A Literary Feast

Posts by Megan Friedel

Mahango and Mutete

Posted on August 19th, 2013

Dust, red and yellow and all shades of tan. Heat, outside the windows of the car. We have been driving for a long time, on an unwavering road through an unbroken vista of thorn trees, warthogs dodging across the tarmac, a lone gemsbok watching us with doleful eyes from the bush. The sky is huge and blue and unending. This is Africa, this is Namibia, the land fenced and quartered but still open, still empty. At a crossroads, we turn past a petrol station and suddenly are in the thick of Rundu on payday, the streets teeming with people buying, selling, walking to buy or sell, or standing in the long line at the ATM in order to do either. It is noon, and…

A Culinary Childhood in Three Verses

Posted on July 16th, 2013

I am small. The record player is large, and so are the records. On the cover of this one: a fat man at a table, his red beard as big as the teacup he holds, sipping his tea while an orange sun sets on the road behind him. The song is short and begins, “Bring tea for the tiller man, steak for the sun, wine for the woman who makes the rain come…” The tea, I know for certain, must be the orange pekoe that my dad drinks. The steak is medium-rare, the only way to eat steak, though I wonder how the sun avoids burning it well done. It’s the wine I’m unsure of, because wine is for parents and aunts and uncles…

The End of Meals: A Meditation on Eating at the Edge of the Mayan Apocalypse

Posted on January 3rd, 2013

Once, in Spokane, I ate the best snails of my life. The waiter said they were fresh, and I looked at him for a long moment and thought, “Fresh from where?” and then ate them all anyway, soaked in butter and garlic and a little white wine. Another time, my brother and I sat in the innards of a subterranean sculpture on the grounds of an art museum, a round kiva-like space with one oblong hole to the sky, and ate durian together. Some children entered and gathered round the durian, touching its spines and asking for a taste. So we fed them durian pods while their parents looked on, its rotten egg-custard smell making everyone laugh.   Or what about when, on a…

Lovely Day for A Guinness

Posted on October 22nd, 2012

You never forget your first Guinness. How can you? Brown so deep it might be red, like looking into a bottomless pond where you worry about what’s swimming beneath your toes. A head of foam, thick and perfect as an ice cream float, that you puzzle over at first, wondering if you need to scoop it off with a spoon in order to reach the drink underneath. A true Guinness pint glass has the curve of a woman’s hips, and you hold it, cool and solid in your hands, and you think, “Now this, my friends, this is a real beer.” And you are afraid.   I drank my first Guinness in the most appropriate way possible: seated in a seedy pub on the…

Stone Avenue

Posted on September 17th, 2012

Boston, a decade ago. Dark, cold nights wandering the streets of Somerville, getting drunk on Guinness and scotch, trying to one-up each other to find the dankest, divey-est bar where one of us will win the party. Inevitably, though, we end up back in the boys’ kitchen in Union Square, yellow cans of Café Bustelo along the walls. We play records loud, talk louder, and never stop cooking. Classic Tina and Ike goes with beer-can chicken, “Pet Sounds” with coconut curry, early Springsteen with spinach dumplings from the hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant in Winter Hill, where you can see the old ladies making them in the back through an open door, standing at a long table, pinching dough between their fingers. I eat kalamata olives…

Silver Spoons: Remembering A Well-Set Table

Posted on August 16th, 2012

I learned how to eat at my grandmother’s house. “How” being the key word, not “what” – because by the time I came along, second to last in a long line of grandchildren, my grandmother, once a respectable 1940s-era cook of roasts, mint jellies, and the perfect fudge, had diabetes, little sense of taste, and even less of a sense of adventure in the kitchen. Sunday brunches were always cinnamon rolls as hard as hockey pucks and slices of bacon that tasted like ashes. At least one dinner a week consisted of a gray roast beef sawed right at the table (an experience that very possibly contributed to my later decades of vegetarianism), and salads were limp lettuce bathed liberally in oil and vinegar,…

A Tongan Feast

Posted on June 25th, 2012

Ano Beach, Tonga, an August night after the millennium. Our sailboat is anchored next to one belonging to a sailor who laughs out loud to himself and sings at the stars. I feel similarly wild and happy, barefooted and naked under my dress, the salt breeze tangling my hair as the dinghy rides over the waves. Every slap of the boat against the ocean bottoms my stomach out again and again, an ache that borders on hunger for this night to never end. On the beach under the palms: a Tongan feast. We slip our feet into the shallows, pull the boat up under the trees. Here is a sailor from San Diego with his German crew and a Norwegian family of four, halfway…

How To Pound A Moose

Posted on April 19th, 2012

With a hammer – that’s how you pound a moose. On the kitchen counter, on your bamboo cutting board that has heretofore never brushed its fine grains against red-blooded flank. A dead moose, to be precise, one that was butchered in your suburban cul-de-sac on a cool July afternoon on the back of your neighbor’s flatbed trailer. Sliced into thick steaks that went into another neighbor’s industrial freezer, packed in tight with two years’ worth of salmon and halibut. Then pulled out on a bitterly cold night six months later by the same neighbor as you sit in their driveway in front of a fire built in a sawed-off oil barrel, nursing a can of beer in your mittens, the moose steak pressed into…

Thank You, Bobby Greenfield: A Love Affair With Carrot Cake

Posted on May 2nd, 2011

Nuts of all varieties. Raisins. Butter-cream frosting in the shape of carrots or bunny rabbits. Butter-cream frosting in general. Too much sugar, too few carrots. Layers. Cream fillings. White cake. These are all things that have no place in carrot cake. And I should know, because I can say with a confidence I reserve only for food that is tears-in-my-eyes, clutch-my-heart, knee-shakingly good, that I am in possession of the world’s most perfect carrot cake recipe.