Day four (Thursday, October 5) of James’s Birthday 2006 was awesome.
For the third day in a row, I received a birthday card. I even got another text message from Ryan, the volunteer living in the nearby city of Kucove. He was a little confused on the day because Thursday was the day we were observing my birthday with friends.
Juliet, also from Kucove, came to Berat around 3:00 and so we began the celebrating with a coffee, in keeping with the customs of my new home. Around 4:00 we met Katie and her visiting boyfriend Ben and headed over to the house of our friend Ersa.
When we arrived at the Ersa’s, we began to prepare the feature the special treat for the evening’s festivities, apple pie. Now I realize that apple pie is not the traditional birthday treat but it’s quite the treat here. Sadly Albania does not have pie. Yes I know. I too have asked myself how a society can survive without pie. I must say they are a strong people (living without pie and not their life of communist isolation clued me into their heartiness). So pie, especially such an American classic of apple pie, was very special.
I like baking pie so I really wanted to help. First Ersa and her mother protested. For three reasons, first I am male and males don’t do kitchen work, second it was my birthday, and third I was a guest in their home. Wanting to learn how to make the pie, I insisted. I helped by washing the apples. Half way through thoroughly washing the apples, I realized that the next step was peeling the apples. Did I stop giving each apple such an intense scrubbing? Nope.
As Ersa was peeling I went out to the living room where I was distracted by TV. Not just regular TV. Beautifully displayed on an oh-so pretty widescreen flat panel TV were music videos. I was in heaven. Once I discovered the TV and Jesse (that’s the dog), I never made it back into the kitchen. I was further distracted by the “snack” of tomato byreck (Albanian dish made with layers of thin dough and various fillings), a plain cake thing, and chocolate cookies. By the time the pie had finished baking, Ryan and Evan arrived. We feasted on all the wonderful food and homemade wine.
We continued the celebrations at a local hotel. Before having such a spread at Ersa’s, Katie and I had planned to buy some yummy cake. However, being pleasantly full, we decided to forgo the cake and to just have drinks at the hotel. We split up to run some errands before arriving at the hotel. During this time I realized that this was my birthday and was exactly the time for gluttonous excess. After buying candles, we went by the bakery and I picked out an assortment of slices.
The night concluded with presenting of birthday cards, presents, and a special birthday poem written by Juliet. I had a great time. I hope my future Albanian birthdays are as good.
Photos taken by Katie or Ben.
In the photo of the pie being prepared, notice the size of the pan used and that the rolling pins they use here are long and thin like dowel rods.
The dish front and center in the photo of the spread of food is byreck.