On May 1st all of Shkoder goes to Velipoja beach. We have the day off for Labor Day and its usually the first hot day of the year, hence the beginning of summer. So in my best attempt to act Albanian, I followed suit and treked out to the beach, which is about 45 mins from where I live in Shkoder.
The night before I was lucky enough to be invited to join my 2 favorite Albanian families for lunch and general enjoyment on the beach, so how could I say no? And on the way to the beach we stopped at this little place on the side of the road for ice cream, which in and of itself isn’t all that special. But this ice cream in particular got me thinking. So saddle up and get ready for the strange thoughts of a lonely PCV (believe me, your mind would wander and come up with weird ideas too if you were surrounded by people having intense debates in a language that you can’t follow. I’ve gotten pretty good at entertaining myself and having full-blown conversations in my head, let’s just say that).
Ice cream. That’s where it started. And this ice cream in particular.
This ice cream signifies one of the reasons why I love Albania. Along the road in a small village on the way to sea, there is this little old lady on the side of the street that has a small stand with a vendor’s umbrella and sign that simply says “Akulloret”. But let me tell you, this is not just any ice cream. Behind her stand is her family’s picturesque little farm with cows, chickens, and rows upon rows of flower fruit trees. So everyone morning she walks down from her farm to her stand on the side of the road and sells this ice cream. And when she runs out, she doesn’t go to Safeway, call the district supply manager, or place an order for another delivery. She goes home, milks her cow, makes more ice cream, walks back to her stand, and continues to stand there in the blazing 110 degree weather selling her ice cream to all the cars that pass by.
And in all honesty, I’ve never tasted ice cream so fresh. Sorry Eddy’s, your Double Churned French Vanilla has nothing on this. No amount of manufacturing or factory taste-testing can recreate this flavor. Everything in Albania is just so much fresher. And what can I say, fresher is better.
Which quickly brings me to my second point. Here I am eating the best ice cream ever, right? And in 5 secs its gone and my magical experience is over. Why is ice cream in Albania served in such tiny portions?! It should be a crime. You shouldn’t be able to sell the best ice cream ever and not have a “super size me” option. When you get a scoop of ice cream in this wonderful country, it’s literally the size of a tablespoon. You know, like the size that the nutrion facts label says you actually should be eating. Not the American “gotta have it” Cold Stone size that we all know and love. It’s like no one has invented the extra-large in this country yet. Thank you Albania for forcing me to think about just how much junk Americans put into our bodies. And thank you for guilt-tripping me into going on a diet.
But maybe I’ll start it tomorrow. Who actually follows the serving sizes?! I mean, you’re having ice cream. You’ve already blown your diet. Just eat it. And go back for seconds. And I’ve been known to put back entire Ben & Jerry’s cartons over the course of one evening. So don’t judge me when I drive back to the little old lady on the side of the road and ask her for a refill.
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”