Putting horse milk to better use has been 86-year-old Toregeldy Sharmanov’s life mission.
Under the aegis of the Kazakh Academy of Nutrition, of which he is president, Sharmanov has created the first chocolate bars, ice cream and yoghurt made from horse milk.
“For thousands of years, Kazakhs have been using horse milk and doing nothing with it except making kymys (fermented mare’s milk). At some point, the Kazakhs tried to make spirits from kymys. They still make it in Mongolia, I have tried it myself. But what do we need spirits for?” said Sharmanov.
Sharmanov is most interested in gearing his products to young consumers. His devotion to popularizing horse milk occasionally got him into trouble when he was younger. In the 1980s, after serving a long stint as the Kazakh SSR’s health minister, he was fired as head of Institute of Nutrition for studying the properties of horse milk and labeled an “incorrigible nationalist.”
In the Soviet Union, even the topic of food could be political, as it turned out.
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Aigerim Toleukhanova is an independent journalist based in Kazakhstan.