Friday, January 11, 2008

This Is Not Civilization

The Fairfax Library Book Group met Wednesday night (a change from our usual first Thursday meetings) and discussed our January book selection, This Is Not Civilization by Robert Rosenberg. The overall consensus of the group was positive although most in attendance were not “wowed” by the book.

We all enjoyed the descriptions of the Kyrgyz village and Istanbul and appreciated the author’s comparison of the Kyrgyz village and the Apache reservation in Arizona as equally struggling communities suffering from poverty (both money and opportunities) internal corruption and the oversight and abandonment of their larger governments.

I would definitely recommend the book to others and look forward to reading more from Robert Rosenberg. An interesting (to me) footnote; my son attends the university mentioned in the first part of the book, Northern Arizona University. It’s a great school!

I made some of the recipes that are available on the publisher’s website:

Here are the 3 recipes that I tried and brought to the meeting:

This pilaf is popular throughout Central Asia, especially in southern Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
5 Tbsp oil
2 cups rice
5–6 large carrots, cut in long thin strips
¾ cup raisins
2–3 large onions, chopped
5–10 cloves garlic, whole
2–3 fresh peppers, chopped
1–2 pounds beef or mutton, cut into cubes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a wok until hot, and add the meat, cooking until brown on all sides. Add the carrots, onions, and peppers, and cook until tender. Add 5 cups hot water and then the rice; the water should completely cover the rice. Push the cloves of garlic just under the surface of the rice, making sure they don't pop up. Cover and lower heat a little. After 10 minutes, add the raisins. Do not stir. Cover and cook until done, about 30 minutes. (I poured off all of the fat before adding the rice and used cubed London Broil since it was on sale this week.)

Note: Plov is usually eaten with the hands. Mash the rice into a small ball over the plate and slide it with the thumb into your mouth. (We used forks and plates…)

Apache Fry Bread
4 cups white flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
Lard or shortening

Combine all ingredients. Add about 1½ cups warm water and knead until dough is soft but not sticky. Shape dough into balls the size of a small apple. Flatten into patties by hand; dough should be about ½ inch thick. Fry one at a time in about one inch of hot lard or shortening in a heavy pan. Brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with honey or jam. ( I used olive oil to fry the bread.)

Crushed Tomato Salad Spread (Ezme)
½ pound ripe tomatoes
½ cucumber
1 green pepper
2 stalks green onions
1 tsp dried mint
salt, pepper, paprika
1 Tbsp paprika paste (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vinegar

Peel tomatoes and cucumber. Remove stalk and seeds from pepper. Remove outer layer of green onions. Chop them all very fine without pulverizing them. Mix well all ingredients. Serve with bread for dipping. (Tomatoes are out of season now so I used a can of organic whole, peeled tomatoes. I also didn’t have dried mint so I used dried basil. I used plenty of paprika, but no paprika paste.)

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