Mahango Crackers and cooking like an expatriate

My mom started a blog not too long ago.  My parents live in Namibia, Africa, where, among other things, my mom has the opportunity to experiment with new ingredients.  Today she wrote about one of those exploits, providing insight not only into what’s available in Namibia, but the thought process a person goes through when cooking in a foreign land where ‘ingredients from home’ don’t exist.

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“What is it?”, asks a Spoon Licker.

“Does it have a name?”, inquires another.

“Um, yes …it’s called What-have-you,” says I, thinking fast.

“Mommy, I mean, is this a real recipe? Or did you just make it up?”

OK. I did make it up, and that’s a real recipe, in my [cook]book. I gave up following a recipe years ago, about the same time I gave up trying to cook American dishes in Mozambique. There was no eureka moment when I suddenly discovered a latent flair for making something tasty out of unlikely combinations of ingredients. Necessity demanded flexibility, sometimes to the extreme; or more like three cups of necessity and one stick of plain orneriness.

Over the years, a fair share of recipes have circulated within the ex-pat (someone living in a country not their own) community that promise “it will taste just like the real American dish”. It rarely does. But, in a determined attempt to reproduce fish tacos that take your taste buds back to San Diego, or Chicken Delight just like Mom used to make, you head off to the imports grocery store. Your wallet better be fat because you’re going to pay well for this. Once there, you buy a particular kind of cheese at a particular kind of price. (They probably don’t have it so you’ll substitute for the closest thing, which you discover doesn’t melt.) You’ll gape at the sticker on the tiny bag of very special pasta, then notice bitsy black dots scurrying around among the morsels. The bag has been on the shelf for months so the weevils made it their home. Then there are the imported condiments, seasoning packets and box mixes that we depend upon, again, for a price. It took one day to realize I couldn’t afford the just-like-home recipes. . .

Go to MaryAnn Slayton’s blog at My Turn to Lick the Spoon for the complete post

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