A Lesson in Food History
This is a rather succinct article brought to you by Azer.com, an excellent english-language resource for random articles about Azerbaijan.
My friend Katie and I have been planning to cook a meal for her host family because they asked for an “American-style” meal. We had to cross off casserole for lack of knowledge of the local ingredients, and we ruled out pizza because we’re not sure what they would like in a crust. Hamburgers are out, and they eat meat & potatoes all the time. So, we walked around the bazaar and decided on Ravioli, bruschetta, and garlic bread. We won’t be able to get a nice bottle of red wine (not really appropriate), but we should do okay. Maybe we can substitute sparkling grape juice for wine.
That aside led to me looking for a translation of Oregano into Azerbaijani. Anyone know what its called? The closest we could find was Pizza Spice in one of the local markets. I think it will work. In looking for it online, I came across this brilliant article on the history and evolution of food and practices in Azerbaijan. Here’s a gem:
Another belief system, that of traditional medicine, has almost totally disappeared in the North. Soviets tried to stamp out the use of traditional medicine based on natural herbs. There used to be herbal medicine shops called “attar”, where you could treat specific ailments with dried herbal mixtures. Southern Azerbaijanis still have such shops.
In Hajibeyov’s musical comedy of 1913, “O Olmasin, Bu Olsun” (If Not This One, That One), the main character, Mashadi Ibad, was one such bazaar merchant who sold herbal remedies. In the 1956 movie version, scenes of pre-Revolutionary Baku include such shops (See AI 5.3, Autumn 1997; SEARCH at AZER.com).
These days, now that Azerbaijan has gained its independence, people are beginning to experiment once again with treatments derived from natural herbs, but very minimally, as Azerbaijanis are more used to synthetic drugs.
The article hits everything almost exactly right, and it’s well written. The part about alcohol rings true. Give it a read.