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  • Tanzin Dolma

Food in the Mountains

Everybody dreams to live in a small cabin in the woods but mountain life is not that easy. The hardships of living in the mountains are overlooked by the beauty it holds. It’s a blessing to be born and raised in mountains but I have seen the people struggle through the year from growing their veggies and making a living by selling them. For context, the place I am talking about is in a cold desert where summer is short-lived with a hot sunny afternoon and cool night but winters are long and very cold. The long winters are difficult to bear with limited food supply and therefore the food of mountains is different from that in the cities.


Summer season is a very busy time for people as they have to make their living for the year and prepare for long harsh winters. Every household has a glass room on top for drying vegetables and meat. These dried foods are the main ingredients for delicacies during winters like dried radish vegetable along with some dried meat thukpa to keep ourselves warm during winters. Many people wonder why do we need these dried foods even at this advanced time but life in those mountains is still the same as it was 50 years ago. Despite all the advancements, people cannot give up their food habits. Not a single day goes by when I don’t hop on that warm meat thee thukpa (a type of soup made with mutton and barley) while gazing at the snow-covered mountains. The sight of my grandmother weaving yarn from the wool on the charkha and sipping on that seabuckthorn tea is still fresh. The daily chores of people in the mountain are entirely different from those in the cities because going to the forest to collect dried pine cones for lighting up the fire in tandoor (kind of heater) is not a chore of city dwellers.



The unique lifestyle demands for different food requirements. The cuisine of Himalayas seems strange at first but the culinary practices that have been carried forward through generations are what makes it great. The day in most of the household starts with a cup of warm water aka chuskol. For the breakfast langchi keker (sour bread) with fresh butter on top awaits on the brass plate and some days loar(fermented barley made into a thick dosa) and chuliangmo (dried apricots boiled in water). The afternoon tea is often accompanied by jwaktsi ( sattu mixed with local beer) for everyone needs that extra energy to work in that hot scorching sun. The dinner is mostly thukpa (vegetables, noodles, and meat) which is great to keep your body warm. And not to forget butter tea which is prepared in the morning and filled in a flask to sip on all day. The recipes revolve around barley, dairy, and mutton but every bite brings with its true essence of culture and tradition. It’s not going be easy but it’s going to be worth it, said the girl from the cabin in the woods.


 

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