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“Bizarre Foods” and Dust Storms

July 2, 2010

Some of you may be familiar with the television program above. I think it’s hosted by Andrew Zimmern (or some such person). You “Travel Channel” junkies have probably even seen it before. As soon as all of us arrived here in Mongolia, we were all comparing notes on whether we’d seen the episode that featured Mongolian cuisine. Boiled goat head,
real Mongolian barbecue, and mutton were all featured items. I’ve only had experience with one of the meals on that list (mutton), but that will all change on Sunday for our 4th of July party; our host families have collaborated to put on a Mongolian-style-American-holiday for us. We’re headed out to the hoodoo (countryside) for a real Mongolian barbecue. We’ll be cooking a whole goat by heating stones extremely hot and putting it inside the animal carcass. Here, barbecue is from the inside out. According to current volunteers, it makes some of the best meat they’ve ever tasted…anywhere. Additionally, the heads of the goats will be removed and boiled in a pot. Every piece is consumed and it’s widely considered a delicacy here.

Below, you can see some pictures of my friend Justin. I stopped by his house on the day that his host-family was cooking up goat heads for a special dinner for out of town family they were expecting. (Note: if you have animal rights issues, or are just a bit squeamish about these things, I don’t recommend enlarging the photo below). Justin is really a champ. I think he tried a little bit of everything. He said the eyes and tongue were OK, the ears were entirely too chewy, the cheek…and face? (I guess that’s what you call it) were pretty good, and the palate was pretty weird. This man deserves a medal.

In other news, I got caught in a real dust storm walking back from the internet café a few days ago. None of this “polite clouds of dust” thing, no, this one I spotted from several hundred yards away and it was on top of me before I knew it. For about 60 seconds, when I was in the middle of it, it blocked out the sun, reduced visibility to zero, and left me completely covered in dirt—eyes, mouth, nose, hair, everything. I walked in the front gate of my yard just as my host-mom was coming out the door of their house and she just started laughing. I imagine I looked like an artifact that someone had just dug out of a few hundred years worth of dirt. I took a bath in my pot that night and the water was good and brown by the time I was done. The other picture on here is of the dust storm aftermath. I couldn’t quite get my camera out fast enough when I saw it coming towards me to get the full effect—definitely an impressive phenomenon.

Anyone in the vicinity of Minnesota, please wish my Mother a very happy birthday!

All my best,

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa Watson permalink
    July 2, 2010 4:41 pm


    I am a chaplain at Regions Hospital and a Presbyterian Minister. I have shared lunch with your dad roughly once a week for the past several years and have followed your path through high school, college and now the Peace Corps. I hope you don’t mind him sharing your blog with me. Your pictures are amazing and this experience is/will be life-changing. What a wonderful opportunity for you and a blessing for all whom you meet on this journey. Thanks for sharing it with those of us back in the midwest.

    Lisa Watson

  2. July 6, 2010 1:11 am

    Hi Rob, Belated Happy 4th!! I am wondering how the goat BBQ tasted. I have not seen the Andrew Zimmerman’s Mongolian food episode but will keep an eye out for it. Years ago I took a cooking class from Andrew Zimmerman. It wasn’t as exotic as Mongolian BBQ. We made lobster rolls and potato salad. Love seeing all your pictures!!

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