Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

The Big Deal with Baking

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The original oven

The oven that originally was in our apartment

Armed with my Betty Crocker Cookbook, I have turned out many dishes to share.  Food is such a central part of culture… any culture. In Kyrgyzstan when going to the home of friends I often bring something to share, and if I have friends to our house, even if they simply drop in for a quick visit, it is usually expected that I serve some food. So, I have had plenty of opportunity to allow people to try my very American tasty treats.

Almost without fail I am asked: oooh, what is in this? At first it was an incredible struggle to describe the recipe in Russian, so I would just name off the general ingredients. This will invariably be met with a lot of head nodding, and faces that seem to say, “oh, so you need all of that, and voila, lemon bars will appear.” All the while I am thinking, It is impossible to make lemon bars without knowing the actually recipe, the measurements, the steps! Then it hit me: no one ever bakes dessert. People always buy their cakes, cookies or candies. Always! I wondered, why is that? Why are warm cookies, home baked birthday cakes, sweet breads and sticky rolls not a part of this world: Russian or Kyrgyz? Most of the local dishes are fried, wok style. Bread is a universal type of bread, I am sure that women make it in their sleep before they are 12 years old.

This was made very clear to me, when we rented a new apartment. We were negotiating with our landlord what we would need replaced in the kitchen, and he was appalled when I said that the current oven was one thing I could not live with. With my recent epiphany about the lack of baking in this culture, I started to explain that in America, baking is a very big deal.  I needed an oven that was new enough I could trust it to self-regulate just a little.  I also would highly prefer one with a temperature gauge. The one in the apartment would simply not do.

Oven controls

Where is the temperature control???

My wonderful husband took care of the rest of the negotiations and by the time we moved in, I had one with a temperature gauge that has already baked many a pie and several sheets of cookies for me.

But I still puzzle: when did measuring ingredients, writing down the exact specifications, and following directions become a part of our culture and can it just remain a very un-important part of the development of this part of the world?

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