Bhutan

Hello, welcome to Bhutan.

Have you ever been to Bhutan? Do you know anything about it? Did you even know it was a country?

Don’t fret.  Why don’t you join me for a cup of tea, and I’ll tell you all about it, as well as brief you for what’s in store for this week.

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First, let me tell about this tea. It’s not just any tea. It’s Butter Tea.

Butter tea is exactly as it sounds: black tea flavored with butter, a little bit of salt and, if you’re feeling it, a splash of milk.  Various sources explain that the Bhutanese do this because butter, being high in fat, aids in keeping one warm at high altitudes. And, from my personal recollection, The Himalayas are quite high.  The other distinction in this drink is in the butter- the locals use Yak butter since Yaks are a huge part of life up in those mountaintops and provide food, clothing and milk.  I recall this as well.

I will admit that I didn’t want to try the Butter Tea. One of my least favorite things about cooking or baking is touching butter. I don’t, if I can help it. Plus, I am not one to put butter on toast, slather it on dinner rolls or let it drip down the sides of my pancakes. So why spoil a perfectly lovely cup of tea?

I put my preferences aside and crafted what I thought was an acceptable cup of tea using some blackberry black tea, a sprinkle of salt, a ½ dime size of butter and a splash of milk. I was underwhelmed, and while I appreciate the need to stay warm and insulated during this next wave of polar vortex coming my way, I think I’ll stick to layering.

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However, if you’re feeling frisky and in need of some warming from within, give it a go.

Now, Bhutan.

The Kingdom of Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a small, sparsely populated, landlocked country located in the eastern Himalayas. I’d first heard of this little country after reading Eric Weiner’s travel diary, The Geography of Bliss.”  In this awesome book, Mr. Weiner named Bhutan as the happiest place on earth. While the Disney kid in me reserves that title for the Magic Kingdom, I could appreciate his assessment.  According to an article in the New York Times, in 1972, concerned about the problems afflicting other developing countries that focused only on economic growth, Bhutan’s leader, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, decided to make his nation’s priority not its G.D.P. but its G.N.H., or gross national happiness.  The King said that Bhutan needed to ensure that prosperity was shared across society and that it was balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment and maintaining a responsive government. The king has since been instituting policies aimed this.  This attitude is no doubt influenced by Bhuddism, the religion embraced by not only the government, but strongly by the people as well.

Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd

Image from the official website of The Kingdom of Bhutan

Can you imagine? A country whose primary concern was your happiness? Novel concept.

As for the food?  The dishes of Bhutan are centered around meat, poultry, rice and vegetables. And lots of peppers.  Hot stuff. You’ll see.

Red Rice, Millet and Oat Breakfast Pudding

Red Rice Pilaf

Ema Datshi (pepper and cheese stew)

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Image from National Geographic


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