Anyone who knows me knows how much I love food - both to cook/bake it, as well as eat it :) So many (including myself) were concerned about how I was going to survive in Tajikistan. As a vegetarian I was told it would be very difficult for me... people who had been to Tajikistan laughed and told me "good luck!" They said in the summer it wouldn't be so bad, but when winter comes be prepared to starve. Well I have some good news, I will survive! I have a suspicion that these critics either 1. don't prefer to cook their own food or 2. aren't very creative in the kitchen! While the variety of fruits and vegetables may be limited in the winter, (and they may be more expensive) I've assessed the situation and I have NO worries.
When dining in a restaurant it is a challenge, I must admit. However it reminds me of the limited menu that I had in Canada when I first decided to be vegetarian - BEFORE it was trendy! There are always the few choices, maybe they aren't a real meal but it's sustenance, such as french fries... tomato and cucumber salad... I've even had them melt cheese on pasta noodles for me (they don't do spaghetti sauce, I don't quite understand why they have spaghetti then!?). So the real solution is to cook for myself. One of my co-workers who is from the states loves to cook as well and has quite a list of western dishes he's managed to find ingredients for, including my favorite... PIZZA!!! He had me (and Susan!) over for dinner wed night, and he had made pizza dough the night before so we could design our own pizza. Well we made a sauce from fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes with the juice and garlic, mushrooms, basil, salt and pepper. We simmered that while we sauteed some eggplant to use as a topping, chopped lots of fresh veggies, then grated the cheese. Well, the masterpiece was DELICIOUS... not bad at all!
Earlier this week Susan and I were invited for dinner by the owner of the restaurant/hotel she is working for (my soon-to-be landlord). He wanted to show us how they make their "national dish"... pilaf! It was quite amazing, of course when we arrived there was already a spread of fruit, nuts, salads, bread and candy. They then brought out the wine, beer, and vodka! (Just a note - don't start vodka unless you're serious about it, they don't joke around! After your first shot, about every 20 minutes your expected to do another one until you leave...) And all the while they had a fire going (we were in the courtyard of the house) to cook the pilaf on. They had all the ingredients measured out and ready on the table, just like a professional cooking show on TV. They added them one by one, and after about 2 hours...voila! Dinner is ready! But the worst part was that I had been eating that whole 2 hours, so by the time it was ready I was full... well, maybe it was strategic... they cook lamb in it :( But it was quite and experience that I will never forget.
So there it is, a detailed verdict on the food situation in Tajikistan... with a little creativity, it won't be bad at all!