February 19th, 2013


International Relations: Whipchick-Style

In Eastern Europe, there are little pastries called Fornetti. You buy them in a shop, or at stalls at festivals, and you buy them by weight. They come out of the oven every few minutes on big trays, little hot pockets of chocolate or apricot or pizza-sauce or sausage in crispy layers of filo-dough, and the shopkeeper scoops up however many you want, weighs the paper bag, and you head out into the street with your piping-hot Fornetti and a sense of blissful contentment.

Mostly, we ate them at night, in Skopje, Macedonia when we were done doing trapeze shows, my partners getting 40-cent beers while I picked up the Fornetti. But we also ate them in Budva, Montengro when the beach bars closed, at a rest stop in Albania while our bus driver grumbled at the wait until we gave him a handful, and in Belgrade, Serbia, near buildings still bombed-out shells from the Bosnian war with signs posted in Serbian: REMEMBER WHAT THE AMERICANS DID TO US.

In Sibenik, Croatia, the Fornetti shop closed early, 9PM. It was worth it to pick some up before the last show and eat them lukewarm afterwards.

I don't read Croatian. Or speak it particularly well. I've got Please and Thank You and That Was Our Show We Love Your Country Now Please Put Money In The Hat. So when I buy Fornetti, I have to see the trays in the glass bakery case and point, so I can make sure not to get the meat ones--my trapeze duet partner is seriously vegetarian.

I'm in Fornetti, it's pretty crowded, I have ten minutes before the show starts, and a pair of eight, nine-year-old boys, just at the obnoxious age, are leaning their whole bodies on the front of the case. They're not choosing Fornetti, they're just leaning on it and sliding around. And I say "excuse me" and "please" in Croatian and English, and they are just not having any of it.

So I calculate my angle, and then I look intently out the shop window, like I'm waiting for my friend. And I give the kid nearest me a sharp kick in the ankle. He looks at me--I'm still looking out the window, innocent tourist--and immediately hauls off and socks his friend in the shoulder. The two kids start fighting, their mom hauls them out of the shop still kicking and screaming.

The shopkeeper looks at me, and we both shrug and make a sad noise about how badly-behaved kids are today, what can you do? and I point and buy a half-kilo mixed of cheese, chocolate, and apricot.

They were delicious.