Azerbaijani cuisine is surprisingly varied and interesting, with hearty, nutritious and fragrant dishes. Especially if they are cooked over a campfire from vegetables, fruits and herbs grown in one’s own garden — with heart and love.
Perhaps, it is the attraction of Azerbaijani cuisine that has enabled the video blog on YouTube «Kənd Həyatı» (Kand hayati) / «Country Life Vlog» / «Rural Life» to soar to the top of the ratings of viewers’ sympathy. Or maybe it is the Azerbaijani grandmother Aziza khanum, the main character. Or maybe it’s the way Amiraslan Ramikhanov, Aziza’s son, manages to capture all the charms of village life in a delicious and juicy way. It seems that there is nothing difficult to make pilaf or chicken kebab with a side dish of baked vegetables. But watching Aziza khanum cooking on the fire, you catch yourself thinking that you are ready to go and buy a ticket right now to visit this family and see if they will treat you to something.
Amiraslan Ramikhanov and his mother are a prime example of how much the Internet has erased the boundaries between village and city, between different countries, customs, cultures and peoples. Amiraslan shares his thoughts on this matter, saying that people often ask him how he learned to make and edit videos so beautifully. And he invariably answers one thing — the advent of the Internet has leveled the playing field between people in big cities and remote villages. Today, you can learn everything on your own, if you have the desire, drive and persistence. While some people complain about lack of conditions, others take it, learn and do it. And perseverance often leads to a good result.
How the Kənd Həyatı blog was created
The Azerbaijani grandmother’s video blog now has more than five million subscribers and even millions of views. But this was not always the case. The blog was created in may 2019, but at first the Ramikhanov family did not pay much attention to it — the son worked as a cook in a Baku restaurant, and his mother, the protagonist of the blog, always has something to do besides filming. But the pandemic made changes: the restaurant closed, and Amiraslan, who was born and lived almost all his life in Gusar, Gil village, returned home to the old Lezgi village, famous for its historical monuments and natural beauty: Gil has a preserved mosque of the XIX century and an ancient cemetery, which stretches for three kilometres. Amiraslan decided to make the most of his free time by blogging. He did not have to convince his mother to shoot regularly; the woman was happy to share her son’s desire to develop the blog, and now a couple of times a week the family shoots videos showing a step-by-step plan for cooking a variety of dishes.
It must be said that the subject of the blog was quickly and simply decided by the family — as we have already mentioned, Amiraslan worked as a chef in a restaurant in Baku and Aziza is a well-known wedding cook in the village of Gil. Therefore, the main subject of the blog is cooking. But not only. The highlight of this particular project is a return to nature. Agree, it is one thing when pilaf is cooked on a cooker in a city flat, albeit in a cast-iron cauldron, and quite another thing when the dish is stewed over a fire. And the spectators can watch both the process of cooking — the Azerbaijani and world cuisines — and the crackling of logs on the fire, a cat basking lazily in the sun, or family members gathering to taste the cooked dishes. Sometimes the family produce non-food related videos, for example they show how to make a home-made oven from an old bucket or how to make a beautiful bouquet from wild flowers.
Especially for the videos, Amiraslan has built a small hobbit-style ornamental hut near the crop field, making the filming even more interesting.
The videos are shot and edited by Amiraslan himself, so he hardly ever appears in the frame. The videos are subtitled not only in Azerbaijani, but also in Russian, English and even Chinese — this allows us to reach the widest possible audience. And it is paying off. According to the YouTube statistics, only 30% of channel subscribers are Azerbaijanis, the rest are from other countries: 17% are from Russia, 9% from Turkey, 6% from Germany, 3.4% from the US, etc. By the way, it is not only Azerbaijani cuisine that is featured in Aziza’s video, one can also see how to cook Spanish tortilla, spaghetti bolognese, burgers, paella, pizza, and much more. Popular on the channel are videos where a woman collects mulberry and cooks bakmes (doshab), where she makes aromatic sugar from rose petals, where she makes a cocktail from watermelon.
The woman likes to experiment, and the main criterion for choosing a dish for the next reel is the range of products in the fridge. As Amiraslan admits, not all products can be found in the village, and even in a period of self-isolation, so you have to limit your ideas or experiment and find substitutes for certain products.
According to Ramikhanov, thanks to the blog, the family has made a huge number of acquaintances and new friends from different countries. For example, the Taste Life page, which publishes recipes by famous chefs from around the world and has an audience of 40 million subscribers, shared a snippet of videos from the Kənd Həyatı blog. The moderator of the page contacted Amiraslan by email and asked permission to use the three videos, indicating the name of the channel. Of course, the young man happily agreed. Now there are already up to 20 «Rural Life» videos posted on this page, and each video has been viewed by about 15-120 million viewers, many have left positive feedbacks about the national Azerbaijani cuisine.
«Kənd Həyatı» is a blog not only about the cuisine. It is a video about the beauty and benefits of living in the countryside. Here you wake up with the sunrise, breathe the fresh air, enjoy the singing birds and the closeness of nature; here you eat fruits and vegetables from your own land and do not fear for the environmental friendliness of the products. Sign up and enjoy.
Credit of pictures: Country life vlog