Kyrgyzstan: The Dark Side of "Ethnic Cuisine"
[UPDATE: Just noticed that Eurasianet's Justin Vela has a brand new story on the same subject that this post deals with.]I missed this when it first appeared, but RFE/RL has a very interesting blog post up about the Kyrgyz city of Osh's struggles to regain its status of a gastronomic capitol in the wake of last year's ethnic clashes, which pitted the city's Uzbeks and Kyrgyz against each other. From the blog post:
Osh was once a city of restaurants and cafes -- spacious, welcoming eateries whose owners and cuisine, more often than not, were Uzbek. (In a city of many divisions, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, even now, are nearly unanimous in agreeing that Uzbeks are far better cooks.)
A year after ethnic clashes left southern Kyrgyzstan in tatters, Osh is laboring to restore its gastronomic reputation.
Throughout the city, and most noticeably along the city's main Kyrgyzstan Street, dozens of the burned-out hulls of businesses destroyed in the 2010 clashes have been rebuilt and reopened.
But there's a difference: this time around, the owners are Kyrgyz. And local Uzbeks blame criminal groups close to the mayor for squeezing them out of their businesses.
One case in point is Nostalzhi, a sleek cafe-hotel complex in a central district of the city, not far from its main bazaar and mosque. The cafe, opened by an Uzbek family in 1997, was soon followed by a sister cafe, Nostalzhi-Plus in the city's Aravan district.
The family took evident pride in its slowly growing empire. "We really put a lot of thought into our designs," says one family member, "Aibek," who refused to give his real name, be photographed, or even have his voice recorded, out of fear for his safety.
"We chose beautiful marble, lovely gates. We even got a patent on the names. We were always very careful with the law."/