642 Tiny Things to Write About: Dinner in Kazakhstan

At a banquet in Kazakhstan, you are greeted as a guest of honor and served the traditional sheep’s eyeball.  Respectfully, you decline.  You are then offered the sheep’s tongue, instead. What is your excuse this time?

Many people are strangely repulsed by the food items that Andrew Zimmerman and Anthony Bourdain eat on their respective food travel shows, but I would bet if you threw a pig’s foot back a few generations, you’d find that most of our ancestors ate some pretty interesting parts of animals.  Or in my case, also pickled the beejeebus out of every vegetable or fruit, including melon rinds.  My maternal great-grandfather once stated that Germans used every part of the pig except the squeal.  My ancestors took the adage, waste not want not very seriously.

I’m a bit of a walking oxymoron, because while I am rather adventurous in eating, I’m mainly a vegetarian / pescatarian.  No meat for this woman.   My husband has a wheat allergy, so we’ve become the horror couple to have over for dinner.  Actually, it’s not that bad, but it does make eating out creative, especially when traveling.  Surprisingly, it’s easier to find food for both of us in a small European town than say, Southern New Jersey.  And don’t get me started on the lack of options in the Phoenix airport.

My brother-in-law visited the former U.S.S.R. in the early 1970s, so I have some passing knowledge of Kazakhstan.  He brought me back a traditional Kazakh embroidered women’s hat, which I still have in my possession.   If I ever made it there and was invited to a traditional dinner, despite the predominance of meat products, I would remain polite and open-minded.  My second decline of a choice meat product would be

“No, I am not worthy of such an honor and would defer this to the oldest person in this room, who is far more deserving.  Because of my beliefs, I do not eat meat, but I would find much joy in this celebration by having them eat it in my stead”.

And then I would happily eat some Pelmeni, Kurt or  Buarsak and down it with some traditional fermented mare’s milk.





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