Mark Rinaldi is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature, Human Resources maven and food aficionado. He enjoys hot pepper and cold beer.
**To be clear: The pace of this project is and will be unstable – I am not a kept man or a bored househusband, and I am balancing this labor of love with working a full-time job and (somehow) producing a doctoral dissertation on Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and theoretical physics. I will not rush myself to meet some unreal deadline – if any particular entry requires weeks of planning and work, then so be it. My end results will be better researched and more accurate for it.
My goal, above all else, is to present a snippet of the cuisines of the world as they are, in as sensitive a context as possible – no substitutions and no bullshit. I am doing this in probably the only place that anyone ever could – New York City. My efforts will hopefully contribute to the collective construction of bulwarks against the homogenization of traditional food cultures.
This blog is, foremost, a reaction to what I have perceived to be a general lack of effort in the re-creation of worldwide cuisine by Western home cooks. Innumerable blogs, both current and in ruins, have halfheartedly flirted with introducing the varied cuisines of our planet to others – and though this be a noble cause, authentic, researched and brave cooking a noble cause alone makes not. Half of the fun of cooking, for me, lies in its archeology – unearthing arcana, procuring necessities, and then sitting back and enjoying a job well done. And often a hearty, garlic-scented belch.
You may say what you will about the dubious concept of “authenticity” in the modern world – and I will defend to the death your right to say it – but I believe that there are indeed steps that can be taken to preserve culinary traditions. I, for one, refuse to be content with the Baudrillardian simulacra of a tortilla española, a hyperreal gado-gado, or the pseudo-individualized frankfurter of the Frankfurt School. I will not live in a world where “food” one day risks becoming a flavorless grey paste, taken from a tube. Not on my watch.
1) I will cook a meal from every single recognized country in the world, moving alphabetically so as not to avoid the more difficult cuisines. (A “meal” shall heretofore be defined as “more than one dish”).
2) I will choose which dishes to cook based on my ability to procure authentic, traditional ingredients (either in person or through mail-order). If I can’t find it, I won’t make it. NO substitutions.
4) I will publicly document my research to the best of my ability.
5) I will not bail on this challenge, as so many have before me.
Here is the official list of countries:
Ingredients that have eluded me (to date):
- African Waterleaf (frozen or dried)
- Flying Fish
- Yak Cheese/Yak Butter
- Pickled Binjai (Malaysian mango)
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