Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

Acquired Tastes, Part 2

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Last week I talked about trying new foods in Kyrgyzstan, and this week I will continue with that theme.

The title of the series is “Acquired Tastes,” which reflects my belief that a) some tastes are ‘acquired’ and seem odd to a foreign palate, and b) sometimes it is important to go through the effort of acquiring that taste.

I grew up in a household where turning down food wasn’t an option. “You have to try at least one bite” was a common refrain, and that has probably served me well living outside my home country and away from my home cuisine. I have, thus far, made it my goal to always try at least a bite, which has led me to putting some odd things in my mouth: walrus, seal blubber, and salted salmon heads (all in Alaska), homemade cow-bone jello (Chinese friends – thank God for Coca-Cola!), and mare’s milk, butter from a horse, mutton-with-sheepskin-still-attached, and slimy noodles (thanks Kyrgyzstan!).

It is important to eat what people serve you – and I think being able to do it without grimacing is also helpful – so I strive to acquire tastes that I know might take some work. I’ve had Tahn (mentioned last week) a few times since that initial encounter, and can drink it amicably, even if it is entirely without pleasure. But not all my drink-stand exploits have been in vain. Another drink available in Bishkek is called Maksim (– Google can translate this decently enough). It is made from wheat or other grains, and usually appears muddy. The first time I tried it on a hot day, it was slightly warm, and I couldn’t get through 0.2L, despite my best intentions. It was more than a year before I tried it again, and this time I stuck with it, downing 0.2L of the brown, gritty liquid. After maybe the fourth or fifth attempt, I could honestly say “I don’t hate it,” and by attempt #5 or #6, I actually liked it. Derrick and I used to get a cup at the end of a long run, and it is surprisingly refreshing. I still cannot successfully down 0.4L though; it is just too much (of a good thing?). So, where I failed with Tan, I succeeded with Maksim, and I have acquired a taste for one of the favorite drinks of the Kyrgyz!


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