In keeping with the Vegan Planet theme, I thought it would be interesting to occasionally feature posts from vegans around the world. My first guest blogger is Lochlain Lewis, a vegan currently working in Afghanistan. Here is his post:
Eating Vegan in Afghanistan
We walk the short distance to the Afghan Security Guard compound for our weekly dinner invitation. Upon entering the small room most of us remove our footwear. A slender man comes in and rolls out a six foot mat on the floor. He scurries in and out carrying plates until there is no more room on the mat. It is now covered with dishes of rice, raw and cooked vegetables, falafel, meat, and flat bread. To be a good host is the mark of a good Afghan. They love that we sit with them on the floor around the mat, crossed legged or with one leg turned under with the other knee pulled up to one’s chest. In this setting with so many people sitting around the mat, they don’t notice that I’m not eating the meat.
I’m beginning to pick up the technique of eating rice by packing it with two fingers and thumb, and lifting it to my mouth without tilting back my head. My favorite rice has a nutty flavor nearly like Indian pilaf. It’s cooked with baby grapes that lend a tanginess to the rice. I pull a piece of the flatbread from the round next to me and, cupping it between my finger and thumb, I press it into the falafel patty. Its subtle spiced flavor contrasts well with the sautéed cabbage. Tomato slices as red and ripe as I’ve ever seen line the edge of a plate of green onions. The Afghan fare is what most of us would consider rustic. But it is in the simplicity that I find its true enjoyment.
At the close of the meal, green tea is served. They pour a small amount of locally grown granular sugar in the bottom of a glass mug and pour the steaming tea over it. The conversation floats like steam rising from our tea. Dinner concludes with handshakes all around and the occasional hand to the heart. Such hospitality is an oasis in an otherwise unforgiving terrain.