Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guide to Guesting

I thought this would be a useful guide for all those venturing to enter into the Peace Corps and by chance assigned to Azerbaijan. Guesting probably applies to other countries as well, like Armenia and Georiga, but here it is a real experience you'll enjoy several times a week for the rest of your service. I actually can say that many PCVs actually survive on guesting when money happens to be tight or when your host mom only cooks you potatoes for days on end. It is also the best way for you to use your Azerbaijani, get to know your community, and make great friendships.

First, understand that there is a process to guesting and it can not be interrupted or you will spend at least 15 minutes trying to excuse / explain yourself. Expect to be at someone's house for at least 3 hours and Always / Always tell your host family when you go guesting or you will be forced to eat once you get home, again. The fact that I've lost not a single pound here is testimony to not realizing this needed to be done to save my stomach from exploding.

So, the meal starts like this: tea: piping hot tea with your choice of various cookies, cake, chocolates, and sometimes gummies which my friends buys especially for me since there awesome. Also, when you have tea you always have jam and I will stress how important trying the jam is for getting in with the women. They love their jam and love anyone who eats it while saying how tasty everything has been.

Next, the main course: do not be afraid to tell people if they ask what you want to eat exactly what you like. I always list off dolmas, kabob, kitaf, plov, etc... If I am going to be forced to eat mass amounts of food I prefer to eat at least things I really like. Also, the drink of choice is kompot which is very sweet juice they make themselves or soda.

Tips to the main course:
  • Don't be afraid to start eating right away - they are waiting for you to start before anyone else.
  • Take a little each time, but understand that you will be required to eat more than everyone around you. Plan on taking at least 2 plates of food so that's why I make it small or eat more meat than bread, etc...
  • You have to eat bread with your food, you can not get away with not doing so without a major headache on your hands or at least I've not figured out the trick.
  • The women will yell Eat! Eat! so be smart on what you chose and how much.

After the main course, you will again have tea and this time probably more cakes. You basically repeat the beginning of the guesting at the end with having jam, etc.... Leave room for fruit which they love to have at the end of a meal becuase you will be asked to eat.

The question you will hear the most during guesting is, "why are you not eating". That's why it's important to have a game plan and to tell your host family.

I hope this guide helps and I will also stress how much fun guesting can be. I love going over to my friend's houses or my relatives who are all crazy as hell. I'm stuffed with food through the suffering have really gained an understanding of the people here by being invited to their homes.


  1. I sounds to me like you are in Heaven!! What a lovely word..Eat Eat. I have chills running up & down my spine just thinking about it! At least you aren't having to do all the cooking. Your Grandma Spencer used to say the best tasting foods were those cooked by someone else. Anyway, It sounds like you are adjusting and having fun. Plus taking lots of pictures, which I espesially enjoy. (Could you take more of the country houses, their gardens, etc. Aunt Kathy's parent are amazed that a women your age is doing what you are doing. They like seeing your countryside pictures because some of them look a lot like WV.
    Love Uncle Tom
    PS: Don't forget to add recipes to your blog.