Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where is Madagascar?

This week we're in ... San Diego. White sandy beaches, cleverly simulated natural environment ... complete with fake rocks. No! We're in Madagascar. And if your kids didn't watch that movie on loop for like six months straight, you have no idea what I'm talking about.

Madagascar, as it turns out, is not anything like San Diego. Madagascar is actually an island off the south eastern coast of Africa, and a big one too, the fourth largest in the world, behind Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo (wherever that is). If you've ever seen Madagascar (because everyone knows that kids' movies don't lie), you know that it's teeming with exotic animals like lemurs and fossa, the latter of which are in fact a real thing and I know because I was once shocked to see a bunch of them on exhibit at ... wait for it ... the San Diego Zoo. Fossa are kind of weird looking cat-dog-mongoose type things found nowhere else in the world, just like a stunning 90% of Malagasy wildlife. The reason for all this biodiversity has to do with the isolation of the island--it split from mainland India 88 million years ago, which gave native species a chance to evolve into really unique creatures.

Of course as interesting as this is, it doesn't have a whole lot to do with food ... unless you think we'll be eating a nice fossa stew with lemur ice cream for dessert. Malagasy cuisine is actually not as exotic as its wildlife is--most meals comprise of rice as a base served with an accompaniment that can be either meat or vegetables. Because hunting by early settlers basically wiped out the island's megafauna, most staple meat is pretty typical poultry and beef, which admittedly makes my job a lot easier.

The standard Malagasy meal is called Vary sy laoka, which loosely translated means rice and whatever we happen to be serving with it today. I picked two dishes for my meal--a chicken and coconut laoka with some Lima beans cooked in a tomato sauce on the side. And there was a dessert, too, though honestly I'm really trying to block that out. :) Check back in a couple of days for the details.


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