Thursday, 22 October 2020

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Foreign correspondents’ fondest food memories

Jason Burke The Guardian

Jason Burke in Kajaki, Afghanistan.

Five foreign correspondents tell us about what food they crave when they’re far away, special meals on the road, and homecoming moments around the kitchen table.

Jina Moore, East Africa bureau chief for the The New York Times 

Jina Moore
Jina Moore is currently based in Nairobi, and has reported from over 25 different countries. (Walter Mendez/BuzzFeed)

“I miss so many other silly things. In Rwanda I once spent $9 on rubber cheese in individual plastic (a Ugandan imitation of imitation cheese) and another $7 on butter. All so I could make a real, American melty grilled cheese toasty. But my God, was it good.

“I also miss baked goods, like a real soft, rich cake, and buttercream icing. In 2010, my sister came to visit me for my birthday and she brought half a dozen cupcakes across three continents.

“Ten years in, my food cravings when I’m back home [in the US] are actually bigger than my food cravings for things from home. I miss isombe, which is a dish in Rwanda and Congo of stewed cassava leaves. And I miss the shiro [chickpea stew] at Habesha, the Ethiopian restaurant in Nairobi that is the best Ethiopian restaurant in the world. And I do a lot of sampling”

@ItsJina

Jason Burke, Africa correspondent for The Guardian  

Jason Burke The Guardian
Jason Burke in Kajaki, Afghanistan.

“Most of the time I’m in places which are hot and dusty, or hot and humid. I tend to dream about the exact opposite to a pile of Afghan pulau [rice], or veggies and pap [porridge-like dish made from maize], or bad hotel food. That tends to mean very cold, dry white wine and fresh fish.

“When I’m back in London I always have a pint of bitter and a scotch egg, which may not be very classy, but there you go! At the airport I’ll buy a packet of Liquorice Allsorts.

“My most memorable meals away were those at the Kabul restaurant, which was the only place open under the Taliban. You’d have Arab fighters and Taliban commanders all sitting around vast piles of greasy pulau and kofta kebabs with mooli (white radish) and green tea. Whenever I have kofta kebabs, even in north London, I think of those meals.”

@Burke_Jason

Lindsey Hilsum, international editor for Channel 4 News

Lindsey Hilsum foreign correspondent
Lindsey Hilsum was the only English-speaking correspondent in Rwanda when the genocide started. (Channel 4 News)

“I can’t say that I dream much about food when I’m away, but I do like a good cappuccino. Libya, which was colonised by the Italians, had surprisingly good cappuccinos during the revolution. Sadly, there was little else I could eat other than stale crackers and Laughing Cow cheese.

“Before, during and after the Iraq war, we went to an Italian restaurant called Romeros in Amman, Jordan. The drive from Baghdad to Amman took ten hours and was always a bit dodgy – we once got robbed at gunpoint. Being at Romeros meant we had survived. I didn’t care what I ate, but I did enjoy a glass of red wine.”

@LindseyHilsum

Monica Mark, West Africa correspondent for BuzzFeed News

Monica Mark is based in Dakar, Senegal. She has previously reported from Nigeria and Ivory Coast. (Sarah Stone/BuzzFeed)

“The food I miss most when I’m on the road is suya, a Nigerian street food of roast meat with a delicious spicy seasoning. I find it both comforting and incredibly frustrating to never be able to find suya that’s done quite how it is in Nigeria.

“I also miss chocolate. As anyone knows who has tried the congealed lumps that pass for a pack of Maltesers in West Africa, the heat and humidity means you might as well be eating something completely different.

“Back in the UK my comfort food is a pub Sunday roast and a pint. I’ve never seen a Yorkshire pudding on offer anywhere in West Africa, and I’d be very suspicious of anything claiming to be a British-style sausage!

“For the first few days I’m back I find the choice in shops quite bewildering. But Senegal makes up for the lack of variety with the sheer quality of food. Chicken back in the UK tastes like rubber compared to genuinely farm-fresh Senegalese chicken.”

@Nickswicks

Jude Webber, Mexico and Central America correspondent for The Financial Times

One of Jude’s favourite home comforts,
Rhubarb Crumble (Flickr/Magda)

“It used to be granary bread that I missed. I’ve been out of the UK for 23 years now [having reported from Peru, Rome, Bueno Aires and Madrid, among others]. When you’ve lived abroad for so long you forget about favourite foods from England.

“But every now and again mad things happen. Recently I spotted a packet of Bombay mix at a shop near my sister’s house and realised how much I love that stuff. It usually results in me buying a huge bag and being unable to stop eating until it’s all gone, and then feeling sick. That usually quells the urge for another year.

“Anything cooked by Mum is always brilliant when I get back. I particularly love rhubarb crumble and crumpets. And I always try to make time for a balti.

“I love going to the supermarket and just looking at the food, not necessarily buying it, but just seeing what people in England eat and buy.”

@Jude_Webber