My Serbo Charger just rolled into the other half of his century!
Happy, Happy Birthday to the greatest gift to our family and to the sweetest, kindest, macho-ist man I know! Fifty is nifty and sixty-one isn’t. Ha! But what a pair we make!
“Do not do anything for my birthday this year, Valerie. I mean it. Nothing!” Are you kidding me? Really? I have been looking forward to this party for 10 years! I didn’t say all of that to him, but planned the party anyway. Not out of lack of respect, but out of “we need to have a party anyway, it’s been far too long” logic and a truckload of love. And a pig roast? Well, let’s see. This is a Balkan man. Balkan men celebrate just about everything with a glass of Sljiva and a Pig Roast. And, we always have the Sljiva.
I did get approval for the invitation before I sent it out. Made it first, and he grinned. And then looked at me for a long bit, and said, “Ok. fine.” I was so excited. Lauren and Aaron were coming with Aaron’s mom and Prince William for the month of July. Aaron and his mom could not stay for the party, but Lauren and William made it a very special time. Oh, and the guests? Almost everyone made a huge effort to attend. We are truly blessed to have such dear friends. Now, be prepared. This post is a tome. Either, skim the photos, or get a coffee. Please excuse… (the photos as are not my usual calibre. I was hosting and shooting. Somehow along the way, little fingers got onto my lens. The brilliant sun was not so cooperative, either, and I didn’t have the usual time to adjust the camera for each shot.)
Our Birthday tradition? Happy Day! This is your special day! Wakey! Wakey! We have presents! William loved to help Deda open his family gifts.
And Deda? Deda loves to drink beer on his birthday. Especially when he shares it with his piggy! A drink for Vanja….
… and the rest for piggy. Vanja has to admit he had a lot of joy roasting the pig that day. The roaster this year was made by a dear friend, and we borrowed it from him. Not the rustic experience of the 40th Birthday Pig Roast where we did it over an open fire with coals and wood. This was a gas roast with an electric turn. Vanja and his fellow ex-pats still love to get together at a park to do the old turn it yourself roast where they turn, drink, roast and just enjoy one another.
The sisters are almost polar opposites in every way, and it warms my heart to see the love they share and how much they honor and enjoy each other. The little one is the oldest, Ragan, and the taller one is the youngest, Lauren: momma to Prince William. They love their Father Figure dearly and long ago nick-named him “FF”.
Every good party, especially a Pig Roast, must start with a drink, no? Small sign in the front yard with balloons so guests could easily find us. Yes, everyone knows where we live, but these are our friends. Can I tell you how many times one of my dearest friends has called me for my address? We must be over 60. Sigh.
Then, right at the entry to the back garden, just before the gate, “the booze”. Here was the beer and liquor. Help yourself. Look in the coolers. Be our guest! I try to plan a low maintenance but “catered to each guest” party by having each person’s favourites at the bar. That kind of thing.
Come in! Drink in hand, or, if you prefer wine, now is the time. Also, seat cushions are provided to add a little cleanliness and comfort for extra seating along the garden wall.
At this point, I hope our guest will arrive to the Pig Roast, just around the corner, with a happy smile on their face and a drink in their hand, feeling welcomed and loved before I have even seen them.
Yet, we are still setting up, untangling balloons and getting last minute things in place.
The doting daughters with their father figure. And below….
Ten years earlier. Our first Pig Roast for Vanja’s 40th! Everyone somehow looks better now, don’t you think? Vanja did warn me this year: “No goofy glasses, hats, banners, silly stuff. Nadda! I mean it.” Of course, I still bought him a silly hat. Who can resist? William loves it and wears it and calls himself “Bob”! (Bob the Builder) when donning it, so it went to good use during our early morning family time this year. But really, it is a requirement and an essential part of the right of passage when 40, don’t you agree?
And…. here we are.
And… there we were 10 years ago. A little more mushier in the photo, and still as silly as ever.
