Albanian Festival

One of the best things about summer is that it is festival season. In Westchester there are dozens of festivals from May to September, and if I had my way, I’d go to them all!

This weekend, as a part of the Westchester Parks Department Heritage Festival Program, we attended the Albanian Festival at the Kensico Dam.

Some lovely Albanian dancers.

It was a little bit overcast, so we weren’t quite expecting the crowd of festival goers that would be there. I’m bad with counting and prone to exaggeration, but… I am sure there were thousands of people there. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when we attend a festival on a beautiful summer day!

I was also surprised at the sheer number of Albanians that were there! I had no idea our county was home to so many Albanian immigrants. We can include that on the long list of things I don’t know about Albanian culture.

Of course, my number one favorite thing about any type of festival is the food, and I really didn’t know what I had in store for me at the Albanian Festival. There was the typical festival fare, hot dogs, cotton candy, ice cream… but I didn’t want any of that! I’ll eat that at the American Heritage Festival! I wanted the most authentic Albanian food possible! So, we walked around and picked the line with the most Albanians.

Predictably, the food looked pretty similar to Greek food, which is one of my favorite cuisines, so I felt pretty safe eating it, despite the fact that I had no idea what it was.

In the picture, clockwise from the top right, we have bread, mystery meat and fixings, and some other bread filled with spinach. We were given a choice of cheese, meat or spinach filling on the swirly bread (which I later learned from an actual Albanian is actually called Byrek or… Pita). Since we were eating festival food for dinner, we decided we might as well get the “healthiest” option possible, so opted for healthy spinach.

The bread we presumed was to be used for making sandwiches out of the mystery meat and fixings. So, we split the bread in half, crammed it full of authentic Albanian food, and went to town.

It was so good! (I am pretty sure the meat was beef) Our only complaint was that when we accepted “all the fixin’s” we unknowingly accepted a pile of salt. And once that salt met the neighboring pile of feta cheese, we had a few SALTY bites. And since we had forgotten to bring our water bottles, we were forced (forced!) to enjoy a tasty beverage that I can only imagine is an Albanian delicacy.

The traditional beverage, called Kryptonite, was prepared in two separate plastic buckets and combined on site. It was served, according to tradition, in a plastic container with an x cut out to house the straw. It tasted like… iced tea, mixed with lemonade.

I jest! It WAS iced tea mixed with lemonade, and it was tasty. And it really was, inexplicably, called Kryptonite. But, it was served by a very authentic Albanian man!

All in all, a lovely day with my lovely Mister and a few thousand Albanians (give or take…)


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