Nearly five years ago, in April 2001, we were in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and heard a story that we bring up every year on St. Patrick’s Day. David and I, and our children Tom and Rachel, were at an Irish pub in Almaty talking to the American manager. He was gregarious. First, he warned us that we’d have trouble getting out of the country without paying a bribe (he was right–but we got away with forking over only about $4), and he told us about his problems with the KGB co-owners of the pub. He complained about communicating with the Kazakh staff, and told us what had happened when he tried to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in proper style.
I hope they have more sense in Ireland, but here in the States green beer is a tradition so our friend was determined to serve the first green beer ever seen in Kazakhstan. He provided the staff with money to buy green food coloring and explained the whole concept carefully. But when he tasted the sample they proudly presented he nearly gagged. Kazakhs use a lot of fresh herbs in their food and they had decided to save money by coloring the beer with parsley and mint!