How to combine passions for food, friends, and global aid? A Portland couple is cooking 194 dinner-party meals that recreate food from all the United Nations member states. Laura Hadden and her husband, Jesse Friedman, started the United Noshes project about three and a half years ago when they lived in New York City. Since then they've worked their way through the alphabet from Afghan food to Lao cuisine, hosting small groups of friends as well as big dinners in banquet halls (their blog drew curious strangers over time). The price to attend? Originally a small donation to the UN's World Food Program, it's now one to Portland-based MercyCorps, NPR reports. They've raised nearly $23,000 so far. "We felt we had to acknowledge the fact that many people couldn't even enjoy the sorts of foods we were celebrating from their own country," Friedman says.
But it's not always easy: "There are disasters of technique and some things that are just bad," Friedman tells the Jewish Daily Forward. "We made headcheese from Iceland and it was terrible. We call those milkshake meals because even after you eat, you need to go out after for a milkshake." They also grew weary of African fare after many similar meals in a row, until discovering the island nation of Comoros, with its mouth-watering lobster in vanilla crème fraiche sauce. They've spread the word by hosting United Noshes events in the Bay Area, Seattle, DC, and Boston, and "met hundreds of people who are adventurous," he says. They expect to finish in about four more years: "We’ve always said that if it gets tedious then we can just stop," says Hadden. "But it hasn’t gotten boring yet." (Now see why foodies are rejoicing in California.)