Tuesday, October 25, 2011

His majesty - Ajvar

Everybody who has met a Macedonian in person has for sure heard about her majesty The Rakija and his majesty The Ajvar. I’ll talk about the healing abilities of rakija in some other blog post. This post is all about ajvar, baby! The king of the Macedonian cuisine and Macedonian specialties.

What’s so special about ajvar? It’s not a main dish because you don’t have ajvar for lunch, and it’s not a side dish because you never have just a bit of ajvar. There is a nationwide consensus in Macedonia that it is the most delicious recipe from the traditional Macedonian cuisine. I haven’t met a foreigner who has been introduced to his majesty the ajvar and didn’t like it. But it’s not just the taste of ajvar. It’s the whole preparation ceremony that makes it special.

Ajvar is usually prepared during weekends. Some people are a bit masochistic and try to finish the whole thing in one day, some take it more slowly, decide to enjoy the process of making ajvar and reserve the whole weekend for it. It all starts with buying the paprika. No idea how the type of paprika is called, but they have to be red and big. You can either buy a whole sack, and then (in most cases) get screwed with some bad paprika in the middle of the sack, which either have to be thrown away, or cut in half, or buy them in a way in which you choose each paprika manually. In the latter case you pay a bit more, but considering the fact that in the first case you through away 1/4 of the bought quantity, the price is in both cases the same. Bought quantities vary from 30kg – 150 kg. Yeah! 150 kg paprika! My family is not so masochistic and buys usually 50 kg paprika. The ajvar then usually holds out for a month or so, and the rest of the winter season we buy ajvar from the supermarket and talk about how much better home made ajvar is.

Ajvar is made on the open, either in a yard, or at the country side. Under no circumstances in front of your building since it is forbidden by law. (you people from the rest of the world reading this might think it’s ridiculous, but till a couple of years ago people, who don’t have yards or country side houses, used to do this) Although to some people it seems as a quite provincial habit typical for peasants that recently moved to the big city, there is something cute and charming about this public gathering. If we Macedonians were a bit more conscious and didn’t leave garbage behind, it could become a national trademark and a tourist attraction. But our incompetence to monetize national heritage is a different subject.

As I said, Ajvar is made in the open. Usually all members of the family are engaged (not always on their free will) to help. The men are responsible for baking the paprika, women for peeling. Paprika are baked on a kind of a grill, called kjumbe. It’s never electrical. Don’t know why. I guess we like to stick to the old-fashion way of getting things done sometimes. The paprika is being washed, and the handles and seeds are being removed from the paprika before even lighting the grill. As usually men are responsible for the grilling part, it is almost always accompanied by a glass or two of rakija, with a small amount of salad. If your neighbors see you are making ajvar, they come over for a rakija or two as well, sitting next to the grill with the man in charge of the grilling, discussing the minuses of lasts year ajvar and what both have done to make it better this year. The conversation ends with promises on both sides that once the ajvar is done, there’s gonna be a jar exchange, in order to find out whose ajvar is better.

Baking the paprika (photo taken from here)

The baked paprika are put and left in a big closed pot for some time. Now comes the hardest part of making ajvar – peeling the paprika, for which usually the women are in charge. Chairs are being put in a circle-like shape somewhere in the yard, and the pot together with a big plastic bag (for the garbage) is put in the middle. It usually starts quite cheerful, since everybody is imagining the ajvar, that is going to be eaten after that. Women discuss if this year the paprika is being pealed easier than last year, and in case they are not, they always make plans how they go to the seller and tell him to his face that he ripped them off and sold them low quality paprika. They never do. As time passes, and your back starts hurting more and more, you always end up asking yourself if it is really worth all the effort. You always know it is, but it is typical Macedonian mentality to complain about how hard things, nobody forced you to do, are.

After the paprika is being baked, the next in line is the eggplant. Same procedure as the paprika – bake, leave in a close pot for some time, peal.

The pealed paprika is cut in half, cleaned from some leftover seeds and left for a while to drain. Once the water is out, they are being put in one of those minced meat machines. Not an automatic one. A manual one. Yes, you manually provide the paprika as input with the one hand and manually rotate a handle with the other one. As I said, we like to do some things old fashion style. It’s not that there are no automatic machines available in Macedonia, or you can’t afford one. That’s just the way it’s done. The output is a reddish paste that smells fabulous and doesn’t look attractive at all.

