This past week has been a terrible nightmare of a week. I have a lot of thoughts running through my head about all of it, and I haven’t been able to fully wrap my brain around my feelings just yet aside from to say that when I think about it too much I’m overcome with sadness and helplessness, mixed with rage at the fact that this just keeps happening. And rage at the fact that so many seem to bristle at what a huge problem we’re facing as a country, the violence and injustice inflicted on their neighbors, repeating “all lives matter” like petulant children making an obvious and oblivious rebuttal to the idea that inequality still runs deep in America.
But this post isn’t about all of that.
This post is about тост (toast).
Sveti Nikole doesn’t have a whole lot of dining options. We have a famous restaurant called Мечкуевска Куќа, or пуже (Pujze) for short after the owner, which has really good Macedonian food and is the place to go in town for any special occasion. We have two other restaurants in the center, one of which is a pizzeria, and one ice cream/dessert shop. There are two other cafe/bars that don’t serve food, and a handful of sandwich shops and kafanas. But when you’re having a bad day and need to feed that feeling of despair, or if you’re having a good day you want to make even greater, there’s only one place to go: Milefka’s тост stand.
Now тост is not simply toasted bread. It is a magical sandwich filled with cheese, french fries, and vinegary cabbage, topped with spicy crushed red chilis called буковец (bukovets), salt, ketchup and mayo. Milefka has been making тост in her small orange stand in the center for the last 36 years, and in that time she’s come to know basically every person in town. When the city announced a plan to build a new building where her stand is located, she started a petition for her customers to sign so that she didn’t have to move. Тост is the great equalizer; at only 40 den for a sandwich (about 80 cents), it’s the best deal in town. Sometimes I go to the other тост shop around the corner if I’m particularly hungry and want some kebapi in my sandwich, but it just doesn’t have the same flavor. Most people will tell you it’s because Milefka’s sandwich press hasn’t been cleaned in the 36 years she’s been in business, which may be true.
All of this is to say that this week, I wish I could share the feeling of eating тост with the world. With all of those carb-fueled endorphins floating around, it would be a much more peaceful place.