I had kind of a Wow moment yesterday. I was listening to "The Splendid Table," a public-radio show about food and cooking, something I listen to fairly often. One of the regular features on the program is a segment where somebody calls in and tries to stump the show's host, Lynne Rosetto Kasper. The caller lists five -- presumably abstruse -- ingredients he or she has in his or her refrigerator (don't you just hate all that "his or her/he or she" crap? But we live in an age where elegance is underappreciated), and Ms Rosetto Kasper has to come up with a tasty dish using only those five ingredients, plus salt, pepper, water, and one kind of fat (oil or butter or such).
I don't want to belittle the thesis of the game, but it's not really as difficult as it sounds; usually, I can do it myself. What's difficult is making of this olio a dish that somebody would actually want to eat a second time, and at this level Ms Rosetto Kasper leaves me in the dust.
Anyway, yesterday the caller was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in a small town in Malawi. That's right, Malawi, a smallish country in southeastern Africa, smooshed in between Zambia and Mozambique. Well, naturally, under the circumstances, it wasn't a question of what the woman had in her refrigerator. She had no refrigerator. Instead it was five ingredients she could find in the local village market, and it had to be something that could be cooked over an open fire.
I won't say I found the resulting recipe appealing. It involved throwing in the cheeks of a small anchovy-like fish, for seasoning, and I'm sorry, but I detest small anchovy-like fish sufficiently that I would never make this dish. But that's beside the point.
Still, Ms Rosetto Kasper came up with a stew that, laying aside the fish cheeks, as I would be wont to do, didn't sound all that bad. But that, too, is beside the point.
The point is, I was amazed to learn that we have progressed sufficiently in the technological blitz our lives have become, that Peace Corps Volunteers -- people with almost no money, mind you -- can now pick up their telephone in Malawi and call in to some radio game show in the United States.
This floors me. Last time I checked, my cellphone won't work in Mexico or Europe, and if it did it would cost an arm and half a leg to call home.