There is not a single customer in the grocery store of the Majid Mall shopping center in Kabul – three years ago, as far as I remember, there was nowhere for an apple to fall.
“With the arrival of the Taliban (Terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) to power people are not paid a salary for 2 months, – the seller explains to me Mohammed… “There’s nothing to buy for.” Russian products are mainly presented in a sweet version – Afghan counters are heaped with sweets of our production, there are even Tula gingerbread (!). Prices are two to three times higher than in the Russian Federation.
“Your pickles, as soon as they arrive, are immediately swept away,” says Muhammad. “I also tried it, a real delicacy.” In a small supermarket near Charai Demazang square, shop owner Stable and his son Hamidullah speak excellent Russian. “I learned from your soldiers,” Sabit recalls. – Many of our merchants then crammed hundreds of Russian words. What do they buy from me the most from Russian products? Afghans adore Russian condensed milk, since Soviet times they have respected buckwheat, beef stew … now there is no buckwheat, everything has been dismantled. ” “And they are afraid of Russian sausage,” Hamidullah enters into the conversation. – What if there is pork in the composition?
The AIF observer walked through the supermarkets of Kabul to find out what Afghans eat, and why they still have a love for food from distant Russia?
Talib with “Alyonka”
In Russia, condensed milk with sugar is a cheap product, a can costs seventy to one hundred rubles. In Afghanistan, the price for “shuravi delicacy” is more than 2 times higher: 300 Afghani (two hundred rubles), for this amount you can eat twice in a barbecue. Sweets among Afghans are generally a cult object, so our condensed milk is sometimes bought for prestigious weddings. Thanks to the Soviet Union, canned green peas are unexpectedly loved. It is considered a confectionery (!) Product, the locals prefer to wash it down with … tea.
“Afghan cuisine is nourishing, but rather primitive,” says Amirullah Said, in 1985-1990. studied in Voronezh. – Therefore, friendship with the USSR has become a real culinary sensation for many of our citizens. I was in Kunduz, where people cook beetroot stew with meat, and they call it “borsia”, that is, “borscht”. Yesterday there was a joke at all. I was walking down the street and I saw the Taliban at the post: screwing up his eyes with happiness, chewing a chocolate bar in a package. I look closely – and this is “Alyonka”! Do you know where from? Chinese humanitarian aid – businessmen from the PRC are actively buying your sweets, and now such sets have begun to arrive in Afghanistan. “
“We have special intermediaries,” says the shop owner’s son. Habibullah… – We take Russian products in Tajikistan and deliver them here. The main regular customers, of course, are embassies from the countries of the former Soviet Union. But there are quite a lot of Afghans among the buyers: including even those who did not study with you. “
One “Bear” per family
I asked a 47-year-old Kabul resident, businessman Memory – why does he buy Russian food? “My father worked for the Shuravi and brought home army rations – I have never eaten such chocolate as Soviet one in my life,” Hafiz explained. – Why are there children of the Afghan poor, who have not really tasted sweets, and they know that Russian chocolate is the best. This is already a legend. Personally, I go to the store to buy Russian milk, because I don’t like the taste of Iranian or Pakistani milk, it’s a disgusting wild chemistry. Afghans also love your canned fish in oil, they are served at celebrations. “
In a couple of stores in Kabul, I found cod liver on the shelves (!), But as the owners of the outlets explained to me, this is completely for knowledgeable aesthetes – for them, they keep black bread in the freezer. But salmon or red caviar in Afghanistan during the day with fire cannot be found – this is also expensive here, and in the local conditions (most Afghans live on 70 rubles a day) it will cost space money at all. I saw how people bought one (!) “Bear in the North” candy to take to their child.
Also, it is easy to find Russian stew in supermarkets: in conditions when electricity is constantly cut off and refrigerators are “leaking”, Afghans have long respected “long-playing” products – I was assured that canned food produced in the Russian Federation can be stored for a long time even in the heat.
Afghanistan has been fighting continuously for almost 50 years: of course, in such a situation, there is no time for “import substitution”. Almost all products are from abroad. In Kabul supermarkets, you can find water from your food and drink (there are natural sources in the mountains), American soda (made by local factories), nuts, and sometimes lamb. And that’s all.
The assortment of the country’s only hypermarket (although it is the size of our store in a residential area) is depressing with scarcity – there are terrible Turkish sausages and pseudo sausage from beef veins (with an insane amount of soy), butter from the UAE, rice from India, flour (again, Russian ), creativity of Indian cheese makers and juice from Uzbekistan. This is the food of wealthy people: Turkish lamb in a hypermarket costs 350 rubles per kilo, while the average salary in Kabul is 12,000 rubles a month.
Afghan poor people do not go to supermarkets (except for excursions, just to have a look) – they overstock in bazaars, where they bargain fiercely. Nevertheless, among wealthy Afghans and people who worked for the United States, it was recently considered glamorous to come with your family to a hypermarket, drive there for three hours and leave with paper-flavored sausages.
Sour cream from under the floor
Soda in Afghanistan is always only with a terrible amount of sugar, asking for a diet cola somewhere is a dead number. McDonald’s is only seen on TV here, but his inventions are popular – expensive supermarkets (those that can afford a diesel generator in the event of a power outage) are full of frozen fries, chicken nuggets and hamburger patties. All the most nightmarish and fatty fast food is loved here to the extreme, that’s why successful Afghan businessmen have amazingly fat children.
Against the backdrop of such faceless food, it is not surprising that Russian products occupy an honorable place in Afghanistan. “I have to keep some Russian delicacies under the counter,” admits an elderly owner of a small store near Mayvand Avenue Yasin Qanuni… – Yes, I was told you had this in Soviet times. But food is brought in in small batches, and there is not enough for everyone. Sour cream is sorted out instantly, buckwheat for the best customers, pickled cucumbers fly away in a day. ” I ask – did all Afghan cucumber buyers study in the USSR? “No, not all,” the owner replies. “It’s just that Russian products have become a brand here for a long time.”
I have always wondered why there are no “points” of fast food of Russian cuisine abroad? With the same pancakes that are baked one-two-three. Now Russian sweets, “milk”, ice cream have begun to conquer the world and bring us money. However, we have not learned how to sell them directly to the consumer. Therefore, Tajiks and Chinese make good money on the affectionate love of Afghans for our food.
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