The World in a Pocket's Best of 2018

The World in a Pocket's Best of 2018

2018 marked our second year here on the internet. Whew! We took an exciting new direction last year, with a deeper commitment to looking at food history and culture through the lens of a pocket. Our mission at The World in a Pocket is to better understand the world through the lens of a dumpling (err, any pocket food!). Last April we met in Durham, N.C. to revisit our mission and keep us on track. It’s always a good idea--even (especially!) with passion projects--to check on your goals.

When we started TWINAP in April of 2017, we made a huge spreadsheet with pockets and the places where they come from, and we set out to start talking about them one by one. Even though the concept of “every culture has a pocket food” is pretty niche, it also spans across the world (by design!).

TWINAP was born out of love for food, culture, history and dumplings, but we both work as photographers and creative consultants, which sometimes take us away from this project for weeks at a time. After working together on this for most of 2017, we were able to see that we wouldn’t be able to hit every single pocket in the world all at once.  We wanted to learn more about the origins of the foods we were talking about, and we both agreed that there might be a better way to approach this goal. We want TWINAP to serve as a platform for storytelling, either by us, or by people in our communities. In 2018, we decided to focus on specific geographical areas and the pockets they are known for, for a few weeks or a month at a time. We also planned on creating “pocket guides” or places to get the best ________  in ________.

It took some time, but we did what we set out to do back in April, which was to provide information about the places pocket foods come from and shine a light on the people making them. We also had the generous help of our interns, Maddy Rideout, a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Meredith Schmidt, a journalism student at UT-Austin.

Our team chose to focus on two places we didn’t know much about, with the goal of learning more. We chose El Salvador, because pupusas were a good excuse to learn about the history of the smallest, but most populated country in Central America, and because we wanted to know more about what sparked the recent migrant caravans to the U.S. And the Philippines, because we love lumpia, but also because there are so many admirable Filipino female chefs, scholars and bloggers, and we were completely unfamiliar with the history of the Philippines.

What countries do you think we should stuff ourselves into in 2019?

The World in a Pocket’s Best of 2018

Monique Santua making Turon, Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley


Mack met up with Jenn de la Vega in NYC and Monique Santua in Austin, and they shared their stories, along with recipes for Shumai, Oh My! and Turon stuffed with plantain, jackfruit and hot brown sugar. We also compiled our first visual timeline, which documents the history of the Philippines and its food. Ever wonder about the best places to get Filipino food in for Austin,Texas  and Raleigh-Durham, N.C? We’ve got you covered.

El Salvador

Lauren made a video featuring So Good Pupusas, a food truck in Durham, N.C. that sells pupusas to fund scholarships for undocumented students. We also created a historic timeline of El Salvador, which taught us about the history of a country wrought with so many tragedies for so long,. If nothing else, understanding the history of El Salvador has given us the ability to look at the migrant caravans seeking refugee status in the U.S. with even more compassion, and identify ways to show our support for them once they are here. On a lighter note, we found our favorite pupusas in Austin, Texas and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., which we included in pocket guides for each city.

Calehan’s Meat Pies in Belmopan, Belize

Lauren made a trip to Belize this summer, and she shared the story of Calehan and his family, who serve meat pies, panades, salbutes, tamales and the freshest agua frescas, in a “fast food” shack tucked away on a street corner in Belmopan, Belize. This article explores the flavors that were brought to Belize through colonialism, slavery and indentured work, and how locals have made these foods undeniably theirs.

The Beauty of the Blintz in Summer by Ellen Gray

Ellen Gray, founder of No More Mr. Nice Pie, 2018 Saveur Blog Awards Finalist, poet and pocket-lover contributed a loving short memoir of visiting her grandmother, who made sour cherry “cheesecake” blintzes in Hollywood, Florida when she was in the 6th grade. Bonus, the story includes her recipe, with an illustration by Washington D.C.-based artist, Tabitha Eller.

Cretan Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Andrea Kapner, founder of Tiny Turnips Kitchen, contributed a healthyish summer recipe after a trip to Greece last year. Her Cretan Stuffed Squash Blossoms are a mediterranean delight -- perfect for anyone aiming to use fresh Summer produce and avoid dough-based pockets.

2018’s Best Recipes

Last but not least, we have continued to use The World in a Pocket as a playground for recipe development and photography. Broccoli and Cheddar Dumplings with Miso and Roasted Garlic are the perfect companion for a chilly weekend. For a weeknight staple that uses up your taco Tuesday leftovers, try our Healthyish Empanadas with Black Beans and Turkey Taco Meat. And for a surefire way to satiate your sweet tooth, try our Whole Lemon Curd Turnovers with Black Pepper & Thyme Glaze or our Pumpkin and Cajeta Empanadas.

Lucky Collard Wraps with Black-eyed Peas

Lucky Collard Wraps with Black-eyed Peas

The Best Pupusas in Austin, Texas

The Best Pupusas in Austin, Texas