She’s the Caucasus equivalent of an Italian pasta granny, a formidable woman of advancing years whose life in the foothills of the mountains has shaped her into a resilient, no-nonsense character.
There’s a seemingly effortless mastery to her culinary skills – there’s no measuring or weighing of ingredients, there’s no sophisticated kitchen equipment and there are no fastfood shortcuts.
Floyd would have loved watching Aziza at work. There’s a slightly grisly episode where she prepares a sheep’s head from scratch and another of oxtail stew that starts with some rudimentary butchery.
They’re not all like that and the aim of the show isn’t to shock or confront viewers with the realities of food chain prep, this is just the way it is in this rural part of the world.
For the most part Aziza cooks traditional dishes using a wood-fired saj, something like a low-sided wok that has its origins in the cookware of nomadic people who used to roam the region.
Whether she’s dealing with meat or veg, Aziza tackles the tasks wielding an all-purpose chopping blade that looks like it started life as a hedge-layer’s billhook before being retooled by the local blacksmith.
She almost always works outside, whatever the weather, sitting on a sheepskin-covered bench at a rickety table on uneven ground.
Her saj sits atop the fire on refashioned metal rods more usually found in the construction industry. It’s crude but functional and none of the shortcomings of working without running water, or controllable heat, or labor-saving devices trouble her.
Aziza’s phlegmatic air coupled with bucolic scenery and natural sound serve up a relaxing treat of slow TV.
Clucking chickens scratch around her feet. An adorable puppy gallivants around on the grass. Chomping cows and gobbling turkeys wander by in the background and foreground. Cutaways show pots of flowers, wild herbs and Aziza’s husband chopping wood for the fire.
He’s also the master of the often perilously perched samovar from which they make teas and tisanes gathered from locally gathered ingredients.
The videos are shot by the couple’s son Amiraslan, a chef himself who was working in a restaurant in the capital, Baku, that was forced to close due to the pandemic.
Returning home to Gil in the Guslan region, he began recording aspects of village life (like this film of his mother making a primitive mud oven) as a chance to share regional dishes and rural way of life with the rest of the world.
Millions of views later, his YouTube channel has more than 1.6m subscribers and over 130 videos capturing aspects of the beauty and simplicity of rural life that seems to belong to a different age.