Sunday, March 4, 2012

ALBANIA: THE FOOD

There were quite a few recipes to go through, but I ended up landing on potato and cabbage soup for the meal, and the bread to go with it was a cornbread with scallions and cheese.  The weather here had turned colder, and there were actually a few flurries out today, so the soup was just the right comfort food for this kind of weather.

I started with the bread first. I had to do a little research with the scallions. I had thought that scallions and green onions were actually two different vegetables, but it turns out they are one and the same. Green onions are really good for drying running noses and aiding with breathing. This bread also called for thyme, which is also used for respiratory problems. Next time I make this, I’ll actually use a little less thyme than what it called for.  A little goes a long way, apparently. On the up side, we’ll all be breathing better, I hope. It called for cottage cheese and I sprinkled feta cheese on top. And of course, some of the feta cheese burnt a little. (That means I hit my quota of burning something.) Otherwise, I liked it, but my husband thought it was a little heavy on the thyme.


The soup’s recipe was a little vague in places, and as a non-cook, I found myself questioning and making stuff up as I went. For example, it never said what kind of vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar since I already had some); it didn’t say what kind of cream (I used sour cream since it was the smallest container I could find). And of course as I started cooking, I realized that I didn’t quite have enough chicken broth (and actually the recipe called for “meat stock,” but I got chicken broth because it said “NO MSG” and since my husband is highly allergic to MSG, it went in the cart) so I searched madly through my kitchen and threw in half of a concentrated chicken broth gel and added a few cups of water. It all turned out well, though: as good as it smelled! I sort of felt like this had the potential of being a train wreck that luckily ended with no injuries and no property damage. My husband, the meatatarian, lamented that this soup had no meat in it. I’m sure I could’ve added some chicken or beef, or even smoked sausage, but the recipe didn’t call for it. And I’m fairly certain his body isn’t going to wage war in the name of one fleshless meal.


My recipe for the bread mentioned that Albanians sometimes served sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper.  The tomatoes that we had were terrible. You just can’t get good tomatoes in Indiana in early March. They looked good but were bland, and the guts fell out of it like it just committed a botanical hara-kiri. I thought the olive oil and pepper would bring it back to life, but Mother Teresa herself couldn’t have helped these tomatoes. 


Most Albanians follow their meals with a dessert.  It seemed to me that most Albanian desserts included nuts, pastry and/or some kind of syrup.  I was going to make kadaif, but I didn’t have the time to get all the ingredients for this. Instead we had blood orange sorbet and island mango sorbet.  And I’m sure Albanians eat sorbet too, right? I mean it originated from and is popular in the Mediterranean countries and Middle East.

Overall, the soup turned out best, even though I really liked the bread too. I couldn’t help but thinking how simple of a meal this was, and how old of a meal this is. Archaeologists have found evidence of 2400-year-old soup when they’ve dug into ruins in China back in 2010. And bread is one of the earliest forms of food we have, and it’s always remained a staple of high importance.  It’s so important that it’s been incorporated into our religious history (the Biblical story of manna falling from the heavens), children’s stories (The Little Red Hen whose lazy, freeloading friends wouldn’t help make bread but wanted to eat it anyway), and folk tales (it was bread crumbs that Hansel dropped to follow back to the house).

My kids did help make the bread, but my son wasn’t interested in eating any part of it or the bread. I really hope his 3-year-old finicky eater stage wears out soon. My daughter did eat well – she even ate the tomatoes! – and I think she was interested in the topics on Albania we were talking about while we were cooking. That, and she was really happy I bought the Genta album off of iTunes so we could jam to Albanian pop music in the car now. [Note: I have no idea why my camera went back in time with the timestamp. I fix it, then it keeps changing back. My camera retains information about as well as my kids.]


Next country: Algeria

Resources:

Cornbread with scallions and cheese:

1 comment:

  1. Adorei!!! I loved your idea of teaching your kids about other cultures through food.

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