Yesterday I made a day long commitment of figuring out what ingredients my host family has, what ingredients I need to buy, getting the ingredients, and then finally making the recipe. What all for? Chocolate chip cookies. If you know me well, you know that I love food. I love eating food, I love cooking, and MOST OF ALL, I adore baking.
I noticed that my host family loved baked goods: breads and pastries. So I thought this would be a great gesture.
I didn’t think it would be hard to find ingredients for cookies because after all they are a basic staple–at least in America. Little did I know that it would take time. I first translated all the ingredients to Albanian so I could talk to my host sister and mother to see if they had what I needed. They didn’t have some of the ingredients. THEN, I had to figure out where to get these ingredients.
I live in a village of 1,000 people. The stores here are very tiny and meet the needs of milk and bread standards. My host mother informed me that there was a bigger store in kumanovo that may have what I need.
Then, I realized that the majority of the stores have ingredients in Macedonian, not Albanian, so I translated the ingredients from English to Macedonian. At this point I learned the name for baking soda in not one, but two languages.
Luckily, some of the other volunteers wanted to go to kumanovo to see the the Buzzare. We were able to see the mass amounts of fresh produce and get all the ingredients I needed–I found sodium bicarbonate, which is the same as baking soda, but I’m glad my parents are Chemists so I would know that. 😉
Once I returned home, I found my family finishing making Ivar and eagerly wanting to start this cookie adventure. Cousins from around the neighborhood and my host brother and sister joined in. I gave each child a task and they happily stirred, cut, and drop the cookies onto the pan. I laughed and smiled the entire time. This was truly the biggest highlight thus far in my Peace Corps experience. Men and boys are not allowed to help in the kitchen, but for this very special occasion the little boys were allowed to help. I soon learned that my host brother had never cracked open an egg–which ended in a bit of a mess on the floor. Yet, it was a great learning opportunity to teach him.
Once the cookies came out of the oven–I had to convert the temperature to Celsius–they eagerly starred at me wondering what to do next. I got out a glass of milk for them and made sure they stuffed their faces full of the American classic. My one regret with these kids was that I didn’t have the book, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, because it truly seemed like an opportune moment to expose them to my culture.
Many family friends came over that night and got to enjoy my cookies, they were gone within seconds. I wrote the recipe in Albanian and in Macedonian trying to give the families interested in making them, themselves a chance. Maybe I’ll start a cookie business here and these Macedonians will be able to make a profit off of an American Classic.
I will go into more detail later about my host family and my language classes, but right now I want to leave you with cookies dreams.