Since so many of you have been asking me about It, I think it’s time for a brief look into the Albanian food & diet. Since I live out in a village- almost every household has their own field in which they mainly grow lemons, oranges, grapes, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and of course olives. The women mostly tend to fields during the day and use the “in season” crop in meals every day- it’s actually really impressive how self-sufficient they are here, and yes, their fruits and veggies are extremely fresh and delicious and I eat them every day!
My host mom, again following along the patterns of my previous host mothers abroad, is a wonderful cook, and serves me a wide variety of food. One of the classic dinners I get is a tomato-based soup almost always served with “mish baby cow” as my family jokes about which, you guessed it, is veal. They LOVE veal and it’s usually the only meat we eat. Every once in a while, they make the slit across the neck motion and I’m served chicken for a couple days to follow.
On special occasions (especially when I am invited to other peoples houses for dinner or guests come over) I am served a “meza” which is a plate consisting of a meat (lamb, chicken, pork, or fish), a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, cheese, French fries, olives, and byrek. Byrek is an amazing creation of light flaky dough, stuffed with cheese and spinach, and brushed with egg to make it kind of flaky. Side note: the CHEESE HERE IS AMAZING! Other side note: since olives are a huge hit here everything is made with olive oil… sometimes a LOT of olive oil, though my host family is good about holding back on the oil.
Albanians love to share their food. Most meals, the salad and “tarator” – a homemade yogurt with garlic and cucumbers mixed in (I LOVE THIS), are placed in giant community bowls in the middle of the table and everyone digs in with their own spoons. It’s definitely different, but it doesn’t even phase me anymore.
Oh top of everything I must tell you that they love bread- plain old white sliced bread. The family eats at least 3 pieces of bread each per meal and they find it really weird I barely eat any. In fact, the word for bread and they word for food are both the same, buke, literally meaning bread. Thus, they consider bread a staple food, clearly an idea still holding strong in the post-communist society of Albania.