Tirana, years' 80.
Like all the women who had to get up early to go to work the next day - and this is true all over the world - my mother, the night before, began to come forward to prepare lunch for the next day. Especially when it came to preparing some dishes that were a bit complicated or more demanding than usual, whose preparation took time.
But there was one dish in particular, which with all the dedication of my mother to prepare it well, as it was usual for her to cook any dish with care, I did not like at all, an unusual vegetable called "Bamje"!
Tell me also what you feel, but to me - at least as a child - the okra didn't like it at all: in my eyes, it looked like a sort of mutant vegetable, with that aspect that I associated with that of a wild weed that stung, with those tasteless and strange seeds inside.
Yet at home it was a very favorite specialty of mine, uncles, grandparents. In short, from what resulted from my "surveys", it was a favorite vegetable mostly from adults, because from us children it was hardly appreciated.
And yet as a child I gradually learned something else: the coexistence with tastes, tastes, customs and traditions that came from the Balkans, Europe and the world. But not only because in Albania, we, the whole people, have lived with different religions, customs and different customs, but also for a much more precise reason.
For example, my two grandmothers, as for the vegetable in question, the okra, they each called it in a different way, all its own:
the Turkish grandmother, but who had grown up in Greece, the okra called it "bamia", instead the other grandmother, the Italian, the okra called it "bammia of Egypt" or "horns of Greeks". The latter also added that, in Italy, they did not know or cook this vegetable much, but in any case, it was cultivated especially in the south of the country.
What definitions and strange names for a vegetable!
But perhaps, spontaneously and without devoting any particular importance to them, this would have become for me, a way to acquire and store from an early age, information, curiosity and would have contributed to offer me a horizon that would have crossed the borders of Albania, even if despite only through the imagination, despite only some areas, certainly those inherent to the interests of the given age that I had, only through the stories of my two grandmothers.
I should also admit that the imagination did not always remain passive, but, within the possibilities, it materialized, took shape, especially in experimenting - with regard to gastronomy for example - some typical specialties of one area or another.
But back to the "Bamje", those just not! ..
Although carefully prepared by my mother's hands, boiled, accompanied with veal stew, dipped in a fresh tomato sauce, seasoned with olive oil, flavored with spices, although everything was genuine and this did not mean little to they became the same, I don't say a nightmare, but more or less ...
That green vegetable would never have seen a green light of consideration for my culinary tastes.
At that point, for the lunch of that day - failed my parents' attempts to convince me to eat the bamje - simultaneously without straining myself and without necessarily defining my refusal to taste this particular vegetable as a "whim", I organized myself in my own way and the options were: either something else was improvised in the kitchen just for me, or I went to lunch with my grandmother, or from the neighbor!
The okra is called in Italy "bammia of Egypt" or "horns of Greeks", in Spain "ocher", in Russia "bamija"
And already: going to lunch at the neighbor's house, or inviting the neighbors to eat at home and all this, without the need for warnings, invitations, ceremonies or various compliments, was another custom of ours.
Therefore, the neighbor, if she saw me coming, imagined that at my house the lunch of that day consisted of "bamje with veal stew". Not only because the same thing was also true for the neighbor's daughter, my friend, who "reciprocated" by coming to eat with us when at her house, just as much that particular day, for lunch or dinner, there would have been a specialty that was not of his liking, for example "fasule" - beans, but let's face it: it was also a way to stay together, improvising and eating together with our friends, something that always brought only satisfaction.
The okra in the market here in Italy is found, albeit in small quantities, more than anything else required by immigrants from those countries where the okra is known and consumed: by Asians, Africans and also by us, coming from of the Balkans, especially Albanians, Romanians, Turks and Greeks. It is sold either as a fresh vegetable, or preserved in jars or jars, already boiled and seasoned.
Immigrants, inevitably, in every country they go to - and this does not only apply to those who bring with them the okra, but for any other typical specialty - whatever the country of origin, they also bring a charm and a mix of flavors that, if they know how to transmit them in the right way in the country that hosts them, they become a link between their distant places of origin and human relationships with the locals, relationships that go beyond any diversity in terms of culture, language, skin color, customs, religions or customs.
The okra is called in Italy "Bammia of Egypt" or "Greek horns", in Spain " ocher", in Russia "okra", Etc. .., but as regards terms such as:" respect - culture - others ", interpreted in any language of the world, the meaning, in the end, should always be the same.
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