I'm going to let you in on a little game that we've become obsessed with at home. We don't have a name for it, we simply just call it "The Countries Game". Not an entirely creative title, but that's just fine by us. To play, we have a bag that is full of little pieces of paper that have random countries on them. Some a little more main stream (France, Italy, Greece, Mexico, and so on) and some a little less familiar (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, to name a few). As often as we have time for, we each draw a new paper from the bag and throughout the week, we have to prepare a dinner, either a starter or dessert and a beverage pairing from that country. So far, we've experienced food from Venezuela, Brazil, Scotland, Switzerland, Greece, Norway and Haiti. We even took the game further by adding random things into the bag as well, such as US regional cuisine (we had Hawaiian), Holidays (like Thanksgiving, 4th of July, etc.) and other themes (we've had take-out Chinese food).
The idea for this game came to us on our honeymoon, actually. We had a stopover in Dublin and, not being able to resist the urge to try something while there (and having a couple of Euros left to blow), we shopped around the terminal, trying as much as we possibly could. Brown Bread crackers, Irish Cheddar cheeses, an order of bangers and mash and a pint of Guinness were all on the list of things we tried and we couldn't help but be inspired by things that are so simple and common to a country, and we can't even really say that we experienced the country itself. Why couldn't we do something like this at home?
Not only has this ongoing game been extremely fun to play, it's also been so great for us, professionally speaking. We've learned a lot of interesting techniques and we've been able to use a lot of what we learn in our everyday cooking for our clients. We have few rules to the game but the dishes have to be prepared somewhat classically, to give us a sense of how things are traditionally made and enjoyed in each given country. Some of our favorites that we've made so far have been Norwegian potato flat bread, Huli huli chicken from Hawaii (which is as fun to say as it is to eat) , Brazilian Feijoada, Chinese take-out scallion pancakes and general tso's chicken and corn cakes from Venezuela. We've also taken to listening to music of that country (thank you, internet) while we eat for the whole experience.
Coming up this week, I have drawn Botswana and will be making food from that part of the world and Richard has drawn Jamaica. (Fingers crossed he makes jerk chicken and beef patties!) The last detail of the game is that once the country is drawn, it is returned to the bag and can be drawn again. That way we have the opportunity to experience even more from that country, holiday or random meal. I'll continue to update you all on how this is going and what we make.