An Albanian Meal

This is the second post about a recent trip to Albania as a bridesmaid in an Albanian/American wedding.

We ate both lunch and dinner at the groom’s family home yesterday. It must cost the family a fortune to feed so many people – at least 20 adults for dinner not to mention the gaggle of children. I’m told that the parties will only get bigger starting tonight when the “real” wedding celebration begins. The family went to Kosovo yesterday and bought 500 Euro of food and drink, including 150L of Kosovar Raki and 100L of wine, plus a substantial amount of delicious Kosavar feta cheese. Weddings are no small deal in Albania.

The “other” Stella. Which happens to have a faux Heinekin can

The mother of the groom and sisters-in-law didn’t stop working during the entire twelve or more hours that we were at The House, except to go get their hair cut and highlighted and do their nails so that they are ready for the festivities. The hair color reminds me of the girls that would come into the Hoggsbreath, but they are extremely nice painfully hospitable people. “Are you in love?” one of the sisters-in-law asked me using the bride as the translator. Upon hearing that I am indeed “in-love” she hugged me and told me that she was very happy for me. Not sure how to respond I replied with “thank you” in Albanian or “Falaminderit”.

People in Albania have been amazed when they hear how far away we live. Upon hearing that I am from Minnesota, had met the bride in Toronto, then lived in Hawaii for five years before moving to Hong Kong and then quitting my job there to come to this wedding in Albania the father of the groom just laughed and laughed. “Oh Natalia” he calls me, and I’m OK with that. It’s a refreshing change that people can be amazed by anything after living in Hong Kong, a jaded city that has seen and done it all. Sitting in a lawn chair all day having delicious homemade food forced upon us – another thing that is unheard of in HK; sitting and doing nothing (unless it’s stare at your iPhone) – we were less productive than ever, and I’m OK with that too.

We can drink the water here. It’s pumped up right from a well below the property, so I’ve been told by the bride that it’s safe to drink. Without a 7 Eleven in sight from which to purchase bottled water there isn’t much choice either. It tastes fine, and so far, cross my fingers, we’ve all maintained perfect health.

The food is served by placing multiple serving plates of each dish at intervals along the table; cucumber & tomato salad (from their enormous garden), homemade pickles, plates overflowing with chunks of feta, homemade crusty bread, and cut up sausage. None of these serving plates has a serving utensil; we all just grab from the middle and graze as we please. If we are served a soup (usually a broth based soup made out of mystery meat and veggies) it comes in an individual bowl. Once the soup is eaten us foreigners use the empty bowl as a personal plate on which to pile our delicious fare. I’m told that if there isn’t a soup no one receives an individual plate from which to eat off of; we are just supposed to eat off the plates in middle of the table. This suites me fine as then no one can look accusingly at my plate and ask me why I didn’t finish such and such, or serve me more of anything once I’m full. Communal eating spawns consumption autonomy, which I am grateful for as I do still need to fit into a fairly tight bridesmaid dress come The Big Day.

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