Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

Acquired Tastes, Part 1

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Since we are fresh into the holiday season and I’m missing my usual American delicacies like pumpkin pie, eggnog, fudge, cookies, pecan pie … you get the picture… I thought it would be nice to spend December looking at foods and drinks in Kyrgyzstan. I will drown my sorrows in a local beverage and sate my holidays-whetted appetite with local flavors.

In the summertime in Bishkek, drink stands pop up all over the city. You frequently see men and women of all ages loitering on the sidewalk partaking of 0.2-0.4L of their favorite local beverage. As a foreigner, however, the initial hump to trying these drinks is twofold. First, you have to overcome your fear of talking to someone that is almost certainly not going to speak English. Ok? Got it. That’s not too bad (after all, if all else fails you can simply point). Second, you have to figure out which drink to try. This last summer, there were more than 10 different drinks available from these sidewalk vendors. Where to start?

As a seasoned expert in these matters, I already knew that some drinks available in Kyrgyzstan aren’t terribly good. Ever tried fermented mare’s milk? My rating: not bad, but not good either (which is, incidentally, how I also rate walrus). Drawing a fair conclusion from the look and smell of the liquids in the small paper cups at these stands, these beverages weren’t necessarily any better.

“You definitely need to try Tahn,” a local Kyrgyz friend said. “It is my favorite drink. Ooooh , I love it. Wish I could have some right now.”

So the very next day while walking home from a language class, I plucked up the courage to spend the $0.25 on a cup of Tahn. The vendor deftly poured 0.2 liters of the white, foamy liquid into a paper cup and handed it over. I was skeptical, but took a swig… and it turns out, Tahn tastes like off-putting, sour milk. The 0.2L paper cup seemed endless, as if the white plague inside expanded every time I took it away from my lips. I worked and worked, determined to acquire this taste. Alas, it wasn’t to be. So what kind of rating does Tahn get? Not good, in my humble opinion (or, rather, in the humble opinion of my culturally-conditioned taste buds!).

Check back next week for more adventures with taste-acquiring!

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