“Mama Z make tasty roasted piglet for you on vikend!”
Said my “cousin”, and so of course I was obliged to attend. When I arrived, the whole family was excited as they ushered me into the tiny kitchen (formerly the maids quarters, heated by coal), and proudly unveiled THE PIGLET. I was hoping for one that had been already prepared for the plate, but no, that would be a waste of such a luxury, no, the Entire Animal, From Shnoz to Tail was proudly displayed on a platter smack dab in the center of the table. First the speech, then the pictures began. Mama And Tata pulled themselves up straight and gave an eloquent speech about how THE PIG was here in honor of me, and that this was a special event, that this was to show their love for me, to welcome me, and to extend their hospitality to me, as family, as their “daughter”.
In contrast, when my muž comes to visit my family, he could very well end up cooking with us all together in the kitchen. And yes, they love him just as much as me, sometimes more!
So then we took pictures in front of the pig, first me by the pig, then the entire family, then just the pig itself, the star of the evening. I was fighting back the rising fluids in my insides. Though I’m by no means a vegetarian, I didn’t do well with a whole animal still wearing an expression on his burnt little pig face. But I smiled and oohed and ahhed, and was perfectly impressed and of course, honored by their gesture.
Have you seen the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? This is the film I suggested to my family to watch in preparation for my wedding, and yes, we ended up dancing the line dance “kolo”, having multiple toasts, serving a traditional Serbian dish “sarma”, and even had gypsy trumpet music along with many other choice Serbian songs. This is the kind of thing I absolutely love, and the “culture shock” I experienced yesterday with the pig was nothing less impressive! I do love it, and not just because its material for the blog, but of course, I have to admit, it really makes me cringe. So picture this: My Sunday:
When I arrived they pounced on me like starving hobos on a single plate of steaming hot food: kissing me, hugging me, and yelling to me about something I couldn’t quite make out. I’m reserved by nature, so this kind of thing is always sort of like throwing a cat into cold water, it’s an unwelcome shock. After we took pictures of the pig, the feast began. The pig was butchered by Mama Z who was wearing a bright pink apron and years and years of homemade cooking. We started the meal with mezze, (starters) bright purple cabbage, cheeses, breads, random sour veggies, of course ajvar, and various meat cold cuts. Then we had a small dark meat chicken, breaded turkey steaks, mashed potatoes, chicken soup, burek, and finally, THE PIG! I’m sure I’m missing a few courses, it all was passing before me so quickly, and was punctuated by multiples toasts “To Life!” “To your family, your parents!” “Welcome to Serbija!”
Mama Z was practically shoving food into my mouth, I counted at least 5 or 6 different types of meat. Also we were drinking a wine called Medvedja Krv, which translates to Bear Blood, and also, a domestic beer, LAV, and of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without Rakija, the plum brandy that tastes like Jet Fuel. So between the Bear Blood and the Whole Animal on the table, I was really having a great time~! Živeli! Cheers!
I noticed that Tata was sitting without food on his plate for most of the meal, which was really out of character for him, and when I inquired, I was told that he was saving his appetite for THE PIG! Yes, he passed up the carefully prepared food of Mama Z’s, to eat only 1 thing, THE PIG. And when it joined us on the table, he ate several platefuls. He refuses to eat vegetables, explaining that the animals already ate vegetables (they did?), and so he would just eat the animal and it would all even out….oookaaayyy???
Mama Z kept shouting about how she didn’t want me to starve, which was really puzzling considering I had probably already consumed a weeks worth of calories in the first 30 minutes at her home. She seemed offended when I refused the 6th kind of meat she was pushing at me…. She proceeded to pack up an entire chicken along with cheese pie (sir pita) and soup, chocolate cake, peas, a single peeled cucumber (bought especially for me) and potatoes for me to take back to my hostel. Thanks Mama Z!
During dinner, I showed off my new language skills, saying various worthless sentences such as “Ovo je tanir.” “Kupus je ljubičast.” “Hvala na doručku!” (This is a plate, The cabbage is purple, and Thanks for lunch!) They were impressed, and showed their increasing love for me by serving me a rich chocolate cake in the “Salon”, a large old room that with 12 foot high ceilings that was difficult to heat. Tata kept asking when I was going to have a child, and I basically had to promise him that I wouldn’t keep it a secret if I became pregnant. He kept saying how he wanted to become a grandfather and he really did look sad, but Hello! He has two succesfull sons and two beautiful granddaughters from his other son, but I guess the granddaughters don’t count since they are female. How would they feel if they knew their grandfather felt they were inadequate? Again, the barbarism rears its ugly head.
Yes, we covered many topics that are taboo in my WASPy midwestern family over that dinner table. His father kept telling me that my Dad should come to Serbia (it’s never gonna happen), and that when he does, they should share a shot of rakiya together. My ultra conservative dad has never touched a drop of alcohol in his life. Then he reminded me that Mama Z was a gynecoligist by trade (How many times have they told me this?!?!) And he Demanded to be kept up to date on any “progress” with “the baby” Yeah, like I would let my mother-in-law come anywhere near me that way. What kind of a sick comment is that? Mama Z was telling me about how it was good I wasn’t flying any more, “for the baby” Umm….what baby? And what about whats good for me? Tula, be quiet and Eat Something!
So after the chocolate cake, Tata asked me to play the violin, I refused, and then he told some weird joke that was lost in translation, and then explained to me about how his leg was injured in the war, etc…. and my cousin’s girlfriend was complaining about some chronic illness as well….
Luckily moj muž called halfway though the evening so save me with a much-needed break. Thanks babe!
All in all….very “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” Yes, it makes me cringe, but at the same time, it’s so bad its good!!!
Besides, in order to improve my skills, Ja moram da govorim srpski znaki dan! I must speak Serbian every day! And what better a place to practice, than around the family dinner table.
Ćao from Belgrade!