This is one of the most exotic VFYTs yet. The reader writes from Kyrgyzstan, where he is in a mountain village with his wife, visiting her family. He writes:
The photo I am sending for the View from Your Table series, is the traditional Kyrgyz national dish called Beshbarmak. Beshbarmak consists of homemade noodles, boiled mutton and onions. As you can see, it is accompanied by the head of the sheep, which is boiled for several hours and then divided among guests. As the senior male guest, I was served an eye, which is considered a great delicacy. My son was served the ear, but that was a bit too much for even his very adventurous 11-year old palette, but he did enjoy tongue. My daughter, who is not so adventurous when it comes to food, actually enjoyed the cheek she was served. All of this is washed down with mutton broth. My wife and I went a step further and added a Baltika #7 – the quintessential Russian beer.
Despite more than 150 years of Russian/Soviet domination, the Kyrgyz have steadfastly maintained their traditions and semi-nomadic ways. There is a great emphasis on hospitality as well as an easy-going approach to life that you, as a Southerner, would recognize and appreciate.
Islam arrived rather late to this part of the world – 18th and 19th centuries – and so it is heavily mixed with local animist traditions as well as Soviet atheism and a Russian love of alcohol – much to the consternation of the Saudis who have built thousands of mosques in the country since independence. The village mosque announces the call to prayer, but does not appear well-attended. Eid is observed, but mostly as an additional excuse to enjoy good food.
We took a two day hike up to an magnificent alpine lake and did not see another soul the entire time. Slowly, but surely, the country is being discovered by adventure and eco-tourists, who come for the spectacular mountain views, nomadic culture and regional cuisine.