Monday, 28 March 2011

lukmira, or spring onions and creme fraiche

this strange concoction of creme fraiche and chopped up spring onions is one of the last thing i ate at home before leaving for what will be forever. it is not exactly a recipe – more of a suggestion to try something you wouldn’t ordinarily think of trying. the crème fraiche has to indeed be fresh and the best you can afford (don’t offend me with half-fat rubbish) and the spring onions should be squeaky and newly dug up.

once you've got that sorted, there is literally nothing to it: you chop up the onions and you mix them with creme fraiche. maybe some crumbled feta if you feel like it and a bit of salt if you don't.

as for leaving home...well, the war started in april, and i have relived that day a thousand times. part of it is a memory of a memory. that blossom on trees – do i really remember that or have i just repeated the image, the trope, in which blossom becomes a cheap symbol, a million times? probably the latter.

other parts i remember vividly, so vividly they still require a sharp intake of breath, twenty years later. the way that sunshine came in from both sides of the flat that morning, still slightly weak and wintry but no longer pallid. the dining room table. just that: the table, brown and wooden. the kitchen, always slightly cooler in the shady corner of the flat, pigeons nesting in corners outside windows. the telephone call (or was it calls?), telling us to get ready. the lists that i have subsequently been making of such trivial, irrelevant things. i suspected those lists to be a literary affectation stolen from writers like danilo kis or bruno shultz but later i realised that the obsessive list-making is a common strategy in the war against forgetting.

the truth is, i have forgotten.

the geography of sarajevo is slowly dissolving in my head. some streets and places are crystal clear but how they fit together, the actual map, has almost disappeared. whole neighbourhoods have been obliterated by amnesia. when i think of gorica (where anela, her sister and i got drunk on her grandmother’s balcony and then ate loads of jam sandwiches), the ‘1 may’ cinema and the bar ‘setaliste’, i can no longer work out how you’d walk between the three.

sarajevo is no longer a real place for me. i know my friends think otherwise, and for those who go back to see their families, it is as real as it ever has been, every building and every street. not for me. the nostalgia that i suffer from, chronically and incurably – the nostalgia that drives me to google photos of sarajevo and just look at them – is in reality a nostalgia for a moment in past. and it is a common malaise. as much as she would deny it, it is what makes my mother read blogs by sarajevans in diaspora, get really cross with them, swear she’d never do it again, and then lapse two weeks later, or post photos of old postcards depicting the city hundred years ago.

but both of us have little desire for sarajevo as it is now.

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