Why is pLOVE so important?
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Something inevitably happens when two or more Central Asians get together, that is plov - the social glue and the culinary hegemon ruling over the hearts of individuals and entire nations.
A dish related to the wide family of rice-based goodness such as paella, risotto, or arroz rojo - you name it. In and beyond Central Asia plov is served to honour the cherished guests, it is cooked to collectively celebrate the happiest moments and to share the grief...Even the Beatles dedicated one of their songs to plov - "all you need is plov, parararara", they sang.
But, jokes aside, why is plov so important? - you might wonder. The best way to answer this question is to describe the world's first online plov cook-off festival that took place on 25.10.2020
Central Asians residing in, affiliating with or otherwise connected to Afghanistan, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan got together online and engaged in the simultaneous preparation of the dish so dear to them.
Oil in, next - the onions, instructions are provided as they go. Experiences are shared, tips and trick revealed.
What type of plov are you cooking today?
- I'm doing the Oshi Sofi, Bukhara's signature plov.
Wow, sounds interesting, been wanting to try this one.
- And I am cooking with chicken, "tovuq palov".
Oh, that one is lovely.
- I got some Uzgen rice and will be making plov with quince!
Soo good, an ideal Autumn plov.
- I will do the standard Namangan plov, the one I can cook if woken up in
the middle of the night and spun around.
There are so many variations of plov that even when a recipe is shared and people cook it simultaneously, following each step, the result will be different.
In Uzbekistan, each region takes pride in its own version of the dish and while such boldness leads to heated arguments at times, it otherwise creates a spirit of healthy competition, forcing the masters to work on perfection.
Carrots in, do you fry them or not?
- Well, this depends on the type of plov you are cooking. Bukhara or Namangan style?
Ok, do we use garbanzo beans? - never done this before.
- Feel free, also use raisins, or other dried fruits if you want to.
I heard somewhere that you should never mix any ingredients in plov!
- That is only part of the truth as in some types of plov the rice is not mixed
with the rest of the ingredients before serving.
A dish like plov is inevitably surrounded by myths, legends and misleading interpretations of overheard approaches. Some say it was Avicena who designed the nutritious and fitting dish, others link it to Tamerlane the Great and his quest for a meal that was easy to make in one pot while it could keep the soldiers in shape during the months of conquest crusades...
Tracing the origin of plov is not plausible. At this point, it is just a matter of choosing the legend that you like the most and sticking to it.
Where does the name come from?
- Some say it's a code, "oshi palov", in which "osh" means food, while each letter in P.A.L.O.V. stands for one of the main ingredients - rice, meat, water, salt, oil.
What is the origin of plov after all? Which Central Asian nation does it belong to?
- Plov belongs to everyone who can cook it, or enjoy eating it.
Time performs its merciless counts out and the cosy online get-together is coming to an end. Everyone is in anticipation of their plov, there is magic under the lid and the outcome is unpredictable. Will it be fluffy as it should be? We sure hope so.
The moment of truth, we serve our beloved dish on festive platters and we adore it and take pictures and we share with the world.
Was this experience about satisfying physical hunger?
- No! Ok, who am I fooling, the answer is yes, but not only.
This experience was about filling the social void that is hunting us down amid the pandemic. It was about sharing what we know about life, its cannons, and "universal laws" if you will. This was a moment in time and space where friends and strangers came together and did what has been done for thousands of years - we shared the warmth of the hearth.
We come from divergent start points and we walk our own unique walks...but there are some things we share, be it joy or grief. Plov serves as a mediator in this process of sharing. This is why this dish is so important.