April 29, 2020
I am thrilled to present to you the Dear Mr. Hemingway Guest Writers~Foodie Edition series. For the next eight Wednesdays, I will be bringing you the best of the best lovers of food. Cookbook authors, writers, food bloggers, photographers, food stylists, and business owners from all around will be writing to Mr. H. about their love of cooking and their favorite cookbook. The series kicks off today with none other than Melissa Joulwan, an American living in Prague. I first came across Melissa many years ago when she lived in Vermont. Her blog at the time, The Clothes Make the Girl (now called Well Fed: Ingredients For a Healthy Life) was my go-to for recipes, book recommendations, and healthy lifestyle tips. Melissa is the author of three delicious cookbooks… Well Fed, Well Fed 2, and Well Fed Weeknights. She was also a guest on the What Should I Read Next Podcast (episode 60 & 219). She is a paleo goddess who loves Jane Eyre, the band Social Distortion and her quintessential stompy black boots. In addition to recipe development, Melissa combined her love of food, reading, and traveling and created the Website & Podcast, Strong Sense of Place with her husband Dave. Fabulous books paired with literary travel…..winning combination. I hope you enjoy what Melissa has to say to Mr. Hemingway today. I am so delighted with her letter!
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
P.S. Did you know that Melissa is a retired Rollergirl 😮😮😮?? In 2001 she helped form the Texas Rollergirls, the original Flat Track Roller Derby that started in Austin and spread around the world. She appeared on Good Morning America and The Today Show AND wrote the book, Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From the Track (Simon & Schuster).
P.P.S. Check out my go-to Chocolate Chili Recipe from Melissa. It is a slam dunk with my family.
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
I’ve spent the past few days with my imagination immersed in Cuba, doing research for my latest project. I’ve been listening to salsa and mambo and timba and daydreaming about eating fried yuca — perhaps on a sun-dappled balcony — with a cool mojito alongside. I know Cuba was a special place for you, and I can understand why. Bright colors are everywhere, and the air is touched by a soft tropical breeze. The people are friendly, and the rhythm of music pulses in the streets; it’s the stuff of fantasy escape.
When I can’t travel in real life, I love that there are two things I can do that will transport me to another place, at least in my imagination: I can read a great book set in my dream destination, and I can eat the favorite foods of the locals. Stories and cuisine from around the world give us a taste of what it’s like to be there. There are so many places I’ve yet to visit that somehow fill my heart with homesickness — I crave foods I’ve yet to try and connections with people I’ve yet to meet.
And that’s why I have such affection for the book Bought, Borrowed & Stolen. Irish chef Allegra McEvedy traveled the world for more than 20 years. At each of her stops — from Cuba to China, Lebanon to Japan, South Africa, Italy, France, Mexico, San Francisco, and more — she ate. And ate and ate. Street food and fancy meals and home-cooked dinners. Through it all, she scribbled notes and tucked postcards into her journals. And along with the recipes and taste memories, she collected knives — more than 100 of them — each with its own story to tell.
Allegra is a thorough tour guide, and as she tells us the tales of her knives and where she acquired them, we travel the world with her, seeing it from the perspective of the food and the people who cooked it. Yes, there are recipes: for Greek shepherd’s salad and Persian lamb kebabs and an all-American brunch hash and a slinky bowl of curry noodles and dozens more. But beyond that, there are tales of adventure and the intimate connections that are made between people — human to human — across a table of food. It’s all a reminder that the world is both more vast and amazing and much smaller than we realize.
And that is the great gift of good books and good food. They take us to far-flung places that are unfamiliar but somehow feel like home.
Cheers and bon appétit, Mr. Hemingway,
P.S. If you, too, would like to travel the world through food, right where you are, in your comfy kitchen, all of my cookbooks are filled with international recipes and there are more than 500 recipes on my website Well Fed: Ingredients For A Happy Life, including one for Yuca Fries.
For armchair travel around the world — books, food, music, literary landmarks, and more — I invite you to listen to my Strong Sense of Place Podcast. Our latest episode is all about Cuba, so that might be a good place for you to start. (Although I’m partial to the Prague Episode because that’s my adopted home.)