The Globavore Interviews: Naomi Kaye Honova

My next Globavore Interview is with writer Naomi Kaye Honova. She recommends lots of delicious eats, including food from Iran and Afghanistan. which are high on my list to try, and lists some San Francisco area restaurants to check out if you’re in the Bay Area.

 

  1. Who are you and how does food play into your travels? I’m Naomi Kaye Honova, an American gal living with my Czech husband in Munich, Germany. I work at an elementary school and have always loved to write, whether it’s stories, ad copy or nonfiction essays. I’ve also always been a self-described foodie — I was a picky childhood eater but I like to pretend that it’s because I was always a secret gourmet. One of my hobbies has always been discovering new foods and cuisines. When I travel, I am always curious about the local food and try to experience as much of the native cuisine as possible. I feel like it’s a nice little circle — the food enriches my travel, the travel brings me to the food.

  1. You’re at your favourite eatery with three companions (fictional, living or dead).  Where (and when!) are you, and who are you with? In the present day at Ambrosia Garden, a Taiwanese restaurant in Albany, California that unfortunately no longer exists. I’d be with my husband, Jessica Mitford, and Benjamin Franklin.

  1. What are your favourite foods? It’s a long list but here are some highlights: cheese blintzes, paper dosas with coconut chutney, American grilled cheese sandwiches, pad Thai (such a comfort food), homemade pasta, dumplings of pretty much any sort (particularly vareniki, gyoza and knedliky with sauce), Lebanese mezze platters, challah bread, duck served with red cabbage, fresh fruit. Looking at this list it’s probably clear I’d be really bad at a carbohydrate-free diet.

  1. Is there anything that you’d never eat? What is it and why? Fish, actually. I really just hate it. And I’ve tried three different kinds of fish. I think it’s a combo of factors — the texture, the flavor, the smell.     Ed’s note: Hmmm …. ever tried ahi tuna?  

    The author in Munich; photo by Jan Hon

    The author in Munich; photo by Jan Hon

  1. What do you crave but can’t get whilst on the road?  How do you satisfy the craving? I have a bad habit of craving things that are hard to get in whatever place that I’m currently located. For instance, in Germany where I currently live, most “snack food” found at supermarkets, train stations, etc. is sweet, but usually when I want a snack I want something salty or savory that isn’t covered in red paprika powder — which for some mysterious reason is the norm over here. Paprika covered potato chips, crackers, whatever it is, it’s covered in paprika powder. I usually have to go for something that I didn’t necessarily want, like crackers covered in sesame seeds, since at least that isn’t paprika powder.

  1. What food are you embarrassed to admit you like to eat? Cheddar cheese popcorn, which is not embarrassing in and of itself per se but more the fact that I’ve eaten it as dinner on occasion.     Ed’s note: I have a Smart Food addiction, Naomi, and yes, I’ve eaten it for dinner.  You may not want to hear this, but you should try melting sharp cheddar cheese in the microwave and then pouring it over air-popped popcorn.  Oh my. 

  1. What / where do you dream of eating, but haven’t yet had the pleasure? Ooh, that’s a tough one. I think Sicily in Italy — for soup, pasta, pizza, pretty much everything and of course coffee — would be incredible. If it weren’t on the risky side to travel to Iran and Afghanistan, I love both of those cuisines. Fesenjaan from Iran and narenj palau from Afghanistan are divine. I also enjoy the culture of hospitality and drinking tea and coffee in that part of the world, and I think it adds a layer of enjoyment to eating a meal. And eating my favorite Ethiopian dishes — like mesir wot — in Ethiopia, would be fantastic.

    The author in Prague; photo by Jan Hon

    The author in Prague; photo by Jan Hon

  1. Strangest meal? When I lived in Prague as a guest student, I ate a dish that is mostly popular with kids — it’s noodles with cream, poppy seeds and sugar, but it’s served as a dinner. I felt like I was eating dessert for dinner. Then when I first lived in Germany I found that a lot of kids get served sweet pancakes or cream of wheat/cooked grits with jam as a dinner. So probably all the sweet stuff for dinner is the strangest meal to me, though to be fair, I did occasionally eat French toast for dinner growing up … every cuisine has “dessert for dinner” somewhere in the repertoire.

  1. Ever had food poisoning while traveling? Any advice to share? Several times, unfortunately, including my initial international trip. I suspect some people have cast iron stomachs and I am definitely not one of them. The first time was the worst, in my first trip abroad to Hungary at age fifteen. It was clearly the chicken schnitzel I ate — not sure if it was the oil or the chicken itself — but I had a 102 degree fever for two days and lost six pounds. Not the most pleasant travel experience, I’m afraid. I think my strategy when in a new place to avoid food poisoning as much as possible is to stick with “easier” foods the first day or two to let my digestive system re-adjust (i.e. not too much fried/oily/super spicy food).

