I really like making things with my hands, seeing those creations come to life, and sharing them with others. That’s what cooking is to me – a process of creation. I won’t purport myself as an amazing cook, but give me a recipe and I can make something with it. That’s exactly what I did last Friday with the help of my counterpart (Peace Corps speak for co-teacher). The week before last I purchased this cute little cookbook from this cute little American style bakery in the city close to my village and immediately zeroed my focus in on a recipe for apple pie. I’d never tried to make anything so hard before, but since Thanksgiving is coming up soon I thought I’d give it a try. I told myself that I would try the recipe out first and if it worked out well, I’d make it again for my host family and for the other volunteers when we celebrate Thanksgiving in the mountains together this year.
The first thing I did was enlisted the help of my counterpart, who’s always interested in learning how to cook new American dishes. She lent me the use of her kitchen, some ingredients I didn’t have, and a helping hand then we set to work. Like I said, I’d never made anything so complicated before dessert wise, so everything could have gone wrong, but when nothing did I was pleasantly shocked. We had ingredients missing here and there, but the end result turned out to be this little beauty here:
Lucky for us, it wasn’t just pretty looking, it also tasted really good. Trust me this isn’t self-promotion of my amazing cooking skills (ha <- see I’m laughing at myself). If anything it’s a mixture of belated shock and feelings and I’ll try to explain those feelings as best I can. Apple pie is not an invention of America by any means, but over the years it’s become a symbol of American culture and tradition (at least in America). Even though, it doesn’t solely belong to America, it’s not something I can find too easily here in Kosovo. There’s a bakery on nearly every corner here and while you’ll be able to grab yourself a croissant me molla (apple croissant) – though I’d recommend the croissant me çokollatë (croissant with chocolate filling) myself, yum – you’d be hard press to find yourself a bakery that sells pita me molla (apple pie, sort of), at least the way we make it.
So to be able to make something that’s associated with American tradition with my Kosovar Albanian counterpart and her family, to share that part of my culture and have the product turn out good, was an amazing and overwhelming feeling. I walked out of my counterpart’s house with a feeling of happiness and accomplishment (and a slice of pie to go), that overflowed into everything else I did for the rest of the day. And needless to say I’ll be making two more of those yummies for Thanksgiving, so I’m hoping that this one didn’t happen to be beginners luck. I’ve been amazingly fortunate to experience so many culture insights through helping my family cook: from picking up walnuts in the yard that went in the baklava served to guest during mini-Bajram to helping my host sister make ajvar for the coming winter months. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I’m glad I now have the opportunity to share with them a little of my culture through food.