Albanians are known for their hospitality all over the world.
It’s not by accident that in the Kanun, the very ancient code book for the Albanian society is written: “The house of an Albanian belongs to God and to the guest”
That means that every hour of the day or night an Albanian household must be ready to receive a guest with bread, salt and an open heart.
Albanians enjoy receiving guests and it never mattered how much they had in their pantry. All it mattered was to make a place by the fireplace, open the bottle of raki, sometimes kept hidden in the head-woman’s coffer, saved only for the guests, and put the table (sofra) in the middle and serve whatever meze that family had on it.
That’s why, every Albanian household must have some food staples home to serve right away when a guest arrives.
With the changing of times, even the guests aren’t like they used to be, but still, it will take a few decades for this habit to change and we truly hope that it will never get lost because let’s not forget that with the arrival of the guests, comes joy and prosperity because hearts are open in receiving and in pleasing.
Albanian food is a cuisine of simple tastes, flavors and ingredients with not too many spices and herbs. And, that’s especially true with the meze which is prepared with a mixture of ready – ingredients in the pantry and in the fridge.
Actually, it’s a very smart move, if you are an Albanian household to keep some non- perishable or long lasting shelf life foods in the pantry or freezer, like olives, dry meat, sausage, prosciutto, white cheese in brine, marinated vegetables, eggplant dip, ajvar, stuffed grape leaves, etc.
Meze can be used as an appetizer to accompany and compliment a drink while you’re preparing dinner, but it can be served as a whole meal as well depending on the time of the day. For example, in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner, or get togethers late nights during winter time.
Its contents are salty, savory and depend by the region, season and by the household. There’s no right or wrong at putting a meze together!
Meze is eaten slowly being shared with guests, friends, family united in joyful spirits, conversation and laughter.