Not all wars, as McAllester notes in his introduction to this collection, are fought over food or food supplies. But food plays a significant role in all conflicts, as people seek to find, control and protect sources of food for themselves, their families and sometimes their armies. By sharing memories of meals eaten with refugees, with soldiers, with friends made in unlikely war-torn places--and in one case, with their captors--the 18 journalists whose stories appear here provide an unusual tour of the wars of our time.
The essays are grouped thematically, but the reporters' locales, experiences and voices bring a variety of courses to the table. Jason Burke watches Benazir Bhutto risk her life to ask the price of oranges in a Pakistani street market. Wendell Steavenson remembers Zaliko, a "one-man NGO" in the Republic of Georgia, giving away food and homemade alcohol to those in need. Scott Anderson recalls drinking his way into the inner circle of an IRA cell in Belfast, while Janine di Giovanni remembers the food--and the friends--she encountered during the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s.
Despite fear for their own safety, these writers cannot escape the essential human need for food nor the equally strong need for companionship. Huddled in a foxhole or around a smoky campfire, they find both--and often a liberal dash of humor and goodwill--in the most unlikely of places. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams