Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Picnic in a War Zone - Fresh Fish in Kabul

In Afghanistan, most meals would include meat, usually lamb.  Since I don't eat meat, I thought a fresh fish picnic sounded good.  Of course, this is not a country known for its coastline.  However, where there are mountains, there are rivers, streams and lakes.  So the Kabul fish market is my first stop.  The way the fishmonger had weaved these two fish together caught my eye.  So I bought a couple "off the wall" (literally) fish and said let's clean em and cook em...
After I saw how this guy cleaned em so efficiently right there on the sidewalk, I said, I want you to cook them as well.  Now that grease looked like something that I wouldn't want to use in an automobile, much less in a wok, but at least they haven't outlawed trans fats here:

We were now more or less ready to go. I had him put various salts and spices on it, wrap it in paper and sold!  I bought some bread and some limes and it was off to the top of the nearby hill..  It was unlike anyplace I had ever been in Kabul.  There was a big tomb which of course was inaccesible due to all the barbed wire, but otherwise it seemed like a dusty park on a mountaintop.

There were kids playing Cricket and some kids and adults riding horses.  Of course there were ome kids begging but they were pretty mellow compared to kids in town.

Side story about baksheesh - When I was traveling in the third world in the 70's, I had very little money and encountered hundreds of people who had much less and asked for a gift (baksheesh). At first, I would say yes to all.  That wasn't sustainable as we now say.  But even as I became more hardened, there was usually one person each day who would get to me.  One of the greatest gifts I ever exchanged was with a woman in Kandahar.  I was getting in the back of a truck to go up to Kabul and she was holding her baby with her hand out.  I can't remember what people look like who I had dinner with last night, but I remember her as if she were standing in front of me right now.  In all the years since then, whenever I have faced a tough challenge or was feeling sorry for myself, I would think of her and the fact that she would trade all of her assets just for my problems.  I gave her 10 Afghanis and she gave me a lifetime of contentment.

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