Saturday, February 21, 2015

Afghan Culture: Creating Food as a Family Tradition

The beautiful aspect about Afghan culture is the formation of family and community life as one of the most important intrinsic values of the Afghan society. We love to be around family and value traditions that have been passed down to us by our Afghan parents and grandparents  and other elder members.  The afghan people have settled in different parts of the world and yet are very much connected through the culture of its people who reside outside Afghanistan. One of the biggest ways, Afghans have kept their identity strong and alive even while living elsewhere  is practicing and living in a community where these same traditions are taught and practiced daily by members. The most favorable tradition is food, as cuisine  is used to maintain the national identity of Afghans throughout the world as a staple of our culture and traditions. My favorite family tradition is that of always being around Afghan food when visiting family or Afghan friends. I love our 4-5 course meals served in gatherings, whether for one guest or 100 guests!

The first course of the Afghan meal for house gatherings starts off with a light refreshments, such as tea and dry fruit or baked goods. Depending on the weather or affinity of guests, a nice, cold juice with fruit will be served until the rest of the guests arrive for the meal. The meal can be served at lunch time or dinner. Breakfast is another wonderful event!
The second course is the buffet! We love our different options and freedom to choose what we eat and how much. Most every buffet in an Afghan gathering will include rice in different varieties and some kind of meat, beef, lamb, chicken, goat, maybe some fish, seasonal vegetables and something most of us love in any form, bread or nan.  The main difference between afghan food from neighboring countries and culture is the use of particular spices and the cooking process for each dish. Cumin is widely used in rice and meats such as lamb and beef are steamed in a pressure cooker and seasoned with fresh blended vegetables.
After the main meal, comes course number three with green or black tea, sometimes even milk tea (Sho Do Chai) paired with delicious sweets of homemade rice pudding, freshly baked gourmet cookies, dried fruits and nuts, cheesecake, paneer (cheese)  and raisins.
This is really the time to relax with the guests and family members and usually it is accompanied by music, a favorite tv, show, dancing (if its in all women gathering) and is really the social part of the evening as the hustle and bustle of the main course is done with and  cleaned up and both hosts and guests can relax and enjoy the company and atmosphere. Afghan people love to be around music and laughter and lots of food at family celebrations and gatherings.
The fourth course consists of seasonal fruits, cut up and arranged beautifully on a platter and served in large decorative dishes and passed around for guests to help themselves to large portions. Afghan people have a tendency to offer and give and will consistently offer more tea, food, sweets to their guests even after they have refused.  

For the guests who like to stay late when visiting an Afghan home , the fifth course of tea and sweets is brought out one last time to say our good byes and prepare for the journey back to where we came from and end the visit with how it started : kindness. One thing my friends always loved, especially my best friend in high school, was that she knew to come to our home hungry and leave extra full! It is through cuisine and hospitality that Afghans have used in generations past and still practice that brings us together as one. The great thing about afghan culture and its importance on hospitality is that it extends to all from every culture.

Written by: Afghan Wife
Afghan Food Pictures: