Traveling Meatless…

May 25, 2010

…is not easy! But it’s still right. I have had to wrestle a bit with the issue of cheese, which I really like and which I thought would be a good taste-satisfier, after a colleague informed me of how it’s made. Oogh. (Look up rennet; the old-fashioned kind is made from the stomachs of calves.)

Dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves are sliced into small pieces and then put into saltwater or whey, together with some vinegar or wine to lower the pH of the solution. After some time (overnight or several days), the solution is filtered. The crude rennet that remains in the filtered solution can then be used to coagulate milk. About 1 gram of this solution can normally coagulate 2 to 4 litres of milk.

But thank God for markets, entrepreneurship, and incentives. I found you can buy cheese made with microbial rennet; you just have to look for the right labeling. (Granted, that’s not easy to do in a lot of places, but Whole Foods makes it easy in the US.)

I’m avoiding the word “vegetarian,” as you get served grilled vegetables all the time if you say that. I just say “what have you got that doesn’t have meat in it?”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles N. Steele May 27, 2010 at 1:02 am

Even in Ukraine tofu was readily available. I would bet the Tajiks have it. If not, well, grilled vegetables really aren’t a bad dish. And meat eating friends tell me that Tajik goat dishes aren’t the reason to go to Tajikistan.

Best of luck & keep up your good work.

Henri Hein May 28, 2010 at 1:32 am

I am not vegetarian myself, but I tend to order meat-less dishes when traveling abroad. I have had too many experiences with bad meat.

I have also found “vegetarian” wanting as a descriptive term, but for a different reason: it means different things in different cultures. Maybe that is why you get those vegetables all the time, because it is probably a safe bet across the various types of vegetarianism.

Tom G. Palmer May 31, 2010 at 6:53 am

Thanks, friends. I’m afraid that tofu is unknown here and, to make a little joke of it, goat is considered a vegetable. And as to grilled vegetables, uh uh. The wonderful rice dishes always have meat in them; you have to ask for “no meat,” which means that there are just no big chunks, but there’s still meat in it. But I did find a restaurant in Kabul that caters to a lot of Indians, so there are a few meatless dishes. And the Afghans do make some wonderful vegetable soups, the yougurt is great, and the bread is wonderful. So you can get by. (I did get a bit of a gut bug problem, perhaps from the fruit we bought, and so did the Afghans with whom I was traveling.)

So, I’m certainly not complaining. I wish people ate less meat, and I’m doing my best to avoid increasing the demand for it, but I’m not here to lecture others on such matters.

Off to Tajikistan tomorrow.

Cheers,
Tom

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