I’ve written before about living in Prague with my flatmate and how often our chatter turned to foods of our pasts~ dishes we missed, restaurants the other had to try, and (more often than you might ever guess) frozen food favorites. As two pescatarians living in the Czech Republic over 15 years ago, our choices were slim to say the least. We ate a lot of minute rice, bread, cheese, and if we were feeling flush, canned tuna. In fact, the fish served in Czech restaurants was mainly carp served with head, tail, and bones fully intact which wasn’t exactly making our mouths water, so tuna was as fishy as we got there. Every once in a while, over tea or too many glasses of boxed wine, we’d grow mindful and imagine some day far in the future when we’d actually miss food from Prague. It seemed almost laughable at the time, and yet what else brings a place and time back more poignantly than food? Maybe it was the endless grey dotted with blossoming trees this weekend that had me reminiscing about Prague, or maybe it was pulling on my winter coat yet again while the calendar teased of spring, much like the Czech winter seemed to drag on well past its welcome. Whatever it was, I made up a large batch of sopsky salat (pronounced shopsky salat) to bring back the taste of that bittersweet year.
Sopsky salat was on just about every menu in Prague, and it was also often the only vegetarian item available, so I have had my fair share of sopsky salat in my life. It is similar to Greek salad without the olives, but everyone makes it a little different. I decided to make a version with what I had in my fridge instead of trying to copy an authentic recipe and it turned out pretty darn good, but not exactly as I remember. It might have just been missing the cheap box wine accompaniment, or (more likely) my favorite Canadian companion.
1 yellow pepper
1 medium tomato
1/2 red onion
Feta cheese (as much as you want but I used about 3.5oz, or half that package shown)
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper as desired
To make, simply chop and mix. Let the salad set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating for best taste.
This was my son’s and my lunch for a couple of days, with warm (gluten-free) toast on the side. We like to spoon the salad on top of the bread and when the bread is still warm, the feta melts a tad. Delicious. Na zdravi! (Czech for Cheers!)
The passing of Maya Angelou is on everyone’s mind today~ many have been thinking of their favorite books of hers, or poems, or quotes, all of which inspire. Her biography alone is a testament to someone who used her time, her gifts and opportunities to bring forth beauty instead of someone who complained, though she had endured much. I remember finishing a book of hers on an airplane back when I was in college, and since there wasn’t much else to do I read through her enclosed biography and was completely astonished that one person could accomplish so much in a lifetime. I remember thinking she probably didn’t watch much t.v.~ no time! I guess that is why I have that connection in my head even to this day, people who live a life full of, well, life, aren’t big t.v. watchers. It scares me how we have become such an entertainment-crazed world, even more than when I was young, and it just keeps increasing. When I lived in Prague my flat-mate went home to Canada during that year and was so excited to see her multitude of friends to share what living in Prague was like. When she got back, she said she’d had fun at home but I could tell something was wrong. It didn’t take long before she admitted she had been disappointed by the lack of curiosity her various groups of friends showed about her life abroad. She had imagined questions about where she lived, what her work was like, what she ate, what had she learned of the language, and instead all anyone wanted to talk about was Survivor. It was a new show then and the whole reality show concept was fairly new so it’s understandable, kind of, that people were excited about it, but the disconnect that here my roommate was actually living something out, daring and unique (she turned 21 the year we lived in Prague together so we’re talking about quite young people) who could have told interesting stories about her real life, the real life of someone they love, but instead they chose to discuss a t.v. show just to me says it all. They weren’t trying to be rude~ and that’s the sad part. T.V. was just on the forefront of their brains. I’m not saying t.v. is awful and everyone should boycott it, but I am saying we could all use reminders to be mindful of how we spend our time. Maya Angelou’s writings and even more so, her life, is just the thing to remind us of that. We only have a limited amount of time, how do you want to spend it? Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for your gifts, your inspiration and accomplishments, which even on your day of passing, you still give, and will no doubt keep giving for generations to come.
While living in Prague my spectacular flatmate and I talked about everything under the sun, but really, the majority of the time, by a significant amount I’d say, we talked about food. Usually it was what we’d be eating if we were home right now, or in some other city, or what we ate at such and such restaurant, and what we would like to cook if only we could find the ingredients in these tiny little grocery stores. Because of that, I know far more about the frozen foods in Canada’s fine stores than any American should, and she probably will make a pilgrimage to a certain dark coffeehouse in a bad corner of Cincinnati one day. At the time we were both pescatarians in a city that is more red meat and potatoes than Texas. Needless to say, our options were limited. We lived on bread and cheese and surprise, surprise, I got horribly sick for months. At that time I was not aware of my gluten intolerance, but my natural foods background let me know it was something diet related. I started steaming broccoli for breakfast and living off Uncle Ben’s minute brown rice. And pineapple juice. Prague didn’t have much in the way of juices, but it had the best pineapple juice ever~ we drank it daily out of the same kind of box we later in the day would drink our ‘fine’ wines. The juice sections in Prague grocery stores at the time amounted to about half of an end cap. My flatmate went to Berlin over the holidays and all I remember from her trip was that the juice sections there were whole aisles, just like here. Anyway, at Trader Joe’s last night I saw they have a new pineapple juice in the cold section and I just had to try it. The ones in glass that sit on the shelf have never lived up to Prague’s standards so I have cautious hopes for this one. It isn’t organic so I won’t get it often, but in homage to my lovely friend and our days in Prague I’m going to down a glass and then throw together a sopsky’s salad, hold the fried cheese, please.