The minced paprika together with the minced eggplant and some oil are put in a huge (I mean really huge) pot, and the grill is back in the game. Hence the size of the pot, the amount of paste and the danger of the paste being burned, it has to be stirred ALL THE TIME. This is usually the second time you start loudly expressing dissatisfaction that instead of enjoying your autumn weekend, you’re gonna have to deal with MUSKELKATER  the next couple of days. The others then start reminding you that it is soon going to be over and you have to hold out just a bit longer. A shot of rakija or two usually achieves this.

Here’s how the stirring looks like (Btw, this is a commercial for a sunflower oil brand. One of Macedonia's most epic commercials ever made.)

Half an hour to an hour of constant stirring and the ajvar is ready! Kids usually wait in front of the pot with a spoon, a peace of cheese and a peace of bread for a permission to do the primary tasting of the ajvar directly from the pot, as the person in charge of the stirring usually chases them away. Now the ajvar has to be poured into jars and that’s it. You never buy jars. Never. You collect them all year long from mayonnaise, olives, marmalade or whatever it is that is sold in jars. Before pouring the ajvar into the jars, they have to be sterilized. First washed, and after which they are being put in the stove at 50 degrees for about an hour or so.

Once all jars are full, the remains are being wiped out of the pot with small peaces of bread. Kids express their huge satisfaction, although their tongues are burned, and they demand that they have ajvar for dinner. You then come home, have a couple of slices of bread with ajvar, take a short shower and go directly to bed. And then you sleep like you have been sleepless for a week. The next couple of days your back hurts like hell, but that’s is completely irrelevant, cause your kitchen is full of jars filled with homemade ajvar.

If you still haven’t tried ajvar, I suggest you go to the supermarket and buy yourself a jar. Homemade ajvar cannot be compared to the one produced in factories, but they get better and better every year! Automatic production of ajvar is pretty new in Macedonia, a couple of years ago people didn’t even want to hear about buying ajvar from the supermarket, so some time needs to pass till the factories will have mastered this. But they are still pretty good. As for trying homemade one and witnessing “the making of ajvar” , visit Macedonia in September! The whole country has a charming smell of baked paprika. It’s simply beautiful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Organic my ass! [#bad11]

If there’s one thing that amazes me and pisses me off at the same time it’s how people get influenced by mass propaganda. It’s not something new, it’s been repeating itself throughout history because man has learned that it works! It worked when they tried to convince us that tap water is no good, and it works now when they are trying to sell us organic food. It’s fantastic how after a number of repetitions of a lie, people first start questioning their own positions, then they start believing you with a little dose of doubt, and at the end they have a completely opposite opinion from their original one. After a while even the liars start believing their own lies.

Dear blinded people with a bit of extra cash in your wallet, let me tell you one thing: Organic my ass! Fruits and vegetables are seasonal food. They only grow in a specific time of the year. And they have a specific geometrical shape, which is almost NEVER  perfect. So:

  • If you buy a strawberry with the size of a tomato in February – it’s not organic.
  • If you buy an apple with a perfect round shape in March – it’s not organic.
  • If you buy tomatoes in the middle of winter – they’re not organic.
  • If you buy 1kg cherries, and not a single cherry has a worm inside – they’re not organic.
  • If you buy seedless grapes, it’s genetically modified fruit. And that is not organic. Besides, the seeds contain huge amount of antioxidants. Why would you want to buy seedless grapes? Is it that big of a deal to swallow the seeds? Are we getting so comfortable in our couches that we don't even want to get bothered by seeds?  
  • If you buy some organic soda… what’s organic about soda anyway? I don’t even…
  • If you buy an organic soap, unless it’s made of pig fat, it’s not organic.
  • If you buy organic meat in a supermarket, believe me it’s not organic. Specially if it’s frozen meat.
  • If you buy organic milk, unless it’s freshly squeezed from a cow, it’s not organic.
  • If you buy organic tobacco… I mean really? What’s the point?
  • If you buy a can of organic food, it’s not organic. Cans go with food additives, and food additives are just not organic.

And, this goes for all organic products that can be found in those huge supermarket chains: If it’s mass production, it not organic. Full stop. It just isn’t possible.
My favorite organic product of all times is (which I’ve seen with my own eyes): Nail polish remover without acetone with organic orange oil. This is top of the top. I mean, who buys something like this? Who pays a couple of extra bucks for a nail polish remover just because it has organic orange oil?

