Food and Culture in Albania
The people of Albania, mostly engaged in pastoral and agricultural pursuits, barely eke out an existence from their harsh, rocky land. They suffered through the 400-year domination of the Turkish Empire, when farmers were serfs to the sultan, and through the Communist period, when farmers were serfs to the state. It was said that with the establishment of a socialist republic under Hoxha in 1946, Albania became “one of the world’s most thoroughly totalitarian states.”
More recently, Albanians have struggled through the difficulties inherent in an emerging democracy. They gained some strength from the 1990 ruling that permitted private religious practice. Moreover, by 1993, 90 percent of farming had been privatized.
Yet troubles still dog the republic. Famine, illiteracy, malaria in the marshlands, and alcoholism plague the people. In 1997, complaints of widespread fraudulent financial schemes affecting thousands of families caused serious violence and looting. Past struggles, pain, and injustices press into the present, combining to make the Albanian’s life difficult and insecure.
Accustomed to authority and foreign domination, the Albanian’s insecurity is most evident in many of the mountain villages, where the dwellings are so cleverly camouflaged as to be indistinguishable from the native trees and rocks, providing them with a sense of security especially in turbulent times. Cultural influences include Italian, Greek, Turkish, and more currently, Russian. Progress is being made in medicine (control of diseases), agriculture (irrigation and diversity), and literacy. Cottage industries and increase in crop yields, such as rice, are slowly raising the general living standard.
While corn is the mainstay of the Albanian food, rice is also much enjoyed when available, and a large variety of cheeses made from goat’s and ewe’s milk supplement the daily diet. In the country’s eastern areas and the plains, Albanian food rivals some of the finest Turkish and Greek cuisine, but as one moves northward into the mountain areas where poverty and illiteracy increases, the diet is less sophisticated, based almost solely on corn, cheeses, and kos (yogurt).
Domestic Life in Albania
Wealth and status vary from almost primitive conditions to a sophistication equal to that of any European city.
Similarly, the range of family relation-ships, types, and styles of foods and food utensils are just as varied, although they may resemble those found in the neighboring countries of the Italians, Greeks, and the Southern Slays (formerly Yugoslavians).