What I’m Eating

Before I left for Macedonia, I asked all my friends and coworkers what they wanted to know about my new country.

With the exception of one friend, who wanted me to send pictures of Alexander the Great’s boyhood home, the first thing everyone asked about was the food.

We spent the first week of training living at a private school in Tetevo, eating cafeteria style. We’ve been told not to expect anything as nice as this school for the rest of our stay. I’m not sure how the food will change after we leave, but here are some of the things I’ve had while here:

The first Macedonian meal Sunday afternoon included savory bread stuffed with salty cheese. (Everything here is made with salt and oil. That will take a little adjusting). We also had heavily sautéed zucchini and some relative of the bell pepper. There was a cabbage salad. The cabbage is shredded like coleslaw, but it’s only dressed in oil and vinegar. (It’s also been offered at every meal since. Cabbage is big here.) I also grabbed a plum, which was delish.

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I slept through dinner the first night. It was an accident. I love dinner.

My mind was telling me no, but my body was telling me zzzzz……(I don’t see nothing wrong, with a little nap.)

Monday breakfast was hard-boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes (in season and perfect), a small piece of salty, white cheese, a choice of bread, a cube of butter and a spoonful of jam. Some kind of bologna-looking meat was also offered, but I passed.

Lunch was baked chicken, (which I skipped,) rice, a noodle, broth soup and more cabbage salad. I made the mistake of adding what I thought was a curry powder to my rice. It was just yellow-colored salt.

Monday’s dinner is where it got really wonderful. (I represented America by taking photos of all my food.) I went to a restaurant in Tetevo with a PCV starting her second year and six other trainees. Of the group, five were vegetarians (or some derivation) so we ordered a mostly meat-free sampling for the table. Both the white cheese over fresh cucumbers and tomatoes and the plate of assorted veggies (carrots, white and red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and beets) are traditional Macedonian dishes. We also had some bomb baked beans. They weren’t the kind of beans you think of at a barbecue. The seasoning was delish. It’s a recipe I’m going to need to track down.

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We also shared fries and pizza, again topped with seasonal veggies. The crust was naan-like and I was hungry and distracted, so I almost forgot to take a picture of it. Don’t mind the bite marks.

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I’ve been a mostly vegetarian for a while now and coming into the Peace Corps, I considered falling off the wagon for two years. I still might, but I’d like to try to stick to the veggie life as much as I can. I’ve been told that if I make it clear to my home stay family and stick with it, I’ll be able to skip out on meat without being disrespectful.

I don’t want to be a bratty American who is fussy about food, so I’m going to be flexible. For instance, we went out in Tetevo again Wednesday and everything but the French fries on the menu included meat.

When in Tetevo.

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I had a donër (basically a lamb gyro) which was delish and a banana cream soda. They didn’t have any water in the cooler, so I went for the funkiest variety. I loved that everything was in glass bottles. (The wine came after dinner. Each bottle was about 200 denar or around $4 each.)

I’ve only been drinking water so far. One of the great things about Macedonia is the tap water is safe to drink most places. Peace Corps does provide a distiller to some volunteers, but I think it’s more about personal preference. I’ve also been told that drinking water as opposed to soda or other drinks can be a status indicator because the other drinks cost more. I’m probably going to stick with water anyway.

There a ton of fun snack food with labels I can’t read yet. (Well, I can phonetically sound out the labels, but I don’t know what the words mean.) We’ll save all the snacks for another day. Tonight, I inhaled a candy bar with a lion on the wrapper, some cheese puff looking snacks that tasted like peanut butter and these chipsys. They were the spiciest thing I’ve encountered so far.

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Tonight, we went off site again and had that tomato, cucumber, cheese salad. If that’s a staple in my diet, I’m not mad. I also had a stuffed pepper filled to capacity with that salty, white cheese and then fried. It was like a giant jalapeno popper, minus the heat.

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It should be a little different with a family, so you can be sure this won’t be the last “what I’m eating” post.

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