Consumerism is a terrible thing. And people just don’t realize that in order to keep the level of consumerism, corporations create demands. And organic food is just one more of those created demands. The sooner you get it, the better for you: The regular tomatoes and the shiny ones are the same crap, just being sold to us in a different package with different labels and a different price. They’re both genetically modified and fertilizers have been applied on both of them.

If you really want to eat healthy, start by eating seasonal food. Understand that lettuce grows in spring, tomatoes in summer, grapes in autumn, and in winter you just have to buy imported stuff from warmer areas, and again, those things are not organic since they’re massively produced for export. Stop eating crap like low fat butter. It’s butter, it’s supposed to be fat.  Stop eating low fat cheese. If it’s low fat it just tastes like soap. Stop eating snacks. Especially low fat snacks. Start drinking wine at lunch. France has the lowest percentage of cardiovascular diseases. And it’s not because they eat low fat food, it’s because they drink wine with the non low fat food they’re eating. Stop buying toast bread that can hold out in your kitchen drawer for a week. Buy bread in local bakeries, and if the bread you buy today is still good tomorrow, change your bakery. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. And last but not least: Unless it’s forbidden by your official local authorities, start drinking tab water. You’ll be just fine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That's Macedonia, bitch!!!

When I meet people from a different country, and I don't know anything about that country, I usually get some preliminary information about that country, its people, its traditions, food etc. I try to stay politically correct by not insulting them on subjects like political disputes, historical disputes, tradition disputes etc. And if I somehow manage to insult someone, it's some small group of individuals.

Today Pau Gasol managed to insult me and the whole macedonian nation.

Dear Pau Gasol, it's probably not you who is administrating your FB fan page, but whoever is behind it is speaking in your name, so I can still refer this post directly to you. Don't you FYROM me Gasol, DON'T! SAY MACEDONIA!!!

I sincerely hope this information will somehow get to you and you will realize what you and the person in charge of your FB account have done and have the decency to apologize. It's OK to make a mistake, it's not OK not apologizing for it.

For one thing, you are Catalan, you should know better...

P.S. I send all my love and positive energy to the Macedonian basketball team in Lithuania! It's been a while since I have been walking on the streets with a stupid smile on my face for no reason. Nobody was even dreaming that we would be in the semifinals at the Eurobasket 2011. I hope these moments are going to inspire more kids to start doing sports at an early age so the tradition can go on and we will not remain a one time sensation with its 5 minutes of glory.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sport's a bitch sometimes

Have you ever felt like you've won a match, although you've actually lost it? Such matches are bad for your health.

Macedonia basketball team, I salute you. You make me feel prouder than ever.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Talkin’ bout security

Yes, it’s another post dedicated to Annonymous. It’s another #FFF (Fuck FBI Friday) and today they released over 1GB of private emails and documents belonging to Vanguard Defense Industries(VDI), a defense contractor that sells arms to law enforcement, military, and private corporations. As they say, the emails belong to Senior Vice President of VDI Richard T. Garcia, who has previously worked as assistant Director to the Los Angeles FBI office as well as the Global Security Manager for Shell Oil Corporation. Read all about the release here. (it’s not really eye friendly, I know. Guys, red font on a black background. Really!?)

I found the following part of the release very interesting: “Have fun with the data of Mr. Garcia, former Assistant Director to the L.A. FBI office who now sells his cybersecurity "skills" to the Military and Government for brazen amounts of money.”

Why “skills”, you must be wondering. While the release was being uploaded, they published the webmail link too, and Mr. Garcia’s username and password, so you can browse through his email by yourself. After almost 3 days of public exposure, the guy found out his email was hacked and changed his password.

(photo taken from here)

Wonder what his old password was? Take a deep breath: Gloria88. Without even knowing a single thing about this guy, I’m betting on it that Gloria is his daughter’s name, and 1988 is the year she is born. I mean… COME ON!!! You don’t need to be a hacker to hack that! You don’t even need any computer skills. All you need is a computer, an internet connection and a list of close family members names. A brute force attack with no more than 20 attempts will do the job.

Yes, they do illegal stuff. Yes they hack. Yes they get into people’s computers and publish private stuff to the whole world. Yes it’s prohibited by law. But they are trying to prove a point. I quote: “#FFF shows once more that federal contractors don't even care about the "security" they are selling. They just care for the $$$.”

