Kazakhstan, not a veggie’s paradise

KYZYLORDA/Kazakhstan, Jan. 14 (The Conway Bulletin) — Vegetarianism is growing in popularity in Kazakhstan although ordering it successfully can still be a challenge, even for a well-known pop star.

Pasquale Caprino, an Italian singer who goes by the name of Son Pascal and has made Kazakhstan his home, was trying to order a bowl of vegetarian soup at a restaurant in Kyzylorda.

He’d headed out to this remote and barren medium-sized town in south-central Kazakhstan to shoot a music video.

The restaurant was making an effort with its Alpine chalet-style decorations and uniforms for the staff. It contrasted nicely with the concrete skyline outside. In the corner, overlooking the diners was a full-sized taxidermy of a snarling wolf.

Caprino wanted a bowl of cucumber soup without meat. It arrived, though, with sausage floating amongst the ubiquitous dill. Caprino tried again but in Kazakhstan where eating meat, including horsemeat, is ingrained into the national consciousness the waitress thought that she was being teased. He sighed and pushed away the bowl.

This story of frustration for vegetarians is common in Kazakhstan, said Baur Safi and Stanley Currier — two Almaty-based bloggers who run the vegetaristan.com website.

“During holidays or weddings, it is extremely difficult to find anything other than bread and a cucumber and tomato salad that a vegetarian can eat,” said Currier, a native of California.

Safi, a Kazakh, said, though, that it had become far easier in Almaty, at least, to order vegetarian dishes than it had been several years ago. Much of this is down to the introduction of cuisines that don’t use meat rather than any sort of pro-vegetarian groundswell.

“Many locals equate being vegetarian to being gay,” he said. “It’s a question of ethics, as if you’re trying to be special, and of machismo, which is linked to eating meat.”

Copyright — The Conway Bulletin

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