Alison Morse

Alison Morse (BOSFAM): Alison graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BA in international relations. Alison worked for the International Institute of Boston, a nonprofit that helps refugees and immigrants in the Boston area. Alison worked with survivors of human trafficking, torture and domestic violence. At the time of her fellowship, she was pursuing a Master's degree in law and diplomacy at Tufts University's Fletcher School, focusing on development economics and human security.

Bosnian staples, American style

05 Jul

Krumpir, sir, jaje, i hljeb. Potatoes, cheese, egg and bread. I have been served all forms of these four staples over the past six weeks. Traditional pita with potatoes, locally produced smoked cheese with peppers, pizza with a giant puddle of fried egg yolk in the middle. However, serving the “American” version of these items to the women of BOSFAM elicited a reaction akin to putting a plate of brussel sprouts in front of a five year old.

I paced the aisles of the Omega grocery store racking my brain for something remotely American to serve on the 4th of July. Hot dogs and hamburgers were the clear choice, but as a quasi-vegetarian I figured I would not subject the women to watching me squeamishly handle raw meat. Fortunately, Bosnians love two things: coffee and condiments. Ketchup is used to drown just about anything – including pizza. I therefore decided to make my childhood favorite – a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of ketchup. Moving on to the mayonnaise selection, I decided to accompany the cheesy delights with some traditional potato salad.

With potato salad on the mind, I stopped at the market and picked up a kilo of spuds. I then moved from stall to stall in search of celery – nothing. I strolled by a neatly stacked pile of lemons and thought about really capturing the American spirit with some homemade lemonade. That idea was quickly scratched when my common sense returned to remind me of the mini-fridge in which I would have to store it. I decided to round out the cholesterol fest of eggs, mayonnaise and cheese with some tomatoes and cucumbers and headed home.

After losing a few pieces of bread to an ancient frying pan, I got in the groove and whipped up fourteen grilled cheese sandwiches. Then, channeling my inner Martha Stewart, I carefully cut each one on the diagonal and laid them around the edges of two plates. In the middle I placed a small bowl with some ketchup for dipping. I unwrapped the potato salad, which had been chilling overnight in the teeny fridge, and went about slicing tomatoes and cucumbers. An hour later I emerged from the kitchen, pleased with my work, and invited the women to eat.

The first thing that came to mind in watching the women eye my creations was my mother’s voice telling her nursery school class, “You need to take a no-thank-you bite.” Granted the cheese I purchased was of the pre-sliced, disturbingly orange variety – and could perhaps warrant some concern – the ingredients of the meal were otherwise familiar to all the women. Three of the women helped themselves to full plates. The other four, however, sat and picked at the plates of cucumbers and tomatoes, not wanting to partake in the American experience. It was one moment when I have been happy to not understand what was being said.

My efforts, however, were not all lost. Though my creations likely will not become the latest craze in households throughout Tuzla, the women joked with me that my display of cooking significantly increased my eligibility to marry a “nice, Bosnian boy.” Not exactly the same as “my compliments to the chef,” but it’s a start.

So as I indulge in my third meal of left-over potato salad, I am just happy that I did not go to the trouble of crushing peanuts to make the true all-American delicacy – PB&J.

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Posted By Alison Morse

Posted Jul 5th, 2007


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