Sunday, July 16, 2006

Proof of Life

It's alive!

After a visit to the George Washington Masonic Musem in Alexandria with my friends, we went to a Bosnian shop & restaurant in Huntington avenue (last stop on the Yellow line, DC Metro). My friend had told me about them before so I went there prepared with all my arsenal - my camera and a few questions. Walking towards an ugly-urban-sprawl mall this picture (below) appeared right in front of us. Euro Foods, not exactly what I had expected, but it made sense after I recalled some other (barber) shop with "Euro" in its name in Chicago. I have noticed that people put the word "Euro" in their businesses' names, obviously, appealing to the American demographic fascinated with anything "Euro" - which is pretty much everyone.

The shop front with the restaurant to the left

The name of the shop was Plava Laguna, as you can see in the picture below. The restaurant - Cosmopolitan - is next to it, and you can go from one to the other without getting outside, through an opening which can be seen in the picture below this one. Anyway, it was utterly inappropriate to see a Balkan food shop in an American mall setting! Kind of disappointing, a feeling you can't explain. The total opposite of the little shops in European-style narrow streets of the Balkan cities or even the socialist Vetesherbimi/Samousluga. What brought memories of both these (especially the latter) was the little box of Cunga Lunga on the counter. I think, I hadn't seen those since the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia! (For a cool Cunga Lunga video click here).

American dyqan, burektore and qebaptore

"I don't have change!"

Bosnian print media is found there, too. Products range from Slovenian Fructal, to Greek Macedonian Halva, to Bulgarian Kashkaval and Feta (off course)! All the icons were there: Vegeta, KiKi, Bajadera, Jaffa Cakes, Eurocrem, etc. Argeta was missing, I think because it is not allowed to be imported to the US. And those who look for Plazma Keks will have to settle with Lane. Sorry ex-Yugoslav-American-DC kids!

View from the homeland

Meats included Albanian and Bosnian Suxhuk, and, off course, the canned Gulash. I was surprised to see Gazoza, among the drinks! No Raki, though, no alcohol sold there!

There is a difference

Where is the Raki?!

Anyway, I chatted a little with the lady at the counter. She was from Sarajevo, and came to the US with her family six years ago. They were in Germany before that. Keeping in mind how hard it is for immigrants to integrate in German society, I asked her where was it better, US or Germany. And, to my surprise she said she liked it better in Germany. But, that makes sense when you think about it; a middle aged lady from a socialist country would find it much easier to adapt in a socialist-capitalist country like Germany, than in a strictly capitalist country like USA.

She was openly Yugo-nostalgic. She said she likes working there, even though she doesn't own the shop, because "it reminds me of the good old times" when everyone from "the region" comes here regardless of ethnicity. Talking to all those poeple, for her, among other things, provides "spiritual fulfillment." People from other areas of origin and Americans come to shop, too. "Ameri" like to try things and keep asking "what is this, what is that?", she says. The most popular products are Ajvar, Mineral water and Vegeta. I asked her about Albanians specifically and according to her, the most popular with them are the Fafarona and Suxhuk. (Which reminded me of a joke: Albanian guy meets Chinese guy. Albanian guy asks: "How many Chinese are there?" Chinese guy answers: "Well, it is hard to explain. Imagine a truck of rice!" Chinese guy asks Albanian guy: "How many Albanians are there?" Albanian guy answers: "Well, it is hard to explain. Imagine a bowl of Fafarona!")


That's right!

So, in the meantime, my friends have ordered Cebap's and Burek and they are ready. The Cebaps look good, but when I taste them I am very disappointed. Nothing like the Cevapcici I had had in Bash Carshija, or Qebapat in the world famous Te Syla in Prizren. Anyway, I try a piece of my friends Burek and it is not bad at all. All this happens with Turbo Folk on the background, while news on TV show images of Middle East carnage!

Appearances can be deceiving

The guy who we pay, tells me he owns the business together with a friend. I leave with a Raki-without-Meze-like aftertaste, and proud of my little research job. We make plans, on the way, with my friend to make Palacinka with Eurocrem. I haven't had dinner since and right now I am munching on Jaffa Cakes. Jericho's "Tomlin e nanes" song on my iTunes makes for a perfect soundtrack.

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