Preparing for the Pig Roast was a very big deal for our Prince William. He was 17 months old, and knew what a piggy was an what a piggy said, and had seen live piggies, but this was his first pig roast. Look at his face. Certainly, I am not one to traumatize a child, and unfortunately, I wasn’t there for his first sighting. Deda revealed it to him a few times before I captured this image, but when I opened it and showed it to him, not knowing that at the time, his response, in my arms, was a strong reach out and a passionate, “MMMmmmmmm!” What? Well, after that, he was hooked. It must have been the magic of Deda. He was excited about piggy and completely focused on piggy. And, I assume, emotionally affected by the experience. Yet, it is what we do. We eat animals.
He can climb on anything and everything. His focus is unwavering. He will accomplish the task or likely hurt himself trying. He loves sitting in the cushioned chairs. He is waiting for the guests!
And they arrive. Most do not arrive until 6-7, but the invitation offered 4pm as the start time for appetizers, drinks and watching the piggy. Who would come to do that? Vanja’s countrymen, of course. I thought others might, as well, and a few did, but not many. Ten years ago, it was blistering hot. This day, the weather was perfect.
Of course, there is a constant peek at the piggy between laughter and chatter.
Vanja’s 50th Birthday Party Pig Roast: The Appetizer Buffet
This year, I did accept the offer of my circle of gal friends to assist me with the dishes. I had just hosted Amy’s Baby Shower, and they knew I had house guests, so offered to bring an appetizer or a salad. What a group, eh? Lucky, lucky me. Honestly, they almost always offer, but I almost always say no as this is the kind of thing I really enjoy doing on my own. Or, maybe I should say, used to really enjoy. I still do, but need more time and do appreciate help now: not as fast as before, a little more achy, a lot more tired.
Knowing I was hosting this party shortly after Amy’s Baby Shower, I had some of the homemade cheese from that party for this one: The Pimento Cheese Spread, The Homemade Boursin, my famous Yogurt Cheese Balls, Gorgonzola Cheese Spread (1/3 Gorgonzola, 1/3 Cream Cheese), Avocado Chicken Spread, Homemade Ranch Dressing and some irresistible Apricot Stilton.
Ragan kindly made 3 dozen delicious deviled eggs. This is a Balkan thing, and a home food prairie staple. But, very retro, isn’t it? Yet, who doesn’t love them? And Dalene made the most delicious stuffed mushroom caps that I didn’t capture as they were inhaled. She came a little later, and then they were gone. Delicious!
Cevapi is a Bosnian homemade fresh little sausage type of specialty. Of course, every country from the former Yugoslavia makes it, but it is undeniably Bosnian. Traditionally served with 5 cevapi inside of a lepinja which is a very special type of bun. However, most countrymen love to just eat them “straight up”, as an appetizer, as we are, as well. You would not, however, find them at a Pig Roast anywhere in the former Yugolavia. The traditional Pig Roast consists of roast pig, bread and green onion or a salad. If its a celebratory Pig Roast, there would be so many other traditional foods, but still, no cevapi. However, that’s what I love about being Canadian. We had these handmade fresh by a local gal in town and they were a hit. We love them.
And the garden has certainly thrived this year, but my most luscious flower pots evaporated a day or two before the party. Just kaput.
Friends begin to arrive. Piggy is almost ready.
Vanja’s 50th Birthday Party Pig Roast: The Roast Pig Buffet
Forty-five pounds of pig for 40 guests took 3 hours and 15 minutes to roast. It is a little longer on a wood and charcoal fire.
On time, guests hungry, piggy is taken to the sanitized table in the garage for “carving”.
Every Balkan man from the countryside knows how to “carve” a whole roast pig. It is a traditional ritual that none of the other guests jumped up to join, but these fellows headed to the garage on pure instinct. Of course, the elder is honoured with the lead position and I think I will honor Zoran Bajic by bestowing him with the new title of Dr. Pig. I have seen him do this so many times. He is a Doctor of Chemical Engineering so I am sure he will feel equally honoured by this new title.
And Prince William? I wasn’t there, or would have captured the photo of him following the piggy all the way home to the garage table. He was vibrating with curiosity. “Up! Up! Hold! Hold!”
