I arrived in San Juan Yolotepec, a minuscule village in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, on a bright June morning at about 8 a.m.—confusingly the same time it had been when I’d left the closest major city, Huajuapan de León, an hour earlier. While the rest of the country had skipped forward an hour at the beginning of spring, Yolotepec, perched on a scrubby hill near pretty much nothing, had remained stubbornly in the past. Neftalí Gonzalez, the dentist who’d driven me up here, to the village of his birth, explained: “Nature doesn’t use Daylight Saving, so why should we?” (more…)
In the hills along the border between Oaxaca and Puebla states in southern Mexico, there’s a village called San Juan Yolotepec, it’s name most often abbreviated—I kid you not—to Yolo.
Yolo has been around long enough to go through three different names (so much for only living once). The most recent, San Juan, was bestowed by the Spanish. Yolotepec came from the Aztecs, who invaded these hills back in the 13th century. Before that, the indigenous Mixtec tribes called it Ñoo Iton. Both of the earlier names mean the same thing, Village on a Hilltop, which is an apt description. (more…)
Madhya Pradesh, which roughly translates as ‘Heart Land’, is both superlative and peculiarly untouched. In the state’s eastern wilderness, peacocks wander wild through teak forests and tigers prowl through several of the country’s best wildlife sanctuaries. To the north, the 10th-century temples of Khajuraho, covered in ecstatic erotic sculpture, are reminders of India’s ancient artistic heritage and rich history of sexual diversity, so different from its conservative present moment. In the centre are grand mosques and holy rivers, millennia-old Buddhist monuments and Paleolithic cave paintings – so much of the subcontinent’s unimaginably long history compressed into a single, vastly under-appreciated region. (more…)
Santiago, Chile, has never been on anyone’s list of the world’s, or even South America’s, most interesting cities. (Except perhaps in 2011, when the New York Times inexplicably declared it the world’s top travel destination.) Santiago lacks Lima’s colonial charm or its world-class cooking. It doesn’t have the cosmopolitan glamour of a Buenos Aires, the spectacular setting of a Rio, or even the mercantile vibrancy of a São Paulo. It’s a staid, pleasant place— well-behaved, but plain, its river a concrete trough, its palm trees a kind of afterthought. Even its prettiest, most bohemian neighborhoods are overwhelmingly gray, shrouded in a heavy pall of pollution trapped there by the mountains that form the city’s eastern boundary. It’s a nice enough place, but not much more. (more…)
When I first moved to Bombay, I spent a week sharing a tiny, ill-ventilated one-bedroom apartment with a pair of chain-smoking journalists from Calcutta, friends of a friend of a friend who’d generously offered me a place to crash. Every night, we slept sideways on a queen-sized bed, my feet dangling over the edge, and every morning, to get out of that dim, pungent apartment, I’d walk a block to the dosa stand on the main road. I’d eaten dosas before in New York, and that morning routine, that one familiar thing, helped keep me steady on the ground while my mad, new city spun drunkenly around me. (more…)
In 1982, when José and Betty Reyes first started selling pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition. The Salvadoran population was still new then—José, for instance, had come in 1974 as part of the earliest wave of immigration—not large enough to support much in the way of restaurants. Their restaurant in Adams-Morgan, at the time still a predominantly Latino and Afro-Caribbean neighborhood, was among the first in town to specialize in Mexican-Salvadoran cooking. They called their restaurant El Tamarindo, and made the humble pupusa their specialty. Three decades later, the pupusa is one of D.C.’s defining snackfoods, and pupuserías are ubiquitous.
Mumbai is a daunting place. There are 22 million people here. Population density averages 21,000 people per square kilometer (in Tokyo it’s about 6,000). It’s crowded and noisy and the traffic — complete with fumes and an endless barrage of car horns — is torture. Inequality is profound and inescapable. But Bombay, as the city was known until 1995 (and still is known by many of its citizens), is also a place of immense hope, drawing people by the million from across the Subcontinent to make their fortunes. Some have succeeded. Many more have failed. But they’ve all brought their food.
Plagued with nagging fears of intestinal distress, many first time visitors approach the city (and particularly its food) with caution bordering on paranoia, a senseless way to experience a place defined by its mad affinity for foolhardy gambles. This list of 38 essential experiences is far from comprehensive — it focuses on the historic south and central suburbs where visitors are likely to spend their time at the expense of more distant, and increasingly populous, suburbs — but it nonetheless offers a cross-section of this city’s many tight-knit communities, its closely nested worlds. Because India’s greatest metropolis is at its chaotic, democratic best when it eats.
My first visit to a Fairway was in the fall of 2006 sometime during my orientation week at Columbia. Set in a giant warehouse under the 12th Avenue Viaduct, the Harlem Fairway felt urban and industrial and entirely unlike the big chain grocers—Giant, Safeway, later Wegman’s—of my ur-suburban childhood outside Baltimore. (more…)
Even without a New York restaurant of his own right now, Floyd Cardoz remains one of the city’s most recognizable, celebrated chefs. It’s been half a decade since he closed Tabla, the highly decorated modern-Indian restaurant he ran with Danny Meyer next door to Eleven Madison Park, but even as he spent that time moving through several other kitchens — and winning a season of Top Chef Masters — he never fully returned to the elegant, thoughtful Indian cooking that first made his name. It’s one reason why anticipation is high for Paowalla (named for Mumbai’s bread vendors), the restaurant he’ll open in Soho later this year. (more…)
There’s no avoiding it: Dhaka is an ugly city. Its streets are constantly clogged, the glacial pace of its traffic set by an army of cycle-rickshaws half a million strong. Buildings rise from narrow plots, leaning wearily against one another. The first time I arrived was on one of the big steamers that carry passengers upriver from the south, where I’d been reporting for a week, and disgorges them onto the old city’s haggard, sagging jetties in the dark early hours of the morning. The chaos and noise and heat of the riverside pervade the city. Dhaka makes Mumbai look like Paris — until, that is, you look a bit closer. (more…)