Recommended Reading: Mongolian Feast

Slate has published an excellent article called “Sheep Eats” that recounts Catherine Price’s experience at a traditional Mongolian feast. I’ve been talking a lot lately about needing to respect the animals I eat, and knowing where they come from, and honoring them when I eat them. Price’s experience really puts that thought process into action… with compelling, humbling results.

Here are a few tasty quotes; definitely go read the whole piece – and view the photo gallery – to enjoy all the details of her experience.

One afternoon in Ulaan Baatar, Otgoo [friend of the host family] invited my husband and me to a traditional Mongolian feast… naturally we said yes.

“Good,” Otgoo said, as we nodded from the back seat. “We will get a sheep.”

Her phrasing – “get a sheep” instead of “buy some meat” – should have set off warning bells. But even if I’d realized what she was saying, I still would have accepted her invitation. We were in Mongolia, after all.

This quote about the role of vegetables in nomads’ lives reminded me of a friend that used to refer to salad as “food’s food.”

… traditional Mongolian cuisine is not for the faint of heart. Strongly influenced by the country’s nomadic culture, it tends to be seasonal and animal-based: dairy products in the summer and lots of meat and fat in the winter. Nomads, who move their [homes] at least twice a year, don’t usually plant crops and often view vegetables with suspicion – a food more appropriate for livestock than for people.

Price tells her story with humor, charm, and respect for the culture – and she definitely has me thinking twice about how well I personally want to know my barnyard friends before they appear on my plate. And this quote has made me even more grateful for cumin, mint, salt, and garlic.

In America, even a dish as straightforward-sounding as “Fat-Wrapped Liver Chunks” would probably include a few unnamed, yet complementary ingredients like onions, or salt. But in Mongolia, the title says it all. Like everything we ate that night, my first bite had not been salted. It contained no herbs or spice.

Read all of “Sheep Eats”



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