Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States

Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States

by Chris Fair

Chris Fair has dined with soldiers in the Khyber Pass and with prostitutes in Delhi, rummaged for fish in Jaffna, and sipped Taliban tea in Peshawar. Cuisines of the Axis of Evil is a sophisticated, fun, and provocative cookbook with easy-to-follow recipes from both America's traditional enemies in foreign policy—including Iran, Iraq, and North Korea


Chris Fair has dined with soldiers in the Khyber Pass and with prostitutes in Delhi, rummaged for fish in Jaffna, and sipped Taliban tea in Peshawar. Cuisines of the Axis of Evil is a sophisticated, fun, and provocative cookbook with easy-to-follow recipes from both America's traditional enemies in foreign policy—including Iran, Iraq, and North Korea—and friends of the U.S. who are nonetheless irritating by any measure. In addition, each country section includes all the smart, acerbic geopolitical nuggetry you need to talk the talk with the best of them. Recipes include Iranian chicken in a walnut pomegranate stew, Iraqi kibbe, and North Korean spicy cucumber, as well as special teas, mango salads, beverage suggestions, and much more.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Foreign affairs analyst Fair combines current events, history and cookery in this unorthodox book. Provoked by Bush's 2002 State of the Union address and her brothers' call-up by the National Guard, she posits that one way to a more tolerant post-9/11 world might be through the stomach. The author takes on 10 countries: the axis of evil triad of North Korea, Iran and Iraq; global players like Israel and China; alleged thorns-in-freedom's-side like Pakistan, and finally the "Great Satan," the U.S. She compiles "dossiers of perfidy"-a history of each nation's geopolitical sins-followed by culinary "plans of attack." The research and experience backing the dossiers is considerable, if filtered through a shrill, leftist-corrective sensibility. The representative recipes, meanwhile, range from an Iraqi lamb and okra stew ("Be warned: Okra is a finicky flora") to steamed Chinese eggplant and Kashmiri spiced tea. There's even Beer Butt Chicken to represent Uncle Sam. The genuine political and culinary passion don't organically connect; rather it's a crazy salad of dark leftist humor. Whether it's possible to laugh while despairing and cooking (the recent natural disasters particularly skew the tone of the chapters on Burma and China) remains to be seen. (Aug.)

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From the Publisher
"Self-described 'think-tanker chick' Chris Fair has whipped up a creative cookbook concept."—USA Today "I first met Chris Fair years ago in what could have been a staid, dull academic conference on one of the many troubled areas in the world. Ten minutes in the room with her, and I knew academe would never be the same—she can swear like a master sergeant, lifts weights for fun, and keeps pit bulls, to name just a few of her more endearing habits. In Cuisines of the Axis of Evil, Fair combines the culinary mastery of "Iron Chef" with the biting and acerbic wit of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" in a snarky romp through some of the world's most picturesque and problematic hotspots. Imagine Julia Child, John Bolton, and Borat on a desert island, and you have the general tone of this creative, informative, and amusing look at the cuisines and policies of our enemies and our not-quite-friends. This could be the opening salvo by our next Secretary of State."—Timothy Hoyt, academic, musician, and occasional anarchist (US Naval War College) "Chris Fair's treatise on America's enemies—real and imagined—is just the remedy and recipe for a host of foreign policy failures. Especially tasty is her menu to celebrate the ignonimous end of our fifty year showdown with the demon island of Cuba with its dangerous culinary arsenal of sugar, rum, and coffee."—Ann Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential and Without Fidel

