“Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”
To much of the world, “kant” evokes images of an 18th century Prussian philosopher, but in Kyrgyzstan the word is much more common, although less quotable. In Kyrgyz, “kant” means sugar. Just outside of Bishkek, a small town was built in the 1930’s around the implementation of a sugar plant. All across the country, in the fall, farmers begin harvesting their sugar beets and sending them by the truckload to this small town. If you manage to time it right, you could be stuck in a traffic line that crawls along for kilometers, as passenger cars move in a single file past the line up of these trucks, waiting their turn for delivery to the plant. Fallen sugar beets, enormous and white, line the highway like a Hansel and Gretel story, leading the way to Kant.
Whether in cube or granulated form, EVERY good Kyrgyz table will have white sugar on it, often in several forms. Next to bread, sugar is an essential staple to Kyrgyz culture, hospitality, and dining. This comes from several reasons: first of all, sugar is cheap and delicious, and therefore an easy thing to have at the ready for guests. Secondly, it is a lovely partner to another foundational Kyrgyz dining component: tea.
In addition to the standard white sugar, there is often a dish of homemade jam, also used as a sweetener for tea. Strawberry, apricot, raspberry, and current are usual flavors, but some women will get creative, mixing strawberry with rhubarb or creating an orange marmalade.
Another sweetener that is usually reserved for more special occasions is honey. The white mountain honey that is unique to this region is specifically loved, but with bee keepers all over the country, honey of many hues and flavors is abundant.
The last sugar option enticingly present on most tables comes in the form of candy. Brightly wrapped chocolates, toffees, fruit jellies, and the occasional marzipan are gently nudged toward any guest. Mysteriously, it seems that the dish filled with the candies is never touched, yet somehow it frequently needs to be refilled…
Alongside bread and tea, sugar is one of the most important aspects of good hospitality in Kyrgyzstan. It comes in many forms and is always seen as a sweet gesture of well-meaning between hosts and guests. Now that the theory of “kant” in Kyrgyz culture is somewhat explained, it’s time to come and experience this theory for yourself!
The Capitol of Kyrgyzstan
The Ala-Too mountain range looms up majestically from the southern edge of Bishkek. Especially in the fall and winter, these snow-capped peaks are pristinely visible on clear, sunny days.
Places to Visit in Bishkek
In the center of Bishkek, near the Philharmonia, the epic story of Manas is readily brought to mind with a statue of the hero astride a flying horse. Snow fall in the winter creates a beautiful contrast, and enhances the reflection of the lighting that shows off the city's features.
Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.
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