Thursday, October 12, 2006

This morning I was craving a loaf of fresh banana bread

When I was on my way home from my morning walk.

After teaching two eighth form classes my counterpart and I were preparing the lessons for tomorrow when I was called to the principal's office. I went up to find the Mayor and his secretary, the Project Harmony director and the YCAP leader all sitting around her conference room table. Fortunately I brought the English teacher with me when I went, because I wouldn't have understood their request at all had she not translated.

Apparently this Saturday is a holiday in Armenia. They are celebrating the completion of the fall harvest season with a large festival in a city about an hour north of my village. I think it has the similar atmosphere of Oktoberfest. As we sat around the table the Mayor described what would be requested of us. "We need a nice table cloth, plates and silverware, fresh vegetables and fruits, horovats, bread and lavash." All the women started planning who would bring what and which items would provide the most aesthetically pleasing presentation. He continued to describe the importance of the event saying that all of the villages would be there, the media and that even the president of Armenia would be in attendance. I sat there for a few minutes trying to imagine what he might request of me. Maybe he would want me to help decorate the table or maybe to help carry the dishes. Then he said exactly what he wanted. Our Sarah will prepare a traditional American dish for the table at the festival. She will make the dish and then she will present it as a representation of our village to the President....

It's no secret. I don't cook.

The whole meeting I tried with all my might to imagine what I could possibly be capable of preparing for this event. I know that whatever it is needs to look nice, it must stay fresh and be colorful. It has to last the hour-long bus trip to the city and it needs to be purely American. What did I eat when I lived by myself in America: spinach and turkey sandwhiches, cereal, PB&J, burritos and Graeter's ice cream. My thoughts were interrupted when the Mayor asked if I have a small American flag they can place on the table. Of course I don't. I have one American flag sticker on the inside of my journal but I wasn't about to offer that for the presentation. I smiled, hoping that my face wasn't projecting the fear and terror I felt inside. "They don't know that I'm useless in the kitchen (except to wash dishes)."

Gohar, the Project Harmony director, turned to me and said: "Sarah, last year Emily (the volunteer who was here before me) prepared the most delicious banana bread for us. Maybe you could make that?" I said I'd love to make banana bread, but it's ugly... it wouldn't look nice displayed on the table...and she agreed. I was thinking about M&M cookies, but it's a harvest festival and I'm a healthcare volunteer. What kind of message would that project?

So, I must get going. I've got work to do with my Peace Corps cookbook. I'm kicking myself for rejecting my mother's generous offers to teach me how to cook all those years...if only I could make a quick trip to Kroger!


Anonymous said...

I must admit that a Betty Crocker cake mix, can of pumpkin and some ready made icing would come in handy right could make your favorite pumpkin cake. As far as the flag goes you'll have to improvise and get your paper and markers out. Too bad they didn't give you much notice. The dried cranberries are on there way and you could have used them for muffins but I'm sure you can come up with something. We'll be anxiously awaiting pictures of your creation.
Love, Mom

PS Chocolate is as American as I can think...too bad you ate all the Hershey's I sent you.

Rachel said...

The most "American" thing I've ever made abroad is Rice Crispie treats ... host families always agreed they'd never had anything like them. Once again ... not very healthy ;) Maybe 7-layer bean dip? Is that American? Anyways, good luck! I am sure you will figure something out!

Uncle Nick said...

I'm anxious to see how you make this work, Sarah. But somehow, I know that you'll pull it off.

Love Uncle Nick