“Can You Pour Bourbon on My Doughnut?”

Doughnuts in Louisville

Two things had to happen once I decided to move to Louisville: I had to try bourbon and I had to try fried chicken. I did not expect to have both on a doughnut.

At 10:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the sign in the window of the yellow-and-pink brick building of Hi-Five Doughnuts on Main Street reads: Come & Get It. Once you walk past the pink door with images of sprinkles painted on it, the racks behind the glass window at the cashier have a spread of caramel apple doughnuts as well as beer-glazed doughnuts with mini chocolate chips and pretzels.

The wait was 15 minutes, but I knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in—the KY Fried Buttermilk … Read the rest

There Are No Polite Canadians When it Comes to Grape-Stomping Glory

Wine in Oliver, B.C.

As the grapes squish between my toes, I feel two things: slightly cold and very sticky. But mostly, I’m worried about the clock.

This is not exactly old-school winemaking, in which stompers tread slowly and carefully to avoid crushing the seeds, which can ruin the taste of the finished wine. It’s more like an episode of I Love Lucy.

I’m well past my ankles in a barrel of grapes, to be sure, but not at a winery. I’m on an outdoor stage in Oliver, Canada, with an orange feather boa wrapped around my neck as I stomp for glory, racing against time. The challenge? To coax as much juice from these grapes as possible in five raucous minutes, alternating with two … Read the rest

The Life and Legend of India’s Bandit Queen

On a chill February day in 1983, a 20-year-old young woman known as Phoolan Devi—literally, Flower Goddess—walked out of the forested ravines of the Chambal River valley and handed over her gun. She bowed to images of Gandhi and the goddess Durga and surrendered herself to the Chief Minister and Chief of Police of Madhya Pradesh state in central India. The cheering crowd of 8,000 people gathered that day—journalists; politicians; some 300 cops; and others from across the dry, impoverished center of the world’s largest democracy—knew Phoolan Devi as a hero, a bandit, a murderess, and a goddess long before they saw her in the flesh. Phoolan Devi, India’s celebrated Bandit Queen, was not a woman, but a legend.

Born to a low-caste household in … Read the rest

Is This the Syrup We’ve Been Waiting For?

Hickory syrup in Indiana

My drive to work in Indiana is mostly flat, mostly corn and soybeans, mostly uninterrupted. So when one of my co-workers mentions she’s made a locally foraged syrup, similar to maple but different, using the local hickory trees, I’m ready for it: I’m ready for change.

The bottle she gives me is lighter in color than most maple syrup; she explains that rather than tapping trees and letting sap drip out, foragers in Indiana collect naturally shed shagbark from hickory trees and steep it in a simple syrup—the sweetness comes from regular table sugar, but the thick, smoky, tree flavor comes from the hickory bark.

The syrup begins as fallen bark, which needs to be scrubbed to remove external dirt and growing … Read the rest

There’s Always Something to Do If You’re Not Averse to Day Drinking

New Zealand Pale Ale in Moscow

Heavy, almost tropical late summer rain forced us to abandon our plans of meandering around Gorky Park. Still peaky from last night’s intake of Russian imperial stout, I feigned disappointment. It was my second-to-last day in Moscow, and as a first-time visitor, I had failed. Kremlin line—too long. Ostankino—turned away by grumbling guards for arriving late. Red Square—fenced off and full of scaffolding ahead of a military festival.

Antipodeans aren’t averse to day drinking. I needed only a gentle nudge from my friend Nikita to get us out of the downpour and into Vanya Nalyot, a craft beer bar hidden in the city’s former Red October compound. Now a red-brick maze of bars and galleries, the factory once churned out … Read the rest

The Laksa Origin Debate, Borneo Edition

Laksa in Sarawak

I had done a bit of research about Sarawak laksa before arriving. Not that I was any the wiser. Depending on who you believe, the most authentic pastes have 20, 30, 36 or even more components, among them garlic and lemongrass, as well as various spices.

It’s often said the first laksa vendor in Sarawak—a Malaysian state on the northwest coast of Borneo—was a Cantonese man who moved to Kuching from Indonesia at the end of World War II. He gave or sold his recipe to a Cantonese lady, who may or may not have passed it to a Mr. Tan who, in the 1960s, made a fortune selling factory-made “Swallow” brand laksa paste. None of these creation myths mention the other forms … Read the rest

How to Make Curdled Milk on Toast Sound Appetizing

Urum in Mongolia

It’s my fifth morning in Mongolia, and I silently welcome a respite from meat.
I’m sitting on a low stool at a table in a nomadic family’s kitchen tent in the arid Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Yurts—or gers—dot the wide, dusty valley every kilometer or so, and hundreds of goats and sheep rip short grasses and shrubs from the earth.

I think back on my first few meals. There were the large mutton-filled patties called khuushuur, and the platter of tender goat intestines piled high, and then the rich minced beef dumplings. And the night before, a stew of goat, carrot, onions, and potatoes simmering on a pressure cooker over the fire. The father made me back 20 paces away when he … Read the rest

Finding the Perfect Cocktail and the Perfect Retirement Goals in One Day

A cocktail in Nice

I first spotted the curious restaurant while walking with my mom along the waterfront just north of Nice, France. Perched on a tiny rock pillar out in the sea, it was impossible to miss. But it was not a day for lingering, so we walked on, climbed up onto Mont Boron and then back down to the neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, striding past hillside homes and kitchen gardens, where chickens lounge away their days under the shade of olive and citrus trees.

I fell in love with those chickens, those homes, those trees. I snapped a selfie with a chicken over my shoulder and sent it to home to my husband saying I’d found my retirement plan, wink, wink.

A year later, … Read the rest

A Dispatch from a Dying Island Where Cookies Are Made to Last

Buranei on Burano

It’s morning on Burano, and the sound of a spinning washing machine woke me. Mornings here are made for cleaning; washing clothes, sweeping the front step, mopping the floor; the sound of metal drying racks being opened in the courtyards.

I stepped out of the front door into the sun. I needed to get going before the vaporettos full of tourists started their assault. On my way to the bakery, there was the scent of laundry soap in the street. Houses here are in every shade of the rainbow: pink, blue, green, red, orange, yellow, purple. Front doors are covered in cloth that lets in the breeze and keeps out prying eyes.

Burano is a village trapped on an island, and it has … Read the rest