There’s no law of nature that says a medium rare steak is high culinary art. (Though this author happens to agree.) Likewise, there’s no law of nature that says a blow-torched and boiled sheep is the pinnacle of all dining experiences. (Thank God.) Yet in a country where a sheep rib will serve as a pacifier, it’s hard to find someone who will bend to the opinion that people living elsewhere may, perhaps, prefer different options.
The US Embassy in Bishkek funds and supports several different programs for sending Kyrgyz people to the United States for a period of time, like FLEX for high school students or TEA for teachers. One such program is more of a mini tour/vacation for directors of schools to get a picture of what the American education system is like. One such director received an all expense paid trip this past year to wine and dine in the fancier restaurants on the east coast while checking out schools from his limo. I’m not complaining about the lavishness; rather, I’m all for showing a Kyrgyz person a good time. But what absolutely destroyed me was the first comment out of his mouth: “The food was terrible. There was no boiled sheep.”
This comment has been corroborated by several other primary sources, which clearly proves that people are crazy.
Would you like your sheepskin burnt or charcoaled?
And by people, I mean all people. Why do we get so attached to particular ways of life? Why are we so ethno-, (culturo-, experio-) centric? I think we’re attached to what we grow up with, appreciate the familiar, or just can’t see over the trench that’s been dug by so many passes down the same path.
Someone who has had significant experiences in places other than where he or she is starts to see the grey around the edges that separate black and white. Maybe a fine cut of grilled beef doesn’t claim inherent goodness (shudder). And maybe, just maybe, boiled sheep could be traded for some roasted chicken or a nice cheesy potato bake at the next village gathering. That’s what I grew up with anyway.