In all the manuals it said that Albanian food is very similar to Greek food. After all, they are neighbors. I naturally assumed that meant it would be like all the food I’d eaten in Greek restaurants back in the states…mostly because I didn’t haven’t any other information to go on. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The very first day in Elbasan we were served plates of cucumbers, tomatoes, cold cut meats, cheese, and bread…for breakfast. Being used to my cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, and fruit in the U.S., I was a little confused. Whatever, I thought, living abroad is all about adjustments. Don’t get me wrong, Albanian food is delicious, but it definitely takes some getting used to. The staple food item here is bread, bread, and more bread. Then the rest of the meal is whatever you were able to harvest that day. So if cucumbers are in seasons, you’re having cucumbers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At first I was taken aback by being served things like rice and gravy with vegetables for breakfast, but then I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be eating food that was grown in my backyard. In the U.S. we’re all about going green, eating orangic, and buying fair trade food. That’s what they’ve been doing here in Bishqem for a thousand years. My host mother milks our cow, boils it, and pours me a glass for breakfast. Then she goes out back and turns half to cheese and the other half to yogurt. For lunch and dinner she grabs vegetables from the garden, slaughters a chicken, and has food for days. Sometimes after dinner, she walks out the back door to the garden and picks apples, oranges, and lemons for dessert. And yesterday she picked figs and made the most amazing marmalade I’ve ever eaten, no joke. The one thing Albanians in Bishqem don’t do is dessert, which is where I come in! As a novice baker I already promised my host family I’d show them how to make American style desserts with whatever I can scrounge up in the local super market. Pictures to come 🙂
But there is one thing the Albanians definitely got right: coffee! Coffee with breakfast seems natural enough, so I poured myself two mug-fulls (or rather wine glass-fulls since that’s what it was served in) before heading to class. Not even two hours later, apparently it was time for another cup of coffee. I was beginning to really like Albanian. Then and hour after lunch, we stopped class for yet another coffee break. Now THIS is my kind of place.