choice morsel:

We do not have a griddle. I imagine very few Germans have a griddle, at least not one useful for pancakes. So I get a set of 3 in a pan and the whole bottle [of Mondamin Pfannkuchen Teig-Mix] makes 12 or so, so I was doing several batches. … It works great, but well.. umm.. the Celsius temperatures still seem hard to understand for me. So while I didn’t overcook the cakes, I did almost burn my finger…

Citation: Andrew, you showed derring-do in experimenting with using bottled German pancake mix (and no griddle) to produce one of your favorite breakfast foods from home. Such bravery merits an Alice as does your acknowledged befuddlement over temperatures in Celsius, the vagaries of baking soda performance across the globe, and the extortionate prices of maple syrup. (Hey, we’ve all been there…)

3) KATE BAILWARD

Awarded for: “Sunday Supper,” in Driving Like a Maniac (personal blog about life as an Englishwoman in Sicily), part of her “Eating like a maniac” series.
Posted on: 3 September 2012
Choice morsel:

A Sunday night chuck it together kind of a lazy supper for one, to use up whatever you’ve got left in the fridge. I had a medium aubergine, a small courgette and some ricotta, as well as a jar of passata vellutata. You could say it was a very bastardised version of parmigiana alla melanzana, or you could just take it on its own merits and call it courgette, ricotta and aubergine rolls in tomato sauce. Or something else entirely. Whatever takes your fancy.

Citation: Kate — Katja, if we may — we give you an Alice for your versatility in writing foodie posts. Just after you published this piece, you wrote a post for Travel Belles on the joys of rustling up one’s own caponata, which you described as the “very essence of traditional Sicilian food.” Clearly, your training as an actor has borne fruit (and veggies!) if you can segue from harried EFL teacher chucking together a pseudo-Italian dinner, to full-fledged cookery expert. (What’s wrong with trifle, btw?)

4) JESSICA FESTA

Awarded for: “Eating My First Pet in Ecuador,” in Jessie on a Journey (personal travel blog)
Posted on: 24 August 24 2012
Choice morsel:

The body is sliced down the middle, opened like a thick book, on top of sizzling coals. Tiny hands, still with finger nails, reach into the air as if their last plea for help had gone completely unnoticed. Bright white teeth gleam out of mouths open in a scream and faces twist in agony. Apparently, the miniature murder scene I am witnessing is about to be my dinner.

Despite having been excited to try the popular Ecuadorian meal, something inside me feels a bit uneasy. My mind wanders back to my first pet, a guinea pig I named Joey after a school crush.

Citation: Jessica, we award you this Alice for your refusal to let “mental discomfort” stop you from ordering cuy, a popular South American dish, just because it resembles your Joey. (I for one never let sentiment get in the way of my enjoyment of koi, or goldfish, in Japan.) You’ve more than delivered on your promise to take us “beyond the guidebook.” We’re also very pleased that you found the dish delicious. Another one to add to our “must try” list, alongside Anthony Windram’s beef tongue.
COMING ON WEDNESDAY: A Random Nomad interview with the cuy-eating Jessie!

5) GERALDINE

Awarded for: “7 Badass Bavarian Foods You Must Try,” in The Everywhereist (personal blog about a trailing spouse’s adventures)
Posted on: 8 May 2012
Choice morsel:

Do you want to eat Bavarian food? OF COURSE YOU DO. It is rich and doughy and filling and is the only thing on the planet that can soak up German beer. Every other fare will simply hide in the corner of your stomach, petrified at the sheer awesomeness of the brew that resides in there with it, and it will never get digested.

In short: if you don’t eat Bavarian food while in Germany, you could die.

Citation: Geraldine, you’re full o’ beans, but we love you for that. Most “10 best foods” posts are about Southeast Asia or, more specifically, Thailand, home of cheap, tasty yet healthy food. But you realized that the market was already satiated for such posts and that it was time to give “badass Bavarian” food — of the kind that puts hairs on one’s chest — more of a chance. Not only that but you persuaded us. Pass the schweinshaxe.

6) & 7) MICHAEL HARLING & TONY HARGIS

Awarded for: “Is America too Sweet or Britain too Bland?” in Pond Parleys (joint blog, now defunct)
Posted on: 13 March 2011
Choice morsel:

Mike: I was surprised, on our recent visit, at how sweet America was: the beer, the bread, the pretzels (sugar-coated pretzels—honest to God) and even, oddly enough, the candy. And if it wasn’t infused with sugar, it was too salty and/or covered in cinnamon. After nearly ten years in UK, I found it all a bit too cloying.
Toni: While I do agree that American food has some strange stuff added to it, I wouldn’t call British food particularly bland. Rather than sweet, there is often a surprisingly savoury taste when you least expect it. While Cumberland sausage can have a peppery bite to it, Americans actually build their sweetness into the sausage, with maple syrup mixed right in.

Citation: Mike and Toni, we know you aren’t publishing Pond Parleys any more, but surely this post goes down in the annals and therefore deserves an Alice. I commented on it at the time it was published, wrote a post about it on TDN, and here I am writing about it again. The pair of you had a genius for pinpointing the kinds of things that routinely throw off American expats in Britain and vice versa, without their even knowing it. In the case of this food post, it turns out that we Yanks, just like the Duchess in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, may be allergic to all that pepper in the sausage! And who would have guessed that the sweets-loving Brits would recoil from our foods for their high sugar content?

* * *

So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, and do you have any other writers/posts to nominate for our next round of Alices? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another Displaced Q focused on food by the anti-foodie Tony James Slater!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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9 responses to “And the Alices go to … these 7 writers for their revealing posts on food and world travel

  1. Expat Mum (Toni Hargis) September 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this great shout out.

  2. thenewamericanlondoner September 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    So true. White bread’s a big one. Why have I never noticed that white bread is so full of sugar that it almost tastes fruity until I was at least 5 years out of the country?

    • ML Awanohara September 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      @thenewamericanlondoner
      It is odd how we become addicted to evil foods (I’m thinking that white bread is in some ways similar to Amanda’s lard-laden mushy peas), and how the only way to break the addiction is to leave the country. Plus I think we have a disadvantage as Americans. Thanks to globalization and American cultural imperialism, you’d have to venture pretty far afield, to one of the earth’s remotest corners, to escape American junk food… :(

  3. Katja September 27, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Thanks so much for this. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s posts.

    To answer your question: you know that episode of Friends where Rachel gets the pages of her cookbook stuck together and puts mince in her trifle? Well, I reckon that would make it better. (Not a lot. But better.)

    My hatred for trifle has a longstanding history, from the first time I tried it on a BA flight to Portugal, aged about 3. Can you imagine how scarring it would be to have as one of your first memories soggy, yet at the same time gritty, custard and violently-coloured gelatine? And yes, I know that’s not a representative example, but believe me I’ve tried trifle in all its shapes and forms over the years. Every time I say I don’t like it, somebody will puff up with pride and tell me that it’s only because I haven’t tried *theirs* yet. As you’ve worked out, I love food so will always at least taste it, but it’s getting harder and harder to deal with their disappointed expressions as I confirm the fact that, whatever they might think, the stuff is really, honestly and truly, just irredeemably *vile*.

    (With immense apologies to all the trifle-lovers out there. It’s nothing personal, honest. ;) )

    • Kate Allison September 27, 2012 at 8:20 am

      I think if your first exposure to a food was from an airline tray, you have every reason to detest it for life. That said, trifle done properly is sublime. Subscribe to the newsletter and one of these days I will put my special family recipe for St. Clements Trifle (oranges and lemons – get it?) in as an Extra. (That was intended as a bribe…!)

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