You Have To Go To Afghanistan To Get Good Kebab And Melons

By Spencer Ackerman

Luckily, I did.

This was lunch today: a succulent, spicy lamb (I… think) kebab, dusted with smoky paprika, cumin and other spices that I can’t identify. Gloriously greasy — they didn’t trim any of the luscious, gelatinous fat off the meat, so the flavor soaked through each lovely piece and down through the naan. As you can see, I opted not to try the ominous chili pepper that came wrapped in my sandwich. Braver men than myself — in particular, Army National Guard Major Fred Bates — turned bright red after biting in, proclaiming it habanero-like in its intensity. Thanks but no thanks.

Clearing our palettes were chunks of locally-grown melons. One reason to feel optimistic about Afghanistan: the Afghans have cultivated a melon that’s like a honeydew but has flavor. Firm but juicy, a bit fibrous — and, most importantly, sweet and ever so slightly sour. A dude sold me one inside the compound of the agricultural chief of Kapisa Province. I gave him five dollars before he ran to his car to retrieve a ten pound melon shaped like an overinflated football and appearing outwardly like the head of a Tenctonese Newcomer. As we drove back to Bagram Air Field, it occurred to me that the plasticware distributed for on-base dining wouldn’t be up to the job, and even if I wasted $40 on a knife at the PX that I’d have to give up when I leave here, that wouldn’t cut the damn thing either. I opted to donate it to a captain in the unit that I accompanied out to Kapisa who ogled my melon with very hungry eyes.

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