Wylie and Helene|
The Story of Kymys
Long ago the Kyrgyz people were at war with their neighbors. Many battles were fought and both sides were suffering. The Kyrgyz king was wounded and died shortly after. During the burial ceremony, an enemy tribe ran from the hills and killed everyone they could find. Only a young boy and girl, who had been collecting berries, survived.
They walked for many days and became very hungry and tired. One day a wild mare approached them. Since her own foal had been killed by wolves and her teats were full of warm and nutritious milk, she adopted the children and nurtured them until they were old enough to have children of their own. The Kyrgyz people continued to live with horses, treating them with love and respect.
When people traveled on horseback they would carry the milk in animal skins. Due to the agitation and the sweetness of the milk it would ferment. This in time becomes the favorite beverage of young and old alike. It is called Kymys and is the national drink of Kyrgyzstan.
Today it is still brewed as it has been for centuries. The season runs from March through August, as these are the months of the mare’s lactation. The mares are milked several times a day. The fresh milk is added to some that is already fermenting, usually held in a goatskin. The goatskin is smoked to impart a more robust flavor. The milk is then churned with a special plunger called a “Bishkek? which happens to be the name of the Kyrgyzstan’s capital city.
It is a full-bodied drink that is sweet, sour, smoky, bubbly, creamy and mildly alcoholic all at the same time. I’ve seen old toothless women drink several glasses and infants tipping back baby bottles full. It makes one strong and robust and helps just about anything. More than once I’ve been told that our childless status would be remedied if we drank more Kymys.