Vegetarian Food Diaries in Tajikistan, Part 1

Tajikistan, June 16, 2010

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I've been in Tajikistan for a few days now and I finally admitted to my colleagues that I packed most of a suitcase with food because I was that worried about my ability to find vegetarian food here. They all laughed at me because the food here is actually quite good, even for vegetarians.

On my first day here, I wandered into a small market near the Mercy Corps guest house in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. A woman with an entire top row of gold teeth welcomes us to her table and allows us to sample her goodies: multiple kinds of almonds including sugared, a variety of dried apricots from last year and maybe even before, dried cherries, dried rose hips, and roasted chickpeas with or without salt from this year or before.

This was the first moment I was embarrassed to have brought my suitcase with food, which is mostly filled with almonds and dried fruit.

The Mercy Corps cooks have been very accommodating about making me vegetarian meals with protein, something I particularly struggled with when I worked in Africa. During my safety briefing I was even told that my diet is recommended during the hot season because power fluctuates frequently, causing meat to go from hot to cold and hot again before cooking, allowing bacteria to flourish first in your food and then in your gut! Sadly, the same thing happens to ice cream, so I have been warned to avoid this too. I was looking forward to ice cream, but my waistline will probably thank me!