Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alice Waters Can Bite Me

I haven't been nearly as excited about food and cooking since I moved to Conakry. Maybe this is because I've been working more so I haven't had as much time to cook. Maybe it's because the good grocery store is an hour away. Maybe it's because all of my favorite recipes seem to contain at least one ingredient that's simply unavailable here. Maybe it's because my shiny new 220V stand mixer tried to electrocute me last weekend. In any case, I took the opportunity afforded by a rainy internetless Saturday to reacquaint myself with my cookbook collection in the hopes of reigniting the Joy of Cooking. Figuratively.

The first one I picked up was Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. I figured a back-to-basics approach might be a good way to cope with my new culinary terrain. This turned out to be a mistake. Surveying the anemic zucchini currently occupying my crisper drawer I was in no mood to be subjected to Alice waxing rhapsodic on the amazing produce available at her farmers' market in California or to be chided for attempting to cook with ultra-pasturized milk. Yes Alice, I know it "performs poorly in the kitchen" but it's all I've got, so lay off.

I was more heartened by a perusal of More Spies, Black Ties, and Mango Pies, a CIA family cookbook I picked up on my trip out to Langley last year. Many of the recipes would be easier to make in Southeast Asia or a former Soviet country than West Africa (go figure), but it was comforting to get stories from other people who were also trying to feed themselves in an alien environment, even if it does occasionally involve canned cream of mushroom soup. The salad section even contains a handy formula for oral rehydration solution, just in case. This is a little more my speed.


  1. Hey, sorry to hear that your mixer is trying to kill you. I'm having a similar problem with the chandelier above the dining room table. Every couple of weeks it emits a loud pop and all of the light bulbs blow out simultaneously. I now eat in a darkened dining room, but I turn on the living room lights extra bright which gives me ambient lighting in the dining room. So far, the living room lights are playing it cool. Hopefully, the rest of your kitchen appliances aren't in on the conspiracy and your cooking adventures will improve. BTW, crazy jealous over your cookbook. Cheers! (careerdiplomat - my internet connection in Singapore won't let me post comments under my google account - might be in cahoots with the chandelier).

  2. My fan electrocuted me the other day... learned what it feels like to stick your sweaty finger into the electricity socket after 21 years of having avoided it. I'm glad im not the only one who struggles cooking abroad... though I had seriously less cooking energy in the familiar environment to begin with. Much love and best of luck getting your culinary groove back.

  3. Oral Rehydration Solution? What's the recipe?

    2 c. H
    1 c. O

    Makes 3 cups?

  4. Oral Rehydration Solution:
    1 quart or liter of water
    2 tbsps sugar
    1 tsp salt
    Stir all ingredients together and drink as needed.

  5. Try and get your hands on a Peace Corps recipe book. I haven't heard of a PC country that doesn't, and they are tailored to your particular environment (without the expectations of refrigeration or cheese within an hours drive) Most PCVs say its the only manual they ever open... not that I'm one of them. Mine (a PC east Africa country) has recipes for everything from homemade peanut sauce and orange sesame "chicken" to rat poison and dog biscuits. I will be taking it with me when I leave