  1. Have you fallen so much in love with a foreign dish that you learned to make it at home? What’s the story? Many! Though none, alas, with a really great story. Mostly dishes I ate while in another country or sometimes just at a local restaurant. Enchiladas, neeps, summer rolls, brioche, japchae-bap, Hokkaido pumpkin soup.

  1. What’d the first thing you eat after returning home from a long trip? Pretty much always fruit. I think I have a weirdly subconscious fear of scurvy, as if I live some kind of pirate lifestyle, and I also just love fruit and find it very refreshing after travel. If I eat something super heavy after a plane or train ride, I feel kind of blah.

  1. The author in Barcelona; photo by Jan Hon

    Favourite foreign ingredient you wish your home supermarket carried? Most likely canned black beans. You can find dried ones fairly easily, but frankly if I get home from work and want to make something like chili or Brazilian rice and beans, boiling the dried ones is time-consuming. The runner-up would be green asparagus which is only available here for a limited time, around late April through mid June, but I love cooking with asparagus and am sad when it leaves the market.

  1. Country / city where you’ve found the best food? Details please so we can check it out too! This is a hard one, but I would actually stick to my hometown area, the Bay Area in California — specifically San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. The availability of fresh local produce and amazing diversity of cuisines from Thai to Mexican to Persian to Pakistani makes it such an outstanding place to shop for food and to eat out. Some of my favorite restaurants back in the Bay include Udupi Palace for South Indian food, Turtle Tower for Vietnamese, Burma Superstar for Burmese, La Taqueria for a classic SF burrito and Hong Kong Lounge for dim sum. And in terms of regional specialties, San Francisco sourdough bread and a local beer on tap — I recommend Magnolia Brewpub — are fantastic!

  1. Country / city where you’ve found the worst? What made it so awful? I do love spending time in small towns in central Europe (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, for instance) and I loved our honeymoon to Scotland but whenever we were eating out in smaller towns in these countries the food selection was always very limited and in my somewhat snobby opinion, mostly quite bad — iceberg lettuce salads, oversalted bland and spice-less sauces, boiled frozen vegetables.

  1. Do you have favourite markets for a) buying stuff to eat b) finding unusual things (which you may or may not want to actually eat!) and c) just for taking photos? I love the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, the Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv, Union Square farmer’s market in NYC, and the souq in Cairo.     Ed’s note: I love Union Square too — here’s why!

  1. If money were no object, where (and what) would you eat? For eating out I would eat at really excellent French, Japanese and/or local farm-to-table restaurants, get appetizers, entrées and desserts, and drink the best wines and whiskies. If money was no object for home cooking I would buy the highest-quality ingredients, local and organic when possible, and shop at all the really posh delicatessens, farmers’ markets and international supermarkets here in Munich.

  1. Do you have any food regrets? I wish I hadn’t been such a picky eater as a child and had started eating more adventurously at a younger age. Also, I still don’t really like a lot of meats, especially red meat, and I rather wish I could force myself to like more of them.

  1. If you could invent any ice cream flavour, what would it be? (yes, I am looking for ideas to add to my ice cream repertoire!) Probably either saffron ginger rose, or sweetcorn cilantro. Or cognac apricot…it’s just so hard to decide when it comes to ice cream!

  1. What do you love and hate about food writing (yours and/or in general)? I absolutely love reading descriptions of food. Even as a kid, I would read books like the Little House on the Prairie series just for the “food porn”, if you will. I think a description that makes me able to visualize and even perhaps imagine the taste of the dish is an incredible writing skill. Food writing that is far too abstract is what frustrates me — a phrase like “oily yet pungent” when talking about something like a stew just doesn’t give me a very good mental picture of what I might expect from the dish.

  1. You’re having surgery tomorrow and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll lose your ability to taste (oh the horrors!).  What would you choose as, essentially, your last meal? I think this is an impossible question for any food-lover! But at this very moment I will say dal paneer, Chinese turnip cakes, fennel salad, goat cheese pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter, and mascarpone with blueberries, washed down with Laphroaig whiskey, tiguanyin tea and a strong cappuccino.

The author at her wedding

The author at her wedding; photo by Jan Hromadko 

Naomi Kaye Honova is originally from California and now lives in Munich, Germany. She has a master’s in social work and far too many hobbies, including shape-note singing, hiking, writing and receiving letters, and doing handstands. Some of her favorite cities include Barcelona, Prague, New York City, Cairo and Krakow. Naomi has been published in various blogs and journals, including The Rumpus, Yes & Yes, apt, The Aroostook Review and served as a National Geographic Glimpse Correspondent. Her epilogue to Shalom Auslander’s book Hope: A Tragedy was used in the Czech translation of the novel. She has read her poems at the Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival and written ad copy for American-made automobiles. Occasionally she updates her blog Tsar Problems. 

One response to “The Globavore Interviews: Naomi Kaye Honova

  1. Pingback: Jill Kandel | When America and the Czech Republic Marry·

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