Food is different here. In the US, on any typical day, I will eat Cheerios in milk for breakfast, a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for lunch. Dinner is much more varied, and ranges from steak, chicken, pork, and fish to assorted kinds of pastas, tacos or fajitas. Except for my breakfast and lunch, there is a lot of variety in what I eat. Dessert is always Ice Cream when it’s available, cookies or maybe some delicious frozen cookie dough.
There is no food that is really specific to any meal or time of day. I’ve had the same foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, although not in the same day. Sometimes I get last night’s dinner leftovers for breakfast the next morning. Some may think, “ewww, that’s gross,” but it’s really not. My mama always reheats the food in a very appealing way. Another main staple at every meal is bread. I’ve heard from other volunteers that bread and meat are almost sacred to the people of Kyrgyzstan (not to be mistaken with the Kyrgyz ethnic group, which is a large portion of the Kyrgyzstani population, but does not encompass all the peoples of the country).
I’ve only had three meals that had no meat in them, and two were because I was feeling sick that day and specifically told my mama that I would not eat any meat, and the other I’m not sure how it happened. Apparently, families that cannot put meat on the table are considered to be very poor. The peoples of Kyrgyzstan think that besides being a core staple of any healthy diet, a large dose of hearty meat will help any ailing person recover (that and maybe a couple shots of vodka). How have I liked the meat that’s been served to me so far? For the most part, it’s been amazingly good. The problem is that like most things, when you pretty much the same kind of meat all the time, you start to get tired of it and even develop an aversion to that specific meat. I’ve already developed a mild version of this to several foods that my mama serves, despite the fact that she is a very good cook.
The bread here is fantastic! There are many kinds, and they’re all good. There’re the thicker, French bread loaves (think of a typical 2 inch diameter French bread, and now make it an oval that is about 6 inches wide and maybe 4 tall) that are I don’t know how long, but they’re probably pretty big based on the size of the slices that are abundant on the dinner table. Then there is flat bread, called nan (no, it’s not the same as the nan that you find in India). This is a round bread that is about an inch thick and quite fluffy. Basically, nan is awesome.
At every meal I have eaten there have also been sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. At first, these were heavily salted, which when combined with the other foods I was eating was just too salty for me to enjoy. So I asked my mama to not put any salt on the “vitamin” she was setting on the table for me to eat, and ever since there have been two plates on the table; salted and unsalted tomatoes and cucumbers.
Tea, tea, tea and more tea. This is Kyrgyzstan, and tea is a fact of life. I have never had a meal in which tea was not present. The weather here is probably in the nineties, and tea is always served hot. The peoples of Kyrgyzstan “know” that cold things make you sick, so they don’t drink cold beverages, have ice cubes or take cold or even cool showers. My mama likes to make fun of me and how I like cold tea. Everyone else likes to drink their tea when it’s so hot that they have to slurp their tea through their teeth (I think) so that it gets aerated and slightly cooled before it hits their tongues. I for one don’t like having a scorched tongue, even if it is just a mild burn, so I let my tea cool for a good five to ten minutes before taking up the cup for a drink.
Tonight my host mother is talking about killing one of the rabbits in the pen for dinner tonight, so there will probably be more to come regarding food in the near future.
Foods I have eaten: Plov, kielbasa, bread, chicken, chicken soup (ramen noodles), cucumbers, tomatoes, raspberries, apples, lamb, eggs, sausage, and tomatoes wrapped in something covered with mayo and dill and other foods whose names I have forgotten..