I don’t even want to imagine how Macedonian security agents demonstrate their security “skills”.  Half of them have their wife’s names as their computer password for sure. No capital letter, no birth year attached to it. Just first name. Raw.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Behind the curtains

10 years ago, when 9/11 happened, everybody was shocked at first, but after a while people started commenting: Well, they financed them, trained them, supplied them with modern artillery, and now it’s all coming back to them. I thought that’s a public secret, something everybody knows, but there’s no evidence of it, until yesterday when I saw the movie Charlie Willson’s war.

(photo taken from here)

Apparently winning over the soviet invasion in Afghanistan was crucial to winning the cold war for the USA. So they had to supply them with weapons which could shoot down Russian helicopters and jets. But they couldn’t supply them with weapons produced in America, because that would mean that the USA is directly interfering with the conflict, hence the conflict would no longer be between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan, but between the Soviet Union and USA. And nobody wanted to initiate a conflict like that at that time, because that would be the equivalent of a third world war. So, non US weapons had to be imported in Afghanistan. Solution?

This is brilliant. They called it Operation Cyclone. Apparently Israel (!) sold Egypt and Pakistan weapons, which were after that given to the mujahidin's in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. This was done of course with the financial help of the Americans. Not to mention that after that people were trained how to use those weapons.

Can you imagine that? Israel, the country that is not even recognized as a state (!!!) by Afghanistan and Pakistan and doesn’t have any diplomatic relations with them, sold weapons to Pakistan so that they could give them to Afghanistan to beat the Soviets. If you don’t believe me, read about it here, you will be as surprised as I was.

And people still believe in bullshit like religious wars? People still go to war, because their governments tell them to? Israel is still fighting half of the Arab world when only 30 years ago it was selling them weapons? Mujahidin's are still going to holy wars with Israel and America, when it was they who sold them the weapons? Americans still believe that they are fighting for freedom in Afghanistan, when it is they who created this mess in the first place? Give me a break! This information is so public (although I never new about these facts, but it’s never too late to learn) and yet, people are still being so brainwashed, that they blow themselves up in the name of God or go and occupy other people’s countries in the name of freedom.

There have always been three reasons to begin a war throughout of history: Territory, resources and women. And in all three of them, religion has been used as a tool to keep the warriors motivated and angry. How is it that it’s the 21st century where information in the form of pure facts is served to us on a plate, and we are still so clueless? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Something is wrong with the society

4 days in a row, UK is burning. Rioters are trashing places, setting buildings on fire, robbing people, literally destroying their society. And while England has a tradition with hooligans and riots, it took them 4 days to give a green light to the police to use water cannons. People that have been guests in talk shows and on the news avoided answering the question: Do you think the police is tough enough with the rioters and should it get tougher. As if they were scared to say: No they are not tough enough, they should beat the shit out of everyone they catch! I mean, in times like these it’s not the right moment to measure the level of roughness of the police. Get as rough as you can, for Gods sake, your country is on fire!!!


(photo taken from here)

But in the end, is it really important if they are tough enough or not? This is eventually going to end, the real question is what’s going to be done after that. And it doesn’t concern only England. It concerns all of us! A month ago Norway produced one of the most terrible mass murderers of the decade, maybe even the century. Not a lost fanatic, it’s a guy led by ideals, which he wrote down on a 1500 pages long manifesto. An awfully peaceful country like Norway, a country where the government makes sure you take a dental examination every 6 months (no I’m not making this up!), produces such a fanatic. Imagine what kind of fanatics are produced in other countries where the government doesn’t have time to take care of the dental hygiene of its population, because there are other things to be taken care of, say…. poverty for an example!

Riot is the language of the unheard said Martin Luther King, and obviously there are a lot of unheard people around the world that have something to say. How come nobody listens to them? There are always people around me who tell me that they either love my brilliant idea or that I’m talking complete nonsense. But there’s always somebody who listens to me! Imagine what it’s like asking a brick wall what it thinks of your painting; or asking a brick wall to borrow you some money; or telling a brick wall that it’s an asshole; or crying at a brick wall because your stupid boyfriend cheated on you; or sharing your happiness with a brick wall over a good grade at school... And that ONLY because you have NO ONE else to turn to! I suppose this is the outcome.

I feel so sorry for these young people. The thing is that, even if they don’t want to participate in the looting, I am sure they are not just encouraged, but also forced by their gang buddies to do it. And if they don’t, they will be left out even from their hoodie society, marked for life with a scarlet letter: He’s a pussy! So now he doesn’t fit into our “normal” society, and doesn’t fit into the “bad” society either. Where does that leave him? 

Something is terribly wrong… Listen to this video. If you don’t get the message listen to it again and again until it starts to make you think.

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