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  • Jerome Kocher

67. Food

OK, I know what some of you are thinking. Thank you Jerome for giving us food for thought, but what about the food itself? What are you eating?

The diet is pretty simple from its nomadic roots. It's heavily meat based: beef, lamb or chicken. Then root vegetables are dominant: yellow and orange carrots, beets, potatoes. Rice or noodles shows more an Eastern influence. And breads and flour based recipes like dumplings are popular.

But this first picture is more gourmet. Fried strips of eggplant farnished with tomatoes and radishes. Noodle soup. And my favorite, camel milk.

Specific to Kazakhstan is Beshbarmak with round medallions of horse meat sausage on a bed of pasta, very thin almost crepe like.

Plov is very common and almost a national dish. It's a pilaf plate of rice with vegetables and beef, either mixed or separate.

Lentil and pumpkin soups are popular. And yes, that is sturgeon caviar I bought at the Russian bazaar in Turkmenistan. First time for everything. Maybe my last. :-)

Green noodles with carrots and potatoes, and touch of yoghurt. Specialty of Khiva, Uzbekistan.

Beet salad in Bukhara with chalat, yoghurt based fermented cow's milk, slightly salted.

Round breads and also baked somsas filled with either meat, pumpkin or potato.

But one of my best meals was "cop sis salat" with three small chicken shish kabobs over a quinoa salad garnished with chive yoghurt. This was not in the "stans," but in a Turkish Cafe in Baku, Azerbaijan. I asked for a traditional Turkish dish and this was fabulous.

A funny story is attached to this. A mother and daughter sat down next to me. They were all dressed up with brand name clothes. In fact I could see them on their phones scrolling through handbags, dresses and shoes to buy online. I thought they were overly shallow in their infatuation with designer brands. But then the daughter ordered my "cop sis salat" and suddenly I thought she had some class. I was in good company. When the waiter asked me what drink I wanted, I had noticed an elaborate green coctail the daughter had. I turned and pointed, "I want that." It was a mint lemonade with apple slices. Cold and delicious. Perfect to end my meal with. But my brash behavior opened a conversation with the daughter (the kids may speak English, parents not). I said I noticed she had the exact same salad as me. Then to my shock, she confessed that when they sat down she saw my salad and copied me. Unbelievable. They went from shallow to smart in a matter of minutes. She had copied my dish before I copied her drink. You can't judge a plate by its diner.

Bottom line. I'm looking to eat better as we now go through the Caucasus region, edging closer and closer to the Mediterranean. Thanks for asking about the food. Bon Appetit !

P.S. Drinks: Black and green tea. Or fermented milk drinks: Ayran (Turkish), Chalat (Central Asia). Chalat can be made from cow, camel or horse. Cow is the most commonly available. More gourmet and rare is camel, my favorite as it seemed. a little sweeter with thicker texture. Horse tasted "thin" with less body. All of these fermentations are salted and diluted with some water.

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