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You Got Your Pens Moving: Food Stories From the Matador Community

Photo + Video + Film
by Teresa Ponikvar Jun 30, 2009
Tarantulas in Cambodia, “Super Burgers” in Colombia. An Australian street morphs into an Indian kitchen, and chili paste produces hallucinogenic dreams. You came up with all this and more for this week’s “get your pen moving” exercise on food and travel.

Thanks to everyone who participated! Here are some excerpts from their work:

“After a few shivers, I chased the tarantula legs down with tarantula “wine”, which ended up being a pretty wicked shot. With an uncomfortable cough, I remembered the jars of tarantula and snake wines that I had seen earlier in the day—rotting insects sitting at the bottom of the jar. This is what travel insurance is for, right?”
—Olivia, Matador ID poweredbytofu

“Aculturalized. Definition: When the sight of mummified pigs’ legs hanging on the wall not only doesn’t make you do a double take, but makes your mouth water. ”
—Troy Mahumko, Matador ID barmadu

“So far it had been a depressing summer. With his wife in Greece, Russ spent all his time at work in Baltimore. In New York, I’d just moved into a dump of a studio apartment, and my girlfriend flew off to California. We were suddenly the lamest bachelors on the Eastern Seaboard, and we couldn’t even meet up for dinner to complain about it.

But with nothing tying me to Manhattan, I hopped a bus south. I’d never seen Baltimore, but I imagined it the perfect place for two old friends to drink beers in dingy pubs and curse the fates. Bertha’s, the Fells Point dive, was our destination.

The door was still closing behind us when the sky opened up.

We took a table in the back and our tattooed waitress slapped down some menus. We didn’t need them and asked for bowls of mussels and a couple beers. The mussels were amazing.

The rain was still slashing the windows, so after our bowls were cleared, I asked for a slice of pecan pie and a bourbon. Russ had a glass too. For the moment we were dry inside the warm bar, with tumblers of whiskey, sitting with each other, not thinking about the rest of the summer.”

—Paul Brady, Matador ID Paul Brady

“I can walk the street and watch the cars pass—browns, reds and golds—and return, for that one colour-tranced second, to crumbling Indian lanes, flanked with bins of cumin, chili, and saffron.

Later—and it happens only every so often—the breeze sends a gift. I return, for one aroma-fused second, to the Channa dinners with my adopted Multani family who saved me. It is as real as ever, as real as anything I have ever owned.”
—Zachary Hope, Matador ID hopey

“….In the mornings I bypass the noodles and go for the steamed buns (contents always a lottery- they could be red bean or chopped bitter greens or sweet pork or anything fathomable and unfathomable) or the curry buns oozing spiced yellow oil or the very odd but yummy fried egg that is wrapped up with something like firm white custard (even the Chinese teacher couldn’t tell me what it was).

I love the vast mysteries of my supermarket. I love huge succulent crunchy wedges of fresh ginger and pungent, fresh heads of garlic, both cheaper than breathing. I love jars of chili paste that create hallucinogenic dreams. Shanghai makes me hungry.”
—MaryAnne Oxendale, Matador ID koangirl

“For a day and a half I stare at plates of Penne all’ Arrabbiata, pizza bianca, bruschetta, even fruit— unable to eat. We sit, my son and I on the Piazza Campo dei’ Fiora, the remnants from the daily market still scattered upon the piazza—in front of us a platter of buffalo mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Provolone and fresh ricotta with fresh grilled bread and olive oil—I only look at it. Unable to eat cheese! Incredible! Unthinkable! Cheese, my very own “I wish I could quit you” relationship….”
—Coreen Haydock Johnson, Matador ID corrand

“I got serious about wine around my 21st birthday, or if I’m being honest, a year or two before the date which made me a legal consumer of alcohol in the United States. I loved everything about it. I would have worn Viognier as perfume had it been socially acceptable to rub wine on one’s neck.”
—Marissa Barker, Matador ID MarissaRose84

“For my last dinner in Calarca, a city in Western Colombia, my host, Juan Ramos,
introduced me to the Super Burger.

The burger, from top to bottom consisted of:

• the top half of a sesame seed bun,
• lettuce,
• a smattering of crumbled potato chips,
• ketchup,
• ham,
• pineapple sauce,
• a beef patty,
• discs of tomatoes,
• discs of cucumber,
• tartar sauce,
• a sloppy infusion of a chimerical sauce known as ´pink´ (a combination of mayo and ketchup),
• a second beef patty,
• a second layer of lettuce,
• and the bottom half of a sesame seed bun.

We finished within seven minutes. The speedy intake of the burger blurred my vision,
momentarily; too many calories. Did Juan desire a second? His brow furrowed with
surety when I asked; ‘Heeell no,’ he replied.”
—Aaron King, Matador ID Aar1on2

“Local lore [in New Orleans] suggests that since Monday was traditionally laundry day, it was a good day for cooking red beans. The dried beans could simmer unattended during the day with the clothes were being washed. Personally, I think the dish makes great week-end recovery food: creamy, smoky, spicy, satisfying. It’s like a slightly inappropriate hug.”
—Stacy C, Matador ID kefuoe

“The taxi driver was holding something.

He’d claimed to be waiting for a fare, and I’d been about to walk away and try to find another taxi home, when I saw the way an orange-shirted security guard was leaning in the driver’s side window, looking at something.

It was an iguana. A big one, too, no less than a foot long from head to tail. It had beautiful, unblinking yellow eyes and greenish yellow skin with black spots all over like freckles. They are an endangered species in Honduras, but still a common sight in Roatan, one of the Bay Islands off the mainland. The man in the passenger seat was holding him by the neck, while the taxi driver picked bits off debris off a broken, lifeless foot.

‘What happened to him?’ I asked in Spanish.

‘Got hit by a car. The policia gave him to us,’ the driver said, referring to the security guard, who was already walking away.

‘He’s beautiful.’

‘He’s dying,’ his friend in the passenger seat said, demonstrating this fact by moving the iguana’s head, which lolled lifelessly, as if the neck had been broken.

‘What are you going to do with him?’

The taxi driver laughed. ‘We are going to eat him. It is delicious. El otro pollo.’ The other chicken. ‘Some people, they hunt them and kill them, but this one is already dead, see?’

He waved the broken foot.

I nodded.

‘I don’t think my fare is coming. I can take you now.’”

—Amalia Foster, Matador ID afoster

“Eating is for home. Meals are built into my routine life, even acting sometimes as the entertainment and escape of the day. Travel equals no routine. On the road, food stands last in the line of importance.”

—Sabina Lohr, Matador ID travellohr

“If you are driving through Madagascar, you don’t even have to leave the road. While passing through towns, locals will bring hard-boiled eggs, bbq chicken, and even bottles of soda right up to your car window. ”
—Maureen Maloney, Matador ID Maureen Maloney

“In broken English, my teammate asked me if I’d ever tried daktdoritang before. I shook my head, and the conversation (in Korean, of course) perked up to include all 12 Koreans at the table.

Daktdoritang is a spicy chicken stew – a very spicy chicken stew made with lots of red pepper – and each one of them seemed to take pride in how much they could eat without drinking any water. Apparently, the preferred beverage to accompany this dish was soju, a distilled drink that tastes like vodka….

It took almost three days to feel my tongue again, but a bit longer than that to live down the bright red cheeks.”
—Chris Backe, Matador ID chrisinseoul

Community Connection

Liked what you read here? Follow the links to the participants’ Matador community pages—and don’t hesitate to leave comments!

Look for a new prompt at the Traveler’s Notebook next Monday!

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