Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breakfast in Vilnius and other issues

I can't stomach sweetness in the morning. When I wake up, I crave salt. This urge is especially strong here in Vilnius, perhaps because when I wake up here it's dinner time at home.

In the mornings I've been visiting a local bakery on my way to the Institute, where our workshops are held. In addition to the dozens of sugary pastries that turn my stomach before noon, there is a small case of savory selections set to the side of the register as if for me. There are kibinas, football-shaped wads of buttery dough filled with ground meat that is seasoned with onions. These are my favorite. There are also the bandele su farsu, bread rounds that are topped with sesame seeds and have scalloped edges pressed together to encase similarly seasoned meat and shredded carrot. The shell of it tastes like a slightly sweet soft pretzel. I choose the bandele for mostly aesthetic reasons, or on days when there are no kibinas to be had.

The proprietess of this particular shop is as much of a draw as her carb-loaded offerings. A smiling blonde woman, she knows no English but is single-handedly responsible for every Lithuanian word I know. Aciu being the thanks I give for her patience with my ignorant, monolinguistic American ways. Supienu being the milk she suggests I take with her no-nonsense kava. Kava being a word that speaks for itself. Like a kindergarten teacher, whe emphasizes these words as she uses them with gestures and slow enunciation so I can pick them up.

On Wednesday, my blonde angel of the morning was sadly away, replaced by a surly younger brunette who clearly hated me. Especially hungry, I ordered two kibinas and a kava supienu. As I chose a place to sit on the small patio outside, I bit into my first kibinas only to find the normally brown meat a sickly shade of pink. I ate it anyway because I was hungry and did not want to confront the surly brunette imposter. I began my second kibinas and found the meat inside bright red. Visions of an unending night on the wet floor of the dormitory's tiled and reeking washroom danced before me. The washroom with open and rusting pipework. The washroom with only one working stall (out of four). If the food-borne illness didn't kill me, the tetanus surely would.

I threw the suspect food in the trash. Lesson learned: Beware the surly brunette and her meats.

Forthcoming: Getting e-mail rejections from litmags while abroad, workshop stories, and a visit or two to Antakalnis Cemetery.

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