This morning, as I was sitting in Ana’s parents house, eating what could be my favorite Serbian food (even though I am told it is one of the most basic and everyday Serbian foods), I exclaimed to Ana, “I’m just going to claim it! I just really enjoy food wherever we go!” This amazing creation is a mix of phyllo dough, eggs, yummy salty white cheese, sesame seeds and oil. It is warm and gooey on the inside and crispy and delicious on the outside and I don’t tire of it. When Ana’s mom asks me for any requests it is always this, Gibanica. One of the major parts of visiting Serbia with my beloved is eating our way through our visit. In my experience, Serbian people really enjoy feeding me. Portions are epic size to me and the food always keeps coming. It is enjoyable and a major part of community gathering.
And this is not unusual to visiting locations. In all of our travels, a major highlight is to try foods that are best in that location. These foods give us a glimpse into who people are and what they do, how they live. In Helsinki we feasted on fresh fish from the sea and walked with people who served it. In Spain we feasted on tapas and paella to our hearts content. In Sicily we marveled in pasta and burrata. In Prague we drank some of the best beer and sipped on fresh cool Kolsch in Cologne. We try wine wherever we go because it gives us a taste of the land and people. We fed wherever we go with joy and it feeds us both in our bodies but also in completing our experience.
Here, in Serbia, allowing people to feed me with amazing food around the table also feeds me in restoring me during Lent. Allowing myself to enjoy is part of the human experience. I feel as though for over 30 years I spent so much of my time denying that I enjoyed the food and wine around me in order to try to lose weight or to stay healthy or to fit in in my culture that continuously tells me that I am unhappy if I indulge, that I need to change. But when I moved to Europe I started to admit that I love pastry and trying new food. I love sitting at the table for hours with wine in my hand AND at the same time I walk 10-15km a day which keeps me in a healthier life. I can be more active and healthy AND STILL love eating. Food is enjoyable and can be part of the joy of living life. I don’t make a habit of overeating but I have decided to enjoy what I enjoy and still be healthy without feeling shame.
During Lent I am giving up that kind of shame and hope to not take it back after Easter. Cheers!