Books about Madagascar

I’ve had to put a few extra parameters around the literary portion of this blog. I realized that if I buy a book for every country (and various side trips), by the end of the journey I’ll have ended up spending thousands of dollars. For real. I can’t do that. For real, once again.

The library to the rescue! I’m very fortunate to live in an area with a great public library system, and it’s only logical to take full advantage of it. It’s a big win to stick with it for this blog; the only possible drawback is that the selection for some countries might be limited. I’ll address that if and when it happens…

I actually did have to approach my reading for Madagascar in a bit of a different manner, just to even scratch the surface of such a unique place. The first book I read was Lords and Lemurs: Mad Scientists, Kings With Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar by Alison Jolly. Jolly, an American primatologist, took a break from her scientific writings to pen this well-told account of lemurs, the tough land in which they live, and some of the people who interact with and try to protect them. Focusing on a nature preserve in the far south called Berenty, she nonetheless weaves in some interesting history on a broader scale, particularly regarding the effects of French colonialism and events surrounding Madagascar’s independence. I enjoyed the book, and it sparked my interest in knowing more about the country as a whole.

Brown Lemur in Berenty.
(image by David Dennis , via Wikimedia Commons)

So thanks to the miracle that is a library, I just checked out everything I could find…

Madagascar separated from the African mainland 160 million years ago, and there is no evidence of human habitation until about 1500-2000 years ago. Left to its own devices all of that time, the island became one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Much of the animal and plant life can be found nowhere else.

Baobab Trees
(image by Larre (own work) via Wikimedia Commons)

And I found a book that talks about every bit of it: The Natural History of Madagascar by Steven M. Goodman and Jonathan P. Benstead. Weighing it at 9 pounds and 1700 pages, it contains pretty much all you’ll ever need to know about the wild side of the island.

An Indri, the largest lemur species
(image by By Olivier Lejade via Wikimedia Commons)

BUT. Even after two books, I still hadn’t read much about people. I had to search through the kids section to find something that wasn’t a Ph.D thesis…
Madagascar: Enchantment of the World by Ettagale Blauer; written for an school-age audience, it’s nonetheless an excellent primer on the social history of the island. Human society there is just as interesting, diverse and unique; the country is one of the poorest in the world in a monetary sense, but not in a cultural one.

Beach scene in Nosy Komba, Madagascar
(image by simone, via Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s an excellent website that discuss both the wildlife and human side of life in Madagascar…

Madagascar Dinner

It was a rainy weeknight, and everyone in my house had a bumpy day. I was looking for something comforting, and this simple meal from Madagascar fit the bill perfectly.

I’m learning so much on my journey with this blog, but one of the most basic lessons is that comfort food transcends any cultural or geographical divide…good is good, no matter where you are.

The culinary landscape in Madagascar seems pretty amazing. A world onto itself – Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European influences have come together in a very distinct way. These will certainly not be the only Malagasy dishes I make.


Great flavor, and even better leftovers. A common dish in the northwest coastal region of the country, particularly the city of Mahajanga. The area has a large Indian population, and that influence can definitely be seen in this recipe; it’s a less-spiced and slightly more “stewy” version of Keema.

Adapted from a recipe on the Cuisine of Madagascar channel on Youtube. Lots of fantastic recipes!

Serves 6 to 8


  • 1lb minced beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes – drained
  • 1 red chili pepper ( I went on the mild side and used a Hungarian Wax pepper)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 large baking potatoes, quartered
  • 1 lemon (or lime)
  • 1 French baguette


  1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven
  2. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent
  3. Add pepper and tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes start to break down
  4. Add the minced beef and spices.
  5.  Crumble in the beef bouillon cube and cook meat for a few minutes
  6. Stir in the water and bring to a simmer
  7. Add the spices and potatoes. Cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.
  8. Serve with lemon slices, and the bread.

NOTE: I had some extra lemon juice left over (about a tablespoon) from the recipe below. I tossed that into the stew before serving…I highly recommend it! Lemons and limes seem to be interchangeable in this;  I’ve seen both used in the recipes I researched.

(image by The Global Reader)

Salady Voankazo

Adapted from a recipe at

Serves 8


  • 1 cup pineapple, fresh but in 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup cantaloupe, cut in small pieces
  • 1 cup orange, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup strawberry
  • 1/2 cup lychees
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract


  1. Combine the sugar, water, salt and lemon juice in a saucepan
  2. Over medium heat, bring to a boil.
  3. Boil hard for one minute and then remove from heat
  4. Stir in vanilla extract
  5. Allow to cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator for 60 minutes
  6. Combine the fruit in a serving bowl, arranging the lychees on top.
  7. Pour the chilled syrup over the fruit and serve

NOTE: I went the total lazy route and bought a container of already chopped fresh fruit – and obviously not quite the mix listed above. I did add an orange! Also, I had no lychees on hand, so I moved on without them. Still very tasty.
I did find that the flavor of the vanilla extract was  a little too strong. I’m going to make this syrup with an actual vanilla bean next time…

Salady Voankazo
(image by The Global Reader)

Country #12 – Madagascar

Country #12 is Madagascar! It looks like a piece of a puzzle; you can see exactly where it split off from Africa…

I’m excited to be visiting; islands are in general some of the most fascinating places to me, and this island in particular looms large. Because it is large. And super cool. Time to learn!