Next to Ahmed’s stall green-glazed earthenware jars of olive oil, big enough to hold both Johanna and Jaufre with room to spare, were stacked against bales of hay. The vendor had set up a crude wooden table with a bowl of the oil available for tasting. Placed conveniently next door was a naan stall. A woman in a colorful scarf tied low on her forehead, her sleeves turned back to her elbows, was kneading a mass of dough in a large open bowl. Her husband presided over the oven, a tall earthenware pot larger than the oil urns, buried in glowing coals. He tore off chunks of dough to pat them into rounds and slap them against the inside surface of the pot. When that side had browned he peeled them off and slapped them down again on the other, uncooked side. The smell of baking bread made Johanna’s stomach growl and the baker’s wife smile. She gave them two rounds each, saying with a twinkle, “Still the finest bread in all of Kashgar, yes, young miss?”
I went to China in 2005 to research Silk and Song, specifically to visit western China or the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. It’s mostly Muslim and there is a lot of delicious kebab to the ethnic cuisine, but breakfasts in the hotels were skewed to businessmen who were mostly Chinese. Call me parochial but pickled cabbage is not what I want to wake up to.
In Kuche I went up to our guide, David (The Chinese tourist guides Anglicize their names for our convenience. His real name is Li Yong Wei.) and asked if the following morning those of us who wanted to could please go into the market and buy bread for breakfast.
He looked a little quizzical but there was no problem, and the next morning we proceeded into the market and bought up the first naan out of the tandoor. Hot, chewy, delicious.
If there had been coffee it would have been perfect, but that had to wait until Narita.
Everything Under the Heavens in audio download:
The Silk and Song slideshow is here, and I’m going through it a slide or two at a time, with commentary, most Tuesdays here.