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VOL. 45 | NO. 21 | Friday, May 21, 2021

Around the world in eating daze with Gigamunch

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The question to my wife has become part of the weekly routine: Where are we going next Monday night?

The answer, most recently, was the Philippines. Previous answers have included Brazil, South Africa, Laos and Nepal. Next week it will be Persia, the week after that, Ethiopia.

We’re not actually going to any of those countries, of course. The pandemic has pretty much put the kibosh on foreign travel. (Nor is Persia, strictly speaking, a country anymore. It’s been known as Iran since 1935.)

But our taste buds are taking virtual journeys, via a meal delivery company called Gigamunch.

“Discover the world from your dinner table,” its webpage invites. “Designed by local immigrants in Nashville to provide you with an experience of their country and their culture.”

We have a bit of a history with this sort of thing. While living in New York, we decided to eat our way around the world alphabetically, taking advantage of the extensive variety of restaurants offered in the big city and environs.

We started with Argentine, a very cow-centric cuisine, then moved on to Burmese, a sort of culinary mix between Indian and Thai that remained my favorite. And yes, the country is now called Burma, but our search often required some creativity.

Not all meals took place close to home. On a trip to Vancouver, Canada, we knocked off L and M with Lebanon and Morocco. Not a lot of difference in the food, as far as we could tell. And, as it turned out, we had the same belly dancer in both restaurants.

Sticking to our global agenda at times required playing a bit fast and loose with the rules, especially toward the end of the alphabet. Our O became Oriental, I’m a bit embarrassed to say (which, practically speaking, meant Chinese.)

Perhaps the biggest cheat was for X. Since Xanadu exists only in Coleridge’s poetry, Citizen Kane’s estate and Olivia Newton-John’s music, I decided on an eX-Country: Czechoslovakia.

Gigamunch promises a broader experience than our alphabetical tour, in that it encourages an exploration beyond just the food on the plate. Each meal comes with a bit of information about the country featured, a short bio of the local immigrant who inspired the meal, some language tips and links to listen to indigenous music.

In recent weeks, for example, we have learned that there are “over 60 tribal groups in Laos, making it an incredibly ethnically diverse country.” Also, that Lake Retba in Senegal is “famous for its naturally pink waters caused by a special type of algae.”

And that Nepalese music can be every bit as unappealing as some of this country’s.

In a Tennessean article a few years back, one of the Gigamunch founders, Enis Cirak, who came to this country with his family as a child from Bosnia, said that sort of education is one of the company’s aims.

“That really is the core of what we’re trying to do,” he said, “not just give people these exciting experiences, but also to widen their horizon, make them more open-minded, make them more engaged with the global situation.”

Kayne and I aren’t especially adventurous eaters: The late Anthony Bourdain’s worldwide explorations of internal-organ-and-entrails-based foods – known as “offal” – have not tempted us. Offal, I contend, is awful.

Fortunately, none of that has been on offer. Meats lean to standard cow and chicken (with vegetarian options available) and there’s been no violation of my hard-and-fast rule: no tentacles.

Of course, we usually have no way of comparing the offerings to what might be available to those actually on the scene. For instance, the beef ceebu yapp from Senegal:

“This hearty main dish combines tender chunks of smoky beef, bits of fresh summer vegetables and seasoned rice,” our info told us. “This is a variation on Senegal’s national dish, ceebu djeun.”

Was it a variation that a diner in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, might easily recognize? At the risk of sounding ignorant and apathetic, we don’t know and we don’t care. Our food judgments tend to be binary: Is it good or not good?

It was good.

Granted, there is a broad range between the two descriptions. And we like some offerings better than others. The Cuban meal was surprisingly bland. South African and Brazilian were quite tasty indeed.

It all lands on our front porch around noon: No ordering, no decision-making, no tip. There are other meal delivery services available. This one has brought some adventure into bland pandemic Mondays.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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