His first bite? “MMMMMmmmmmMMMMmmmm!” exuberant passionate primal lust for piggy flesh.
So it is. The birthday boy brought the first platter of succulent roast pig to the buffet table and we welcomed the guests to “dig in”.
Next to the roast pig, the most precious item on the table were the 80 homemade handmade Canadian prairie buns by my 86 year old mother who loves her son-in-law made that very morning. I said I was expecting 40 guests. She said, “I’ll make the buns today, then.” I was actually planning on buying them this year, and she knew that, and knows how we all love her buns. (She does have great buns!) Can you imagine being 86 and making 80 buns and then dressing like a fashion model and arriving at the party with not only the buns… ? She is my mother of all mother heroines.
Sir pita or cheese pie in English. This is a “to-die-for” Bosnian dish. There is a traditional Serbian kind, as well, called Gibanica homemade in a rectangle pan, but tastes basically the same. It is made all over Eastern Europe. Even in Hungary, and this is where we bought this one. From the Budapest Deli in Edmonton. We usually stock up when we go there, mainly on the burek, which is the meat pie version of this, but always get at least one cheese pie. Vanja is not a cheese pie fan. He is, after all, an uber carnivore. European Sweets also makes these and burek in house by hand, in the city, but they were closed for holidays. (You can go there for the best little lunch or breakfast of a slice of freshly made savory pie!) Most guests raved about this. I made three and there was 1/2 left.
Now for the salads. What a blessing my friends are. Kathy made a scrumptious Peach Panzanella. Marie brought enough Caesar for the entire neighbourhood. Shelley’s Tabouli was Lauren’s personal favourite and always a refreshing favourite of mine. Luch brought a flavourful crunchy and very tasty tossed salad.
Kathy’s Peach Panzanella.
Janet made, at my request, the crowd pleasing summer gathering favourite: Seven Layer Salad. Not a lick left.
I could not resist making one salad. So easy, so delicious, and keeps several days: Cherry tomatoes, cocktail Bocconcini and basil with a white balsamic and garlic vinaigrette. Really scrumptious. Dressing recipe here, but without the mayo.
A truckload of oven roasted potatoes. Vanja and Lauren’s favourite. There was a truckload of these left, surprisingly. I think the cheese pie and mom’s buns won the carb choices for most.
Drum roll, please! Pig Roast splendor directly off the spit! PIGGY! Roast pig! The crowning glory. I cannot eat meat, but cannot resist a nibble of roast pig. It is so succulent and undeniably delicious. I prefer it hot where the fat is in liquid (almost) form. Vanja prefers it cold. There was not much left over. A good 3 or 4 meals for Vanja and a bag to send home with Lauren. That is about it. Into the freezer it went…. much later….
Time for seconds! Vanja hadn’t even had his first, yet!
“Piggy! Piggy!” Little guy could not get enough. Oh, he got enough to eat, but could not get enough time with piggy.
He made a special bond with our good friend Rick and unknown to me at the time, was over to him countless times, “Up, Up! Piggy! Piggy!” and Rick would take him around the side of the house, through the front, into the garage and hold him over the piggy to have another look. “Piggy! Piggy!” Then, a taste, or not, and back they would go to the party. For a little bit before William was over to Rick again.
Prince William wondering independently (his favourite party activity) with one of his Great Grandma Helen’s homemade buns. He calls her “Gamma” and all older ladies with grey hair are grandmas… When he sees her, he says, “Penny? Penny?” as he loves her little white Maltese.
He is sticking close to the pig roaster, still mezmerized by it all. “Bite?” Always happy to share his food. Gramsy is so in love.
By the wee hours of the early next morning, most of the Pig Roast buffet was eaten. Most. Of course, there was still plenty of food left to put away. Why, or why did I not think about it when my guests left? I almost always do. The early leavers got doggy bags, or were offered take home. But the late leavers? Well, we just laughed them out the door, down the street, to their cars, and home.
The naughty crowd in the corner!
