Nostalgic tales

Among the most fascinating examples recount American officials’ meetings in September 2009 and February 2010 with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president and a power broker in the Taliban’s home turf of Kandahar.

They describe Mr. Karzai, “dressed in a crisp white shalwar kameez,” the traditional dress of loose tunic and trousers, appearing “nervous, though eager to express his views on the international presence in Kandahar,” and trying to win over the Americans with nostalgic tales about his years running a Chicago restaurant near Wrigley Field.

That’s from this morning’s New York Times, in a story based on diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.

That restaurant was The Helmand, at Belmont and Halsted. Although I knew the Karzai family ran the restaurant — and several other Helmands around the country — until today I wasn’t sure which member was in Chicago. I ate at the restaurant more than once, which means I’ve met and shaken hands with a man “widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker,” according to the cable the Times quotes. It was probably 20 years ago, so my vague memory of an elegant man may be suspect. I remember he was described as a former fighter pilot in stories at the time about the restaurant.

At our house, The Helmand lives on in a recipe for kaddo borawni, a delicious sauteed pumpkin in yogurt and meat sauce dish. (The recipe I linked to is from the Baltimore Helmand, but the Chicago recipe is similar; it was published in Specialties of the House, a 1988 cookbook of recipes from Chicago restaurants.) My wife was going to make it last night, but we were distracted by the Bears’ win over Philadelphia and ate Thanksgiving leftovers instead. So we’ll have the kaddo borawni tonight and join Mr. Karzai in his nostalgia for The Helmand.

One Response to “Nostalgic tales”

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