Past To Remember / Prošlost za pamćenje

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It is another gray November morning.  Freezing wind cuts through cheeks. Faces of all the people reflect the same expression of sleepiness and discomfort caused by strong wind. These are the rare moments when you can’t wait to get to work. While standing at the station, waiting for a tram, we spot him from a distance. He approaches with a big smile on his face, as if getting up early and strong gusts of wind don’t concern him at all. After a few exchanged words and stories of who did what for the weekend, we come to the actual topic called “stuffed drumstick.” Well, some time ago in a restaurant he tried this specialty, and liked it so much that for days… no, weeks he talks just about that. I like to observe the amount of enthusiasm with which he talks about it. Nowadays, people have become too indifferent. His enthusiasm doesn’t stop there. He has a desire to show everyone how tasty it is and repeatedly persuades us to try, even though he knows that we don’t eat meat. “But it’s so delicious, you have to try it.” So much food enthusiasm and desire… No, need to share it with others, where pleasure becomes proportionally larger by the number of people with who you share the delicious meal, reminded me irresistibly of another person. A person who is no longer with us, at least not the way we are used to see at things on the physical plane. And yet, in another way, in many other ways, in the memories and the smells… like he never left.

Every year at the same time for days I hear the same questions asked by my mom. “Why do you cook so much? Do you need help? So who is going to be there?” And so on. Usually, when people in Serbia celebrate slava, they give 110% of themselves and they are no exception. For days they are busy as bees, refusing our help, saying that there is not so much work to be done.

Photo by Dorćolka

On the day of slava, a panic in the house ensues… We dressed the best we knew how, and what mom approved of. We’re already late according to an imaginary schedule. Tensions rise as we are waiting at the bus stop, from nervousness, as well as the cold. Finally, the bus arrives, now we feel slightly relieved. We’ll be there soon. I notice that most of the passengers, just like us, are headed somewhere for slava. We are all polished and groomed, holding flowers and bottles of various alcoholic beverages.

Finally we arrive and ring the doorbell. This characteristic sound I haven’t heard for a few years now, but it is currently ringing in my head. So cheerful, reminiscent of childhood, of some simpler days. It seems like we stand at the door for ages and finally the door opens. All flushed from the heat in the kitchen, grandpa gives us one of his broadest and most sincere smiles. “Are you freezing? Come on, get in.” From the moment that I crossed the threshold, I was overwhelmed by the smells that spread from the kitchen.

After we are being served with zito and water (was I the only one who always found it difficult to stay at one spoon?) , comes the most difficult moment of the day… lunch anticipation 🙂 Although we got there pretty late by mom’s schedule, other guests haven’t yet arrived. We won’t be hungry, it’s not a problem. While grandma is finishing up baking pies, grandpa is already stationed at a table in the kitchen, chopping meze. Smoked ham, prosciutto and other smoked meat, cheeses… Of course, nothing without a couple of glasses of rakia, to whet your appetite. We, the kids, don’t need aperitifs, we are already hungry and we rushed to the plate with food. Grandma and grandpa, although happy and excited about the upcoming day, still seem tired from so much work, and again mom is telling them that they are pushing themselves too hard. Some things never change… Who knows why is that good?

And the first guests arrive. Mainly relatives who I don’t see very often. I’ve never been much of a believer. Slava was an opportunity to see the dear people who, due to various life circumstances, you see quite rarely. Family reunion; for me that was a point of slava. And a great food is definitely a plus 🙂 At last, when enough people gathers and after they have gone through the ritual of zito, rakia and snacks, it’s lunch time.

foodAppetizer: several types of pie (with the inevitable gibanica-cheese pie), Olivier salad. I would like nothing else but to stuff myself with this and finish up with cake. But no. After that is served homemade chicken soup with homemade noodles. And this can be a separate meal by itself. Somehow, I eat that too. Then, it’s sarma’s turn. At that point I start to wonder who is crazy here, and where people find place in their stomachs for so much food. By my own ritual, I skip sarma, while my brother regularly follows this “trend” also. My grandfather has spotted me as a potential “victim” and probably, by his own judgment, someone who’s going to stay hungry. I notice that he doesn’t eat a lot. Too busy offering and serving others. While pouring them more food, the pleasure is reflecting on his face. Fortunately, sarma didn’t stay long on the table, I managed to avoid it. And then comes the roast. And not one! No, no… Pork and lamb, choice is yours. Plus tons of bread, salads, horseradish… While looking at a plate of meat and wondering is there a place in my stomach, grandpa is putting piece of roast without even asking. Complaining and trying to defend myself, but I’m still eating. Ok, that’s enough. I can’t take another bite, I have to get up and sit back in an armchair while others are still eating. Phew, now it’s little better.

