As you cross the courtyard, your host steps forward to meet you. You bow deeply, and he bows in return. “Welcome, guest. What is mine is yours so long as you remain. All troubles are set aside, all feuds forgotten. Let us feast together.” He offers you a tiny square rug, no larger than the palm of your hand. You accept the gift and follow your host into the house.
A short hallway with murals painted along both walls opens into a large dining area. Braziers warm the air and waft the scent of incense around the room. The floor is piled with thick rugs and fat cushions of all sizes. The other guests have already gathered in two groups, women at one side of the room and men at the other. Each group sits on cushions around a low table just large enough to hold everyone’s drinks. Plates and bowls rest on people’s laps or on the floor beside them.
“Take your ease,” the host says, gesturing toward an unoccupied cushion. “I’ll bring your food to you.”
You settle on the floor. The person next to you hands you a silver cup, and you pour yourself a drink from the bottle in the middle of the tiny table. It’s fermented tea, flavored with tropical fruit imported from Fossen.
The host returns a moment later carrying your food: a bowl of cold soup with bits of ham and cucumber peeking through the creamy broth, and a narrow rectangular plate holding a marinated egg, a roll of sweet-potato bread, and several types of pickles.
The meal is a leisurely affair, with a lot of quiet talk and laughter among the guests. At the far side of the room, several musicians enter the room and settle on the floor against the wall, and at the first notes from the accordion player, a man and woman in flowing striped robes step out and begin an undulating dance. They sway their hips, twine their arms back and forth in serpentine motions, and occasionally pick up brightly painted sticks and whirl them through the air in complicated patterns.
Before you know it, everyone has finished eating, and the host makes another round of the room, carrying a plate of fried honey-cakes. You gladly take one of the crispy golden twists and nibble at it between sips of tea, feeling relaxed and satisfied as the cheerful conversation washes over you and the upbeat music continues in the corner.
Cold Summer Soup
1 onion finely chopped
3-4 potatoes diced
4 cups water
3 cups milk
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tsp dried dill
1 cucumber finely chopped
2 carrots diced
½ ham diced
3 hard boiled eggs diced
- Place the onion in a pan and cook until translucent. Add the potatoes and continue cooking until the potatoes are soft and the onions are transparent. Set aside and allow to cool.
- In a large pot or bowl with a lid, combine water, milk, vinegar, and salt. Stir well.
- Add herbs, vegetables, ham, and eggs. Stir again to combine.
- Add cooled onions and potatoes and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve with pickles.
Sweet Potato Bread
1 tbsp yeast
¼ cup sugar
1 cup warm water
1 cup butter
2 tsp salt
2 medium sweet potatoes
4-5 cup flour
- Peel the sweet potatoes. Chop into small pieces and boil until the pieces can easily be crushed with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes and mash thoroughly with a fork, pastry cutter, or hand mixer.
- Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl and stir. Allow to sit until yeast becomes frothy.
- Meanwhile, combine butter, salt, and eggs in a large bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potato and mix well.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the sweet potato mixture and stir well. The result will be very watery. Begin adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until it reaches the consistency of thick batter.
- Scoop batter into muffin tins and bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 24 rolls. Serve with butter.
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dill
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
- Hard-boil the eggs. Peel them and place them in a container large enough that all of them can lie flat on the bottom.
- Pour vinegar, dill, garlic, lemon, and salt over the eggs. Add water until the eggs are completely covered, then stir or swirl to combine the ingredients.
- Cover the container and marinade in the refrigerator 4-6 hours.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup butter
⅓ cup honey
pinch of salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup warm water
coconut oil for frying
½ cup cream cheese
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
- Combine flour, butter, honey, and salt. Mix until it forms a crumbly dough. Add warm water 1 tbsp at a time, kneading until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
- Split the dough into small balls, each around 2 tbsp. Flatten each ball into a small strip and twist into a screw-like shape.
- Put a generous amount of coconut oil in the bottom of a pan and allow it to melt and heat until sizzling. Place dough twists in the oil and fry until bottom is golden brown. Turn several times, until all sides are crispy and golden. Place on a plate lined with paper towels to allow excess oil to drain.
- For dipping sauce, combine cream cheese, butter, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a small sauce pan. Stir over low heat until well combined and smooth.