Hosting An Albanian Dinner

12 Step Action Plan on how Nicole & I hosted our first Albanian dinner.

Step 1: Offer Your House
Technically it’s our landlady’s house anyway but when she talks about having to put a table outside in the winter for Albanians to eat at because there won’t be enough room for all of her family (many who she only seees once a year) inside? Well, it’s the only thing that makes sense. Our place is bigger. You’re our family. Therefore they are our family. It only makes sense to offer our place up for our family dinner.

Step 2: Clean Like An Albanian
Albanians clean their house every day like it’s spring cleaning day. And that is an underexaggeration. Nicole and I don’t clean like that every day. Maybe every other day. Or maybe a bit less frequent. But still. We had to roll up our sleeves and clean clean clean. Then clean some more. We did the best we could and we thought we did good. Then our landlady came behind us and finished cleaning.

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Step 3: Cook All Day
I didn’t cook all day. Our landlady made it clear that all we had to do was open our door and they would do everything else. Of course I offered to help with the cooking though I haven’t mastered Albanian cooking. She still found stuff I could help with though.

IMG_4253Our landlady (right) and her sister-in-law (left)

Step 4: Set Up
Bring up the tables! With 20+ people coming, you need every table you can find. I think we ended up using 4. Don’t forget carpet too. Albanians love carpets in the winter as much as they hate cold feet. Next came up all the dishes from downstairs. Then the food. Then the other food. Then more food. And finally, the rest of the food.

Step 5: Fix the Plates
Albanians put some of everything on your plate. And they always make it look really pretty. Unfortunately it makes it hard to get seconds on stuff you really like. Fortunately there is always so much food on your plate that once you finish you will be too stuffed to get seconds even if you wanted!

IMG_4259They let me help put the food on their plates!

IMG_4262They even told Nicole & I to take all the credit.
(As if anyone would believe we did all that!)

IMG_4261The almost finished plates
(just needs meat!)

Step 6: Cue the People
The people came up around 7:30 because dinner was supposed to start at 8. We started around 9:30

Step 7: Set the Table
Then the food was served. Starting with the oldest male. Since I didn’t know most of the spouses, I had to keep asking who was next before I took plates over. Drinks were served the same way.

IMG_4264Just some of the people that were in our home

Step 8: Gezuar
The the Gezuars start. The oldest male goes around to each person and wishes them a long life as well as each member of the family and a great year. Every. single. person does this (in age order) before the meal starts. Did I mention there were 20+ people there? It got to be so long that by the end, they told people just to say “Gezuar everyone” and not individually tell each person. I was so happy I was one of those (again, I didn’t know the age order of everyone).

Step 9: Eat, Drink & Be Merry
You eat until someone Gezuars you. When someone Gezuars you, you return the Gezuar then take a drink. This time you just say Gezuar because the meal has started. It’s like saying cheers. If you need a drink, you find someone to gezuar. But at an Albanian dinner, you cannot take a sip of your drink until you gezuar or you are gezuared.

IMG_4265Nicole & I enjoying the evening!
(We might be just a bit tired…)

Step 10: Bring Out The Baklava
A New Year’s dinner isn’t complete without baklava. Hopefully that was my last baklava of the season because I had my fill of it this year already!! Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that bad. In small doses. It’s super sweet for me!

Step 11: Clean Up
Our landlady made it clear she wanted us to do as little work as possible so she made two of the other ladies wash the dishes after the meal. I have never seen so many dishes washed in so little time. Nicole and I were allowed to dry them though. Of course we didn’t ask either.

Step 12: Party’s Over
When people are falling asleep on the sofa waiting for the clean up phase to be over, you know the party has almost come to an end. About 11:30 people started leaving.

Reflections
Hosting an Albanian dinner wasn’t that bad considering we didn’t do the cooking or the cleaning up afterward! But seriously, I had so much fun I think partially because I was actually allowed to help. Usually Nicole and I are the guests of honor simply because we are American. I hate that. We are never allowed to help the women. But since it was at our house, we could help with serving and maybe not the cleaning but at least drying the dishes.

Was it crazy with 20+ Albanians in our house? Most definitely. Was it exhausting getting things ready and interacting with 20+ Albanians? Most definitely. Would I do it again without thinking for my landlady? Most definitely. I really did have lots of fun!

But seriously. We tell our Albanian family all the time that we consider them our family but I think opening our home like was the first time they have believed us. I think they thought we were just being nice. But by doing this (even though we really didn’t do anything) we’ve been able to show them in a way that they can see we really do consider them family.

From the first day we’ve gotten here, they have gone out of their way to make sure we were taken care of and make Nicole & I feel like family. Finally, we were able to return the favor and show them that we feel the same way.

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