Due to a miscommunication with Albanian-owned pizza restaurant owner who has agreed to make us a custom Albanian dinner, we had to postpone Albania until next week. Algeria is also in the works. Being the flexible, yet committed, gastronomers* that we are we decided upon a pick-up-potluck this week to knock out three countries that we’re pretty sure there is no restaurant for in the U.S. (at least within reach): Andorra, Angola & Antigua and Barbuda.
I have actually been to Andorra, since it is a teeny, tiny nation in between Spain and France and was part of my mission. Yes, there are Mormons in Europe… even some in Andorra.
I vaguely remember it being a tiny mountainous place, kind of like visiting Park City, Utah, but Park City being it’s own sovereign State (so, basically Park City’s dream-come-true). Andorra is so small… it’s area is 180.55 sq mi, about 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C., or about half the size of New York City.
The official language is Catalan, which is what they speak in Catalunya, the northeast part of Spain, including Barcelona. I tried for about 48 hours to learn Catalan while I was living in Spain, but then realized I didn’t even speak Spanish properly & I should focus on that. Catalan is not “just like Spanish” as some people might assume. It is a totally separate romance language and has a very different and complex grammar structure and many different sounds. For example, Catalan uses the letter X to make an “sh” sounds.
For the Andorran dishes we had:
Trinxat, a cabbage, potato and (faux) bacon cake. Trinxat, in Catalan, means chopped or shredded and was traditionally eaten in the mountains in winter to keep the cold out.
Paella, a rice (and in our case vegetable) dish. Paella is a Catalan word which derives from the Old French word paelle for pan. This paella recipe was one of the best vegetarian versions I’ve ever had. We even managed to get the nice brown socarrat my mother taught us about, which is the delicious crunchy brown crust on the bottom of the dish. Socarrat is a classic Catalan-sounding word. The garlic in the middle was so scrumptious!
Angola is an African nation on the Southwest coast.
Since I am horrible with geography (I use the excuse that I am American and we do not emphasize world geography in our public education system) I will point out what might be obvious to some readers: Angola is bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city.
The official language of Angola is…
Did you guess that correctly?
Portugal has been present in Angola for 400 years. Angola was a Portuguese colony until 1975. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002. The country has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, perhaps one of the richest African nations, but, its level of human development is low, and its life expectancy and infant mortality rates are both among the worst-ranked in the world. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but as we think of Angolan food we remember that over half of the Angolan population is unemployed, and it is estimated that over 50 percent of the people live below the poverty line. Hunger and malnutrition are real threats for many Angolans. Click here if you want to learn about sponsoring a child in Angola.
For the Angolan dishes we had:
My Mom’s vegetarian version of West African Peanut Soup. So hearty & delicious!
AND a surprisingly delightful dish Salada Limão (Angolan Lemon Salad) with fennel. We found this recipe on an amazing woman’s blog called Travel By Stove. She has decided to make dishes from every country in the world and will be a great resource for those harder-to-reach countries. We had a vegan on board, so we skipped the Parmesan in our version.
Antigua and Barbuda is not the same as Barbados, both are in the Caribbean sea but, Barbados is farther South!
This country is made up of two islands, Antigua and a smaller island 26 miles north called Barbuda.
The official language is English, but the local language is Antiguan Creole, an English-based creole language spoken in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda gained independence from the United Kingdom in my lifetime, November 1, 1981. Antigua has a population of 85,632, mostly made up of people of West African, British, and Portuguese descent.
The people of Antigua & Barbuda enjoy a more-than-90% literacy rate. A priority in Antigua and Barbuda is healthcare. The island of Antigua currently has two medical schools, the American University of Antigua, and The University of Health Sciences Antigua.
For the dishes from Antigua and Barbuda we had:
Red beans and rice Caribbean style, Fried Plantains and a Mango Chutney prepared by my glorious Clinic partner, Mina.
Here we are preparing our meal and laughing about just how ridiculous this three-country combination is.
We also took a stab an Antiguan dessert called Ducuna made with yams. They were quite tasty, but we didn’t really get the boiling down, and they were a bit mushy. Here is a picture of what they are supposed to look like:
In our haste to enjoy this random smorgasbord, we neglected to get any group photos, but here’s part of the crew enjoying the heck out of our taste speed-dating meal. As you can see, Neil was quite outnumbered as the only male at the potluck. The only time he wavered was when we settled into some nice girl-talk after the meal. He needed his laptop to survive that conversation.
Next week we’re on to an authentic Albanian meal made by authentic Albanians!
* Yes, we know that the proper word is gastronomes, but, our preference just sounds so much better like… astronomers.