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from the Introduction: Leaving aside the obvious intimacy of the dinner setting to lay out any number of social and political positions, food has always been connected to larger political issues. At the most obvious level, autocratic regimes are notorious for their paucity of food security while the bellies of global hegemons bloat with their successes. Culinary habits of countries with imperial or colonial legacies almost always bare the imprint of those pasts. The only decent food worth eating while visiting the United Kingdom can be had from the ubiquitous curry shacks that form edible archipelagos across that island country. In the Netherlands, folks nosh on Indonesian food in vast quantities. The French munch their North African tagines in ample amounts as well as Levantine delicacies, while in Japan the fast ethnic food of choice is Korean. And in the United States, the analogue to all of these is Mexican food. What the preceding examples have in common is the fact that these fast ethnic foods are cheap and undervalued, embodying the past or present political relationship of these countries to that of the diner. Cuisines also yield some insights into the social structure of countries in question. Indian food is time-intensive and requires either a flotilla of servants or daughters-in-law. Women can spend hours of their day slicing and dicing up tiny vegetables, slaving over an open gas burner with little or no ventilation, and, in some cases, cooking up their family victuals over a fire made of desiccated cow dung! And as housewives everywhere hang up their apron for a computer or real estate license, food slopped to their families changes accordingly. Yet despite the obvious centrality of women in food production and preparation, in many parts of the world, men and women are socially barred from eating together. More disturbing, while women do all the heavy lifting and cooking of those meals, in some places those same women are resigned to eat whatever scraps their men folk have left for them. In other words, eating structures power and social relations in ways that most of us have internalized without much thought. Because food is important to me and because my pre-marriage dating list resembled the roll call of the U.N. General Assembly, I've had to abandon relationships with men who were Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu simply because of their eating rules. I eat pork, drink booze, and think vegetarian cuisine is best left for ruminates. I found their eating issues to be bigger hindrances than their various religious commitments, because food—in its preparation and in its consumption—is one of the most fundamental things that we as humans share, and these rules critically create groups who can be included or alternatively excluded in this most primal act. Food also encapsulates differences in social mores between and within cultures. For example, Americans flinch at those Chinese, Vietnamese, and Koreans who eat dog and cat—man’s best and passable friends respectively. Some Hindus in India are disgusted that we love our cow, with whom they share their own spiritual affections. While Americans think of their beloved horses as being akin to big dogs, folks in Central Asia love their horses too—formed into spicy sausages and gracing a fatty pullov. My Chinese colleagues and friends have pointed out how wasteful Americans are when they only eat part of the animal and discard the rest, but they are correct to ask, why is a beef steak delicious but a brazed ox penis is repugnant? Similarly, many Muslim countries are obsessed with various animal parts with alleged properties conferring sexual prowess upon its consumers. For instance, in several places in the Muslim world, it is a delicacy to eat the “egg of lamb,” which, as you may have guessed, is the poor animal’s family jewels. As you stroll through the meat bazaars of the Muslim world, you are greeted by elegant piles of elaborately arranged organ meat, kept glistening by the efforts of the shopkeepers who sprinkle them with water dotingly. Often they are decorated with garlands of chili peppers, sliced tomatoes, and red onions. Pakistanis love their brain curry and their spicy stew of goat head and feet. The latter, sir paya, is particularly disconcerting, with at least one whole goat head staring up at you blankly from the pot. I flee from this dish when I see it, but I have to ask myself why I find these offerings to be vile while I am perfectly happy eating other parts of the goat in curries or as kebobs. Similarly, why do most Americans find the Asian culinary custom of eating cockroaches disgusting when most of them eat shrimp and lobster, which are little more than the cockroaches of the sea? Clearly these value judgments of what is or is not edible reflect cultural values that we rarely think about—until we are confronted with one of these affronting delicacies. Only the foolish would underestimate the social and political importance of food when, in fact, every aspect of what we put into our mouths is burdened with social, political, religious, and even militarized baggage even though most of us remain woefully unaware of the same. It seems to me that cuisine is a perfectly defensible lens through which to look at the countries examined herein and U.S. policies toward the same, and I hope you will agree.

Meet the Author

Chris Fair is a Washington, DC-based analyst of South Asian political and military affairs. She has lived, studied, traveled, worked, and otherwise eaten her way through the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia. She lives bunkered down in an undisclosed location with her beloved spouse who now feels he must wear high-velocity bullet-repellent evening wear.

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