“Spaghetti salad” is my friend’s translation from her native Dari, of a favorite dish from her childhood. She prepared it for a group of young Afghan students visiting the institute where she studies in Kabul.

First you boil the pasta, she explained, and then you mix some yoghurt into a lot of that white stuff that comes in a big jar. She jumped up to get the jar when I couldn’t guess what it was.

“May-onn-aise?” She sounded out the strange word on the label checking with me if her pronunciation was correct. Sure enough, she held a 2-quart jar of mayonnaise just like the one in my refrigerator. It felt like turning a corner in the old bazaar and finding a McDonald’s bustling with Afghan customers. She said that her friends were unfamiliar with mayonnaise, so it is not readily available and isn’t produced in Afghanistan currently. She added that some people had the mistaken idea that it is something to put on bread.

No, it is for spaghetti salad. Any type of flat noodle is cooked and flavored with the yoghurt-mayo mixture. The yoghurt is to make it easier to mix. A bit of salt is added. Meanwhile one peels a cucumber and cubes it. Then one chops up a tomato taking care to dump the seeds and juice. Spaghetti salad is pasta with cucumber and tomato on the side. The students had never tried this and pronounced it delicious.

So, it isn’t just movies, TV shows and music carrying culture West to East. May the Afghans keep traditional connections between what one eats and one’s health as this younger generation acquires a taste for pasta salads with mayonnaise.