A small country on the Balkan Peninsula, Albania has experienced the influence of many European cultures. Whether it be Greece, her southern neighbor, or Turkey during the Ottoman Empire, Albania’s customs portrays its conquered history. Today, an independent nation, Albania has kept many foods that she embraces as her own. “My grandfather told me about the Ottoman Empire,” Audrey Safir ’20 reported. “He said it was one of the longest and harshest empire to control Albania. But he forgives them for bringing baklava.”
Audrey’s grandfather, Sami Repishti, grew up in Albania during the period of communism. After peacefully protesting, he was jailed for ten years before returning home. When threatened to be imprisoned again, Dr. Repishti escaped into the neighboring country, what is today Macedonia. After being jailed again, he escaped to Italy, and was sponsored by a Catholic charity to come to the United States as a refugee. Once he arrived in America, he met Audrey’s grandmother, Diana Repishti.
Ms. Repishti was born in America, although her parents were Albanian immigrants. She was raised in an ethnic ghetto on the lower east side, where she lived with other Albanian refugees. Here, they sought to maintain their cultural identity through language, customs, and most importantly, food.
Passing down Albanian recipes has been Ms. Repishti’s family’s tradition in the female line. After teaching her daughter, Ava, Ms. Repishti showed Audrey how to make the meals. Albanian foods are served at holidays, most importantly, Thanksgiving. This includes kabuli, baklava, and Audrey’s favorite- bürek. “The bürek’s a simple recipe,” Audrey explained. “It’s just like making spinach pie. I make it because I love my grandparents, and the opportunity to connect with their past.”