Friday, January 21, 2005


This afternoon I interviewed a British husband and wife who job share the position of Deputy Chief of Mission (that's one step behind the ambassador) at the British Embassy here in Bratislava. They were diving in the Andaman Sea on Dec 26. Actually, they felt and saw NOTHING, and did not learn the whole story til the Thai navy came by and asked if they'd like to use a phone to call home. He ended up staying on Phuket for a few days to help in the consular office. They are lovely and I also sort of helped them adopt a kitten . . . the first one died, but now they have a second one named Pippin who hides under the cabinets and punitively poops on the sofas. They seem pretty tolerant though.

Then I had to go have a Thank You Coffee with this woman who is the director of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute and who LUUUUVs me after the story I did recently about some Bulgarian painters. She has been clamoring ever since, so I arranged for Renata (Skittles' teacher) to watch the girls, thinking I would meet Bulgarian Lady at 3 and be done by 4:30 and could pick everyone up at school and give Renata a ride home, but I got trapped in Bulgarian Hell because she wanted to take me to a Tea House and then we had to have some Bulgarian treat (banitza it is called). When she was talking about the banitza, she kept gesturing toward the back of the office as if something were happening back there. I was starting to wonder if this was some variation on BATHS and hoping I was not going to have to get naked. She is the only one in her office without a moustache.

Did I mention I had to pee since the interview with the Brits?

To complicate matters, I was trying to rendez-vous with a reporter from the newspaper in order to return the newspaper camera to her. But the Tea House was in a basement and my phone had no reception there and I was worried Reporter Friend (who is very cool and I really do like) was roaming the streets of the Old Town, cursing me.

We return to office for treat and on the way finally do catch up with Reporter Friend who vows to rescue me from my Bulgarian captors by force. All I have to do is say the word. I decline. But I still have to pee.

The whole moustached staff is waiting in the office for banitza when we return. They do this every Friday. Sort of a Bulgarian happy hour. Also her 25 year old son was there and quite the dish, I must say. Banitza is made with phyllo dough and cheese and eggs, so probably not too, too evil, but there I am trapped and must eat two slices because I am the Honored Guest. One of the guys with a big moustache made it. It came in a HUGE deep dish pizza type pan. Here is a recipe for banitza:

10-12 sheets purchased phyllo pastry
500 gr white cheese (Feta is probably as close as you can get to Bulgarian White Brined Cheese)100 gr butter (melted)
3-4 eggs
250 ml soda water
pinch of salt

Instructions:Preheat oven to 180-200C.
Oil a medium size deep oven dish. Line bottom with a sheet of phyllo pastry, sprinkle melted butter, sprinkle crumbled white cheese, and continue layering phyllo pastry, butter and cheese. Finish with a layer of phyllo pastry and butter. In a separate dish beat the eggs, add salt, and soda water. Pour slowly over the layers of phyllo, and let it soak in. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the banitza has risen slightly and has nicely browned on top. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes and serve.

This version looks better:

What you need:
2 packets of phyllo dough
200 grams of yellow cheese (a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella)
500 grams of feta cheese
7 eggs
100 grams of butter
1/2 cup of soda water
1 cup yogurt

How to make it:
Mix six of the eggs, the grated butter, the crumbled feta cheese, the yellow cheese cut in small pieces, and the yogurt. In a buttered pan, lay a layer of the phyllo dough, spread a layer of the mixture, and continue alternating layers so that the phyllo and the mixture are finished about the same time. Finish with a layer of phyllo dough. Then cut the banitsa into serving pieces. Mix the last egg with the soda water and stir. Pour the mixture over the banitsa and make sure there are no pieces of the phyllo dough left dry.Bake in a preheated over at 200 C for 40 minutes, or till golden.

I finally managed to escape (I was calling Renata on the sly every chance I could, but she insisted all was fine on her end), but by the time I got the girls and Renata out of the school building, dropped her off, and got home it was 6:30! I know Ron has had a much more difficult and exhausting day, but I am fried. Finally got to pee at home.


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