reform-dobosBut it does not stop there. After 10 minutes after I finished, I’m being called into the kitchen to help with cutting the cake and serving guests. Cake? How many stomachs do you people have? And of course, this is not one cake… No, no. There are minimum 2 cakes: reform and dobos are a must, and usually there is at least one more; lemon or rozen, chestnut cake, because my brother likes it. And some sweet balls, raffaello coconut and/or chocolate ones. Major dilemma occurs as what and how much to eat, and not to burst? And while I’m thinking what to choose, my brother filled a plate with ALL sweets and went into the living room to devour them. It’s not fair! In spite of everything he eats, he is skinny as a twig, and I gain weight just by drinking water.

burning-candleAnd so this ritual repeats, as guests keep on coming. Zito, rakia, snacks, lunch, sweets, coffee… Since we saw off the last of the visitors, it’s cleaning time. When we clear up all the cups and plates, wash the dishes of cobalt and crystals (all the time trembling over, in the fear of breaking them)… we are spent. Again, mom is saying that too much food has been prepared, because half of it we would need to drag home, so that it doesn’t spoil. Work is almost done. The atmosphere is gradually slowing down, and now, like a candle with the image of Saint Michael, just gently burning.

Even after many years, on the day of slava, faded images of the past are magically revived. The smell of rich cuisine, sound of conversations, toasts, laughter… As if I am there once again. Much time has passed since the last slava and the tides of life have carried us away to some other shores. Still, it’s nice to relive the past days from a different perspective. The man is truly unusual creature… Programmed to remember the most beautiful things in the past… It’s probably better that way… The sands of time flow and water washes away bad memories, leaving a doleful and blurred view on the past…


Još jedno sivo novembarsko jutro. Košava reže obraze. Na licima svih ljudi se oslikava isti izraz pospanosti i neprijatnosti izazvane jakim vetrom. Retki trenuci kada jedva čekamo da stignemo na posao. Dok stojimo na stanici, čekajući travmaj, iz daljine vidimo njega. Prilazi sa širokim osmehom na licu, kao da ga rano ustajanje i jaki naleti vetra uopšte ne dotiču. Posle nekoliko razmenjenih reči i priče ko je šta radio za vikend, dolazimo do aktuelne teme zvane „punjeni batak“. Naime, pre izvesnog vremena u nekom restoranu je probao ovaj specijalitet i toliko mu se svidelo da danima… Ma nedeljama samo o tome priča. Dopada mi se da posmatram količinu entuzijazma sa kojim govori o tome. Ljudi su danas postali previše ravnodušni. Njegovo oduševljenje ne prestaje tu. On ima želju da svima pokaže koliko je to ukusno i u više navrata pokušava da nas nagovori da probamo, iako zna da ne jedemo meso. „Ali , toliko je ukusno, moram da vas vodim.“ Toliko ushićenje hranom i želja… ne, potreba da se podeli sa drugima, gde užitak postaje veći srazmerno broju ljudi sa kojima se deli ukusna klopa me neodoljivo podsetilo na jednu drugu osobu. Osobu koja više nije sa nama, bar ne onako kako smo naviknuti da posmatramo stvari, na fizičkoj ravni. A opet, na neki drugi način, u mnogim stvarima, sećanjima i mirisima… kao da nikada nije otišao.

Svake godine u isto vreme danima čujem ista pitanja koja postavlja moja mama. „Pa zašto toliko spremate? Da li vam treba pomoć? Pa ko to sve dolazi?“ I tome slično. Ljudi u Srbiji obično kada slave slavu daju 110% od sebe i ni oni nisu izuzetak. Danima unapred rade vredno kao mravi, odbijajući pomoć, tvrdeći da i nema toliko posla.

Photo by Dorćolka

Napokon stižemo i zvonimo na vrata. To karakteristično zvono nisam čula već nekoliko godina, a trenutno mi zvoni u glavi. Tako veselo, podseća na detinjstvo, na neke jednostavnije dane. Čini nam se kao da čitavu večnost stojimo ispred vrata i napokon se vrata otvaraju. Deda, sav zajapuren od toplote u kuhinji, upućuje nam jedan od njegovih najširih i najiskrenijih osmeha. „Jeste li se smrzli? Ajde upadajte.“ Onog momenta kako sam prešla prag, zapljusnuli su me opijajući mirisi koji se šire iz kuhinje.

