April 21, 2024

OPC Book Night: Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar

by Sonya K. Fry

Although not the usual fare for a holiday party, “mud crabs” is included in the name of a new book, Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar, edited by Matt McAllester. The book consists of stories by foreign correspondents that are sometimes harrowing, frequently funny and riveting stories about food and eating under extreme conditions. The names of the correspondents will be familiar – OPC award winner Barbara Demick from North Korea, Janine di Giovanni on Bosnian siege food, Scott Anderson from North Ireland, Joshua Hammer from Gaza and Israel, Tim Hetherington on MREs and a stray cow in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan and the list goes on. As these journalists report from the most dangerous conflict zones, they also seek respite in food, drink and stories about food and drink.

A profile of a former chef of Kim Jong Il of North Korea describes Kim’s exacting standards for gourmet fare, which he gores himself on while his country starves. A young, inexperienced female journalist shares mud crab in a foxhole with an equally young Hamid Karzai.

The OPC published several books of compiled stories from foreign correspondents in the field and although it is not on the OPC book shelves in the office, a book of recipes and stories from food in faraway lands was part of the collection.

Although OPC Holiday Parties have always been fun, attendance has dwindled and costs escalated so it was decided to have an interesting program with some platters of food and a cash bar.

Matt McAllester has written several books Beyond the Mountains of the Damned: The War Inside Kosovo, Blinded by the Sunlight about McAllester’s detention in Iraq which was an OPC Book Night, and his best recommendation for editing a book on food Lessons from My Mother’s Kitchen. McAllester recently joined the new Newsweek team as Senior Editor/News. Adam Davidson, founder and hot of NPR’s Planet Money praises the book “These are powerful, intimate stories from some of the best war correspondents of our time – the kind of stories they tell each other about everyday life in some of the most difficult places on Earth. By seducing you with simple tales of food, your defenses are down, you get lost in a good tale, and then, suddenly you realize that you are fascinated by and finally understand a part of the world that had previously just been confusing and overwhelming. With one great read after another, you will remember these scenes, these characters, for a long time.”

McAllester says that the stories are seasoned by tragedy and violence, spiced with humor and goodwill and fortified with “a little more humanity than we can usually slip into our newspapers and magazine stories.” So bring your humor and good will and join your fellow OPC members as we toast the New Year and listen to correspondents tell their tales of deprivation and repression, as well as generosity and pleasure. The Book Night will be held on Wednesday, January 4 at Club Quarters, 40 West 45 Street at 6 p.m. A Reception will follow and books will be available for purchase and for signing.