Since moving to a new city of nearly 3 million people last summer I’ve been blessed to make many new friends. This past Fall while helping with an English club one evening, I met two girls from a village more than an hour away from my city home. When they found out that I love to cook, had a catering business in America and now have a website where I share all the wonderful Central Asian recipes I learn for the West to enjoy in English, they were delighted. The cuisine is a huge source of pride for everyone living here. Also both of these girls have mothers who earn income cooking traditional food for tourists who come to visit their picturesque village. We exchanged phone numbers that first night and a week later they invited me to their village for a traditional breakfast with no fewer than 25 delicious dishes which are sure to delight everyone’s taste buds and leave you full past dinnertime.
My first day in their village was quite an experience and definitely not just a quick breakfast together. Over the course of our 3-hour breakfast together, a few additional girls joined us and we all enjoyed coffee and dessert while getting to know each other. My new friends were especially excited to introduce me to their friend, Sarah* who also loves to cook and studied at a professional cooking school. We had a grand time together discussing our favorite dishes and how to make each one. I know I can learn so much from her and was delighted when she offered to make some things together that I haven’t yet learned how to make. They spent the rest of the day touring me around their village, introducing me to relatives, and showering me with more hospitality than I felt comfortable receiving. As I was preparing to leave they asked if I know how to make the beloved candied pumpkin dessert loved throughout the country. I told them yes and even showed them the recipe and pictures from my website which thoroughly impressed them and helped give me some more credibility. I should’ve known that their question was code for “if we give you one of the pumpkins we raise to sell will you know what to do with it?” Soon I found myself boarding the bus for the long journey home with a nice heavy pumpkin which they gifted me.
When the end of November rolled around and the American Thanksgiving Day was approaching, I invited them to my home for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Three girls were able to come and all enjoyed Turkey and Pumpkin Pie for the first time ever. We had a lovely time visiting together for many hours. They asked me lots of questions and I was able to explain to them why, as a Christian, I think giving thanks to God is so important. I could tell it was the first time they ever conversed with a believer and they were very curious so I was very happy to share honestly with them about what I believe and why. As we visited, like during the first time we were together, conversation soon turned to talking about Sarah’s upcoming wedding. Previously they had invited me to come and stay in their village for the 4 days in March when her wedding celebrations would take place. They patiently explained all of the unique cultural traditions I had never heard of or experienced before. Though I am looking forward to the experience, it’s still several months away. While in my home for Thanksgiving, Sarah mentioned that her civil marriage ceremony would happen on Monday afternoon. It’s usually a very small affair with only the closest friends and relatives invited to the 15-minute long ceremony where they are officially married by law. I was thrilled she invited me and, though nervous and not knowing what to expect, I jumped at the chance to attend.
While the ceremony itself was over in the blink of an eye, I felt so honored to be able to meet her relatives. Afterwards, 4 of the young people invited me to go out with them for coffee near a beautiful waterfall. Later they drove me back to their village and invited me into yet another home where one of their mothers had prepared a delicious meal for us. She was delighted to hear that I’m a cook and enjoy the traditional food, so for everything I tried she asked if I know how to make it. She then offered for me to come back and spend the day cooking with her and learning new dishes.
I am so grateful how the Father orchestrated me meeting two of the girls and how our friendship has blossomed and I’ve gotten to meet almost their entire village and been so openly welcomed by many of them. Please pray with me that I will continue to shine His light and love in a pure and honest way as our friendship grows and they teach me many things about their culture and cuisine.
* Name changed for security reasons