As I embark on this blogging adventure, a little historical context seems appropriate. I write these words from the Zabul Province in southeastern Afghanistan, a bit east of Kandahar. Far closer and within view are the city of Qalat, and the fortress first built by the Macedonian king Alexander the Great over two thousand years ago during his push to India. The remnants of this “castle” are visible in the distance over the author’s left shoulder, on the right bank of the river Tarnak near the road between Kabul and Kandahar. Alexander was reputed to have died shortly after the consumption of a large quantity of wine for reasons still debated, but at least he died happy. Given this propensity for wine in his life, it is doubtless that he consumed it at his nearby fortress.
Fast forward to the mid-nineteenth century, when the wine-loving British Army occupied this same fortress, then known Kalat-i-Ghilzai. In 1842, a British garrison was held under seige at the fort by the Ghilzais for six months, as seen in the painting by Lieutenant James Rattray, courtesy of the British Library. I can only hope for the sake of my former military colleagues from the mother country that they had an ample supply of wine to carry them through those long months of siege.
Sadly, I don’t have that same luxury of a nearby wine cellar as enjoyed by militaries past, but these musings on matching wine with MREs in the coming days will surely fill the void. Cheers!