Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm starting with Austria because Austria was the place I first learned about a cuisine and its cultural influences, and I think my love affair with excellent food really started there. As a bonus, I took a cooking class, so it was easy to choose recipes.

Austria is located in central Europe near Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovakia. It was, of course, the center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, alternately known as the Habsburg or Holy Roman Empire. Consequently, culinary influences come from all over the former empire. Dumplings from Bohemia, sausages from Germany, breaded and fried cutlets from Italy, clear soups from France, and more.

Last night's menu consisted of Wienerschnitzel, Kartoffelkrapfen, green beans mit Speck, and Salzburger Nockerl. In English, that's breaded and fried veal cutlets, fried mashed potato pancakes, green beans with bacon, and a boysenberry-flavored souffle for dessert. Wine was a German Riesling, because I couldn't find an Austrian wine at Shoppers or Trader Joe's yesterday afternoon. I also couldn't find the traditional red currant jam for the schnitzel or nockerl, hence the boysenberry. This would have been a good meal for four people, although there could have been more veal.


For the last few years, whenever people ask me about places I've traveled, the first thing that comes to mind is the food. When I talk about Austria I go into raptures over my host mother's cooking. I went to Istanbul primarily for the doener kebab (and oh, was that a good decision!). I don't want to go to Asia for a while because I think I'm still too picky an eater to fully appreciate it. At the same time, I'm becoming much more adventurous, both in what I'll eat and what I'll cook. It was a big deal for me when I realized that I could go to any restaurant in the DC area and find something I would enjoy on the menu. But I want to take it further - I want to cook a meal from every country in the world.

Goals (and caveats)
1. I want to cook a full meal from every country in the world. At this point, I'm defining countries as UN members.* I do realize that this might be impossible. I may just not be able to find enough recipes to do separate meals for, say, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Kiribati, and Micronesia. There might not be a noticeable difference in cuisine. But I'll do my best.
2. I want to make the recipes as authentic as possible, and in-season. Again, this might be impossible. I may have to tone down the spiciness or I may not have specialized equipment or ingredients.
3. I don't just want to write about recipes. Food is an important part of culture, and I'd like to give it some context in each entry.

Cooking is a lot more fun to do with or for other people. To that end, I'd like to offer three ways to get involved. The easiest way is to send recipes to** If you'd like to eat with me, send me an email! Anyone is welcome*** as long as they're willing to work around my schedule and either do dishes or bring a beverage (preferably related to the country in question). If your family is from a country or you spent time in one and learned some recipes, I'd love to have you guest-blog! In this case, guest-blog means come cook with me and help me write the entry.

*If you can make a strong case for a country that is not a member of the UN, I'll consider it. Plan to provide recipes and possibly guest-blog.
**I may not use your submission, but will give you credit if I do. I'm much less picky than I used to be, but am still not a fan of spicy food or cooked fish/shrimp.
***I live in Old Town Alexandria. If you want to cook or eat with me, you should probably be relatively local. If I haven't met you before, you're absolutely welcome; we just may need to meet up for coffee first.