Have you ever heard of a tandoor oven? No? Neither had I until right about 2009. I was deployed to Afghanistan and found myself constantly eating this delicious local bread, cooked in the local’s ovens. But this wasn’t a place that had modern infrastructure or even electricity, so I use the term “oven” a little loosely. These were what we originally called “mud ovens,” and on occasion we found ourselves warming our hands and feet near one.
It was probably a good three or four months before we actually learned the name of these neat little ovens. After a lot of broken English/Afghan conversations, the local Afghan National Army soldier we worked with became quite friendly and our go-to local national soldier. He eventually corrected our terminology from “mud oven” to “tandoor.”
My squad, our company’s recon squad, was pushed to a northern outpost where we could control the middle ground of our region. We set up in an abandoned compound and eventually built our defenses and turned our little home into a fortress.
We worked hard, and patrolled hard, and that creates hunger. We got real tired of MREs, and could trade different items, or buy chickens, eggs and goats. Our local Afghan soldiers were more than happy to show us how to cook the food; we just needed a method to cook the food. The first option was fire, but tactically that had a number of disadvantages. First off, it would light up our inner compound for anyone who wanted to take a peak; secondly, the use of night vision for security was critical, and the fire would limit it.
So eventually we decided: Let’s build a tandoor. The Afghan soldier knew how to do it, and it was easy to get mud from a nearby canal. We knew ours wouldn’t be as pretty as the local’s, but we could build one. We did, and it worked excellently.