Pošto nas posluže sa žitom i vodom (da li sam ja jedina kojoj je uvek bilo teško da ostane na jednoj kašičici?), dolazi onaj najteži trenutak na taj dan… isčekivanje ručka 🙂 Iako smo po nekoj maminoj satnici uveliko okasnili, drugi gosti još nisu stigli. Gladni nećemo biti, to nije problem. Dok baka privodi kraju pečenje pita, deda je već stacioniran za stolom u kuhinji, seckajući meze. Suvi vrat, pršut i ostalo suvo meso, kačkavalj… Naravno, ništa bez nekoliko čašica rakije, da se otvori apetit. Nama deci ne treba rakija, mi smo već gladni i navalili smo na tanjir sa posluženjem. Baka i deda, iako veseli i uzbuđeni zbog predstojećeg dana, ipak deluju umorno od silnog posla, tako da opet slušamo mamu kako im priča da preteruju. Neke stvari se nikad ne menjaju… Ko zna zašto je to dobro?

Stižu i prvi gosti. Uglavnom su to rođaci koje ne viđam naročito često. Nikada nisam bila naročiti vernik. Slavu sam doživljavala kao mogućnost da se vidim sa dragim ljudima, koje, zbog različitih životnih okolnosti, ne viđam češće. Skupljanje familije, to je po meni smisao slave. A dobra klopa je svakako plus 🙂 Pošto se skupi dovoljan broj ljudi i nakon što prođu ritual žita, rakije i mezetluka, napokon dolazi red na ručak.

foodPredjelo: nekoliko tipova pite (uz nezaobilaznu gibanicu), ruska salata. Ja bih se ovoga najela i kolača, dosta mi je. Ali ne. Potom ide domaća pileća supa, sa domaćim rezancima. I ovo može da bude obrok za sebe. Ajde, i to nekako pojedem. E, onda na red dolazi sarma. Tu već počinjem da se pitam ko je ovde lud i gde ljudima staje tolika hrana. Sarmu, po nekom svom običaju, preskačem, dok moj brat uredno prati i ovaj „trend“. Deda me je već ugledao kao potencijalu „žrtvu“ i nekoga ko će, verovatno po njegovoj proceni, ostati gladan. I primećujem da on uopšte ne jede mnogo. Previše zauzet tutkajući i nutkajući druge. Ubacuje im još u tanjir i dok to radi, zadovoljstvo mu se oslikava na licu. Srećom, sarma nije dugo stajala na stolu, uspela sam da je izbegnem. E, onda na red dolazi pečenje. I to ne jedno! Ne, ne… praseće i jagnjeće, pa biraj. Plus kilogrami hleba, salate, ren… Dok gledam u tanjire sa mesom i pitam se ima li mesta u mom stomaku, deda mi već u tanjir stavlja komade i ne pita. Kukam i pokušavam da se odbranim, ali ipak jedem. Ok, dosta je bilo. Ne mogu više, moram da ustanem i da se zavalim u fotelju dok još drugi jedu. Uf, malo je lakše.

reform-dobosAli, da ne stajemo tu. Posle 10-ak minuta od kada sam završila, zovu me u kuhinju da pomažem oko sečenja kolača i služenja gostiju. Kolača? Koliko želudaca vi ljudi imate? I naravno, to nije jedan kolač… Ne, ne. To su minimum 2 torte, nezaobilazna reforma i doboš, a najčešće je tu bar još jedna, limun ili rozen torta, kesten, jer je moj brat voli. I neke kuglice, rafaelo i čokoladne. Nastaje glavna dilema šta i koliko pojesti, a ne raspući se? I dok sam na mukama šta da izaberem, moj brat je napunio tanjir SVIM kolačima i tortama i odlazi u dnevnu sobu da navali na njih. To je nepravda! I pored svega što pojede, mršav je kao grančica, a na mene se i voda lepi.

burning-candleI tako nekoliko puta, kako gosti naviru. Žito, rakija, meze, ručak, kolači, kafa… Pošto smo ispratili i zadnje goste, nastaje spremanje. Dok se rasklone sve čaše i tanjiri, operu sudovi od kobalta i kristala (svo vreme drhteći nad njima, da se ne razbiju)… padaju svi na nos. I mama ponovo naglašava kako je ovoliko spremanje preterano, jer pola toga mi treba da odvučemo kući, da se ne pokvari. Posao se privodi kraju. Atmosfera se polako usporava i sada, kao sveća sa likom Arhangel Mihaila, samo lagano tinja.

I posle mnogo godina, na dan slave, izbledele slike prošlosti su nekom magijom oživele. Miris bogate trpeze, žamor gostiju, kucanje čaša, smeh… Kao da sam opet tamo. Mnogo je vremena prošlo od poslednje slave i plime i oseke života odnele su nas na neke druge obale. Ipak, lepo je posetiti minule dane iz neke druge perspektive. Čovek je zaista neobična zverka… Programiran da pamti uglavnom lepe stvari iz prošlosti… Verovatno je i tako bolje… Pesak vremena teče i voda spira ružne uspomene, ostavljajući setan i zamagljen pogled ka nekim prošlim vremenima…


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