Hello to all!
I hope you are well and thanks as always for the kind emails and messages. The internet has been a bit dodgy lately, so it only compounds my normal delay in responding. Still, I love to hear from you.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately. We’re enjoying the end of our weekend now and we’ve kinda already started planning what we’re going to do (and cook) next weekend. During the week we get home from work around 5:30pm and it would be difficult for each of us to cook for ourselves in one kitchen. It’s much more efficient and people are happy to have a meal prepared by a locally hired cook. For me and a couple other expats here, cooking is one of the few things we can do here that can feel pretty close to normal life. If we plan ahead, our cook can pick up most of the things on our shopping list and have them ready for us. If the items we’re craving aren’t found here locally, occasionally we can get someone to bring it with them as they return from Kabul or a holiday abroad somewhere. Sometimes we have to get creative, but that’s part of the fun, in my opinion. We recently had a lot of people bring in cheese, so last night we made baked macaroni and cheese with a cabbage salad and apple crumble. Pretty darn good! It’s an escape of the mind, a way to work together for a fun purpose, not related to our mission here, and we all enjoy the rewards together at the end.
These were comfort foods for some of us, but as we started thinking about our cooking plans for Christmas, I was reminded of the diversity of backgrounds within our expat group. Therefore, not everyone will get as excited about a sage stuffing and pumpkin pie as I will. When I started listening, I realized my Japanese colleague has a fish and rice dish to celebrate. The British doctor has started plotting a Yorkshire pudding. I’m sure the Germans, Dutch, Nigerian, Congolese and Zimbabwean friends can also think of something that reminds them of the holiday.
Food may be a universal language, but it certainly has regional dialects. I had no idea of the typical Afghan food staples before I came. There are many varieties of rice and beans (or lentils, or chick peas), sometimes with goat, beef or chicken, often cooked in a LOT of oil. The bread we get daily is leavened, but is very flat and can either be round or long. My favorite Afghan food so far is mantoo, which is a sort of meat dumpling, similar maybe to wonton. And to finish it off, you must have a nice juicy pomegranate!
I can’t discuss food without thinking about the other side of the issue here and around the world. The issue of malnutrition in Afghanistan is probably the biggest tragedy, in my mind. I feel like so much of the world knows about the military and political issues happening here, but few are mentioning the practical implications. Food insecurity due to lack of access for those in remote settings where many cannot go to market for fear of encountering violence, women not getting an education which has been proven to increase malnutrition rates for their children, using agricultural land for poppy growing (opium) instead of food because of the much higher income generated, etc. No matter the reason, malnutrition is a real and painful problem here. I can’t help but look at the children in our therapeutic feeding center and re-evaluate the term “comfort food.”
On that note, I’m off to dinner. I hope you all have a great week! Happy holidays!