Speaking about Uzbek national cuisine one should not forget that most of the dishes have a centuries-old history and recipes of the same have not changed for many years. By no means, this is our famous Uzbek pilaf, shish kebab, kazan – kabob, tandyr gusht (baked meat). These are the few dishes that Uzbekistan is famous for.
Uzbek pilaf is included into the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This decision was made at the meeting of the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia.
“Tradition of pilaf cooking is preserved in families, transmitted from master to student, while communicating between peers and in public institutions. This tradition, contributing to the strengthening of social ties and solidarity, is a part of the cultural identity of the community” UNESCO committee said in its decision.
The representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of mankind includes elements those demonstrate the diversity of intangible heritage and help to fully realize its importance. There are 366 items in the list with inclusion of the new ones.
There are several legends about pilaf and here is one of them. Once, while on a campaign in Central Asia, Alexander the Great decided to improve nutrition in his invincible army. Alexander was a very wise commander and understood that nutrition plays a significant role in the invincibility of his army. He called one of his soldiers (unfortunately the legend does not disclose us his name) and ordered him to create by the morning time the dish that would make his soldiers strong, would be easy to cook in large quantities, taste good and undemanding to the ingredients. Following the traditions established for all great kings, in case of failure to comply with the order, Alexander the Great promised the soldier the death penalty.
The situation was hopeless – the soldier did not know how to cook, he did not even have the dishes. However he was not accustomed to give up without a fight. Cursing fate and wondering why Alexander hadn’t entrusted such an important task to the cook the soldier took off his helmet and went to look for ingredients. Someone got some meat, someone got vegetables, oil, rice. He cleaned and cut the vegetable as he could and threw them into the helmet. Pretty soon the helmet was full. The soldier made a fire, poured water into the helmet, covered it with a shield, sat next to wait for the water to boil and … fell asleep. He woke up only in the morning and was horrified to find out that the fire had been extinguished a long time ago. Saying goodbye to his life and hoping for a miracle, the soldier took off his yet warm helmet from the fire and ran to Alexander. Alexander was waiting for him. The soldier, having lost all hope, bowed and put the result of his efforts to the feet of the ruler. Alexander scooped up with a spoon, put the dish into his mouth and began to chew. The soldier’s heart sank. Suddenly, Alexander’s face lit up with a smile. He gladly ate a few more spoons, put his helmet on the ground, walked over to dumbfounded soldier and hugged him. The soldier executed the order of Alexander the Great so the first pilaf was cooked that way.