Afghanistan — A Cultural Gem
Afghan cuisine is largely based upon the nation's chief crops, such as wheat, maize, barley and rice. Accompanying these staples are native fruits and vegetables as well as dairy products such as milk, yogurt and whey. Afghanistan is at the culinary crossroads of many cultures. The cuisine relies on spices such as cumin, sesame, cinnamon and coriander, which are also central to Indian food. Green cardamom flavors Chinese green tea. The country's many kebabs show kinship with the Middle East, as does the liberal use of yogurt. The flagship dish of Afghan cuisine is the Kabuli Palaw, which consists of tender meat domed under rice that’s mixed with lentils, raisins and julienned carrots. It is also the national dish of Afghanistan. The nation's culinary specialties reflect its ethnic and geographic diversity. Afghanistan is known for its high quality pomegranates, grapes and sweet football-shaped melons. Most food and trade recipes were traditionally handed down through the generations. Late in the 19th or early in the 20th century, a collection of formal gastronomy documents was published by the Afghan Government which included preparation, food history, cookware fabrication and dining etiquette.
Known as dastarkhan , the floor spread is an important expression of culture in Afghanistan. Regardless of economic status, creating an adequate dastarkhan is important to any family, especially when hosting guests. A large tablecloth is spread over a traditional rug. Usually a young family member presents the “aftabah wa lagan”, a copper basin and elaborates pot filled with water, to each guest, pouring fresh water over the guest's hands. The dastarkhan is then filled with breads, accompaniments, relishes, appetizers, main courses, salads, rice, and fruits.