Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Pizza Incident

Sorry for the gap in posting, I should be a little more consistent with updates (provided I can think of something worthwhile to share) now that I have wifi at home.

Everything is going pretty well here. I've gotten over the initial language shock of the Tajik accent- it seriously sounds like a language other than Persian when you hear it for the first time. Luckily this is my repeat performance in "The Dush", so I adjusted quickly and I feel like I can understand most of what is being said around me. 

My host family and I are getting along really well. Tonight during dinner my host mom said she felt as though I was an older son, so that's cool. I hang out with Baha (my host brother) just about every day, and I also see grandma too (but I still can't really understand her... lots of nodding when I'm talking with her!

The good news is I have confirmation that they still like me even after The Pizza Incident. So it all started when I first moved in and was explaining how great Chicago pizza is. This of course prompted their curiosity and they recently asked if I would be willing to make pizza for them. Chicago style pizza in Tajikistan? Challenge accepted.

So here's the thing about Tajikistan that should be painfully obvious by now; the quality of ingredients here is not so good. Here's the other thing about Tajikistan (and specifically the Tajik dialect); lots of Russian loan words.

With these two important details in mind, imagine me in a foreign supermarket attempting to purchase mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, yeast, vegetable oil (you think this ones easy, don't you?), and tomato sauce. 

Needless to say, I came home with Gouda cheese, some sort of pseudo-summer sausage, cake mix, no vegetable oil and no tomato sauce (Baha assured me they had both at home). So of course vegetable oil just straight up does not exist here (they almost exclusively use sunflower seed oil) and beyond that its probably the most impossible thing to explain in a foreign language. Whatever. Then the tomato sauce they gave me at first was super chunky and definitely a little ripe, so after a number of attempts I managed to explain that I needed a less-chunky tomato sauce. 

Now much to my mother's (and possibly my future life partner's) disappointment, I'm just not good in the kitchen. Factor in the metric system, the Russian-loan word issue, and the general lack of quality ingredients and you've got a recipe for disaster. As I'm calculating my ingredient quantities (cups to grams, ounces to kilograms and so on) Baha emerges (after some time) from the cellar with an ancient jar of tomato paste. I mean this jar was oooollllllllddddddd. But it was actually the right stuff, and sealed, so that was cool.

Basically I think I doubled the amount of water I needed, had no clue the amount of yeast I ended up putting in, and I forgot to pre-dissolve the yeast in the water (oh by the way, those instructions were in English...). The dough was super watery and didn't really rise at all, but I was already deep into the game so I preheated the oven-thing to 218.333 degrees Celsius and away I went.

The bottom of the pizza ended up getting stuck to the pan, and so when I went to serve the pizza I ended up creating a sort of pizza pasta/salad. Turns out Chicago-Tajik style pizza/pasta/salad isn't so bad tasting, but I doubt I'll be opening a restaurant any time soon. 

And thus, The  Pizza Incident.

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