Vanja’s 50th Birthday Party Pig Roast: The Dessert Buffet
Somehow, I lost my head and went nuts making desserts. My friends will laugh at this. It is a usual occurence. The empty bowl at the left is for the fresh fruit salad which is ready in the container behind the bowl.
The birthday tradition in Vanja’s home growing up was Pava’s Bombe Torte. I surprised him with a giant one on his 40th, above, and made the recipe for Pava’s regular sized version this year, below.
Much smaller, and for some reason, the chocolate filling was very dense. Delicious, but dense, decadent, and rich.
The Raspberry Hazelnut Dacquoise was the pièce de résistance at the table, in my opionion. I used the most precious roasted hazelnuts I brought back from Turin, Italy. my home grown raspberries, and oh, had such a time making the meringue. I had two of these made. Half of one was eaten. I discovered they freeze very well. Not well enough to serve to company, but most definitely well enough for a Sunday dinner with family. I may never get to posting this recipe. Making it was that painful. I definitely need lessons from someone on nut-based meringues. Reading, research and videos did not help though I finally succeeded, not sure I could do it again. So happy I did though. The perserverence, passion and love that went into this cake was unforgettable. I made it 16 years ago for a dinner Cathy and I collaborated with for friends. Never forgotten it. Spectacular.
I served this Kahlua Triffle at our wedding, but never since. It was a huge hit for a few years prior. Laden with Kahlua. I made a large one for the teens and young adults that didn’t end up coming, but it froze well and was enjoyed by all. You will see one of mom’s famous Angel Food Cakes in the background. Always special. Always a hit. Cannot ever celebrate a birthday without one.
I had just made a Strawberry Chocolate Pavlova from the Company’s Coming cookbook as a special request for Kathy’s birthday, and mom had extra meringues left over, so I made another knowing the gals would go nuts, and they did!
My sister, bless her soul, was famous for her Skor Bar Pavolva. It was Vanja’s favourite and Drew and Rick’s favourite… both dear friends of hers, so I had to make it. I make it often, actually.
Helen not only brought 80 buns, but two angel food cakes, made the meringues for the pavlovas, and the chocolate cake, above. It is a family favourite I have never had anywhere but our house. Absolutely the best chocolate cake in the world. I dream of it some days. I do have the recipe, here, but need to get a video of her making the icing. It is that tricky. But, oh, so very worth it.
Vanja’s 50th Birthday Party Pig Roast: Party On!
Gramsy can now relax. All food served. Guest hopefully fat and happy. Time to visit! Party on!
Above, Lauren’s pal, Amy, and my gal pals visit with Prince William.
And baby Heidi Marie out for an evening with her mom and Grandma Marie loving her up!
The fire was lit and the circle made.
This is usually the best part of the party for me…. relaxing, laughing… making memories.
Toes toasted as glasses raised into the night.
…with the crazy crowd from the corner. Thank goodness they are Vanja’s age and can handle staying up past midnight!
Oh, what fun it was, it really really was. Thank you all, dear friends. Much love.
And the next day?
William woke up early in the morning. Not so early, but early. Arms stretched out to Gramsy (letting momma sleep in), “Piggy! Piggy!” Seriously. The first words out of his mouth. And just now, here in September for 10 more days, as soon as he was in the backyard, now 18 months old, he headed for the sidewalk and almost started running, “Piggy! Piggy”… so, holding his innocent and so trusting little hand, I took him there. To the garage. Where piggy once laid. Well, her head, in the end, anyway. And said, “Piggy all gone!” The disappointment was palpable. But, he got it. He stood in the open space. “Piggy…. piggy… ” voice trailing. Then looked up at me, spying a ball in the corner, and ran to it: “Ball! Ball!” and off we went on another adventure.
And Vanja? His nimble, spry and oh, so young 50 year old body sprang from the bed the following morning to clean up the mess. Yup. Just like 10 years ago. His party. His mess. Haha! Not so. But a family who plays together, works together, and that is just what we did.
I now have wireless freedom via Vasa Blå Headphones from Sweden!
Sudio Sweden asked me to test their wireless earphones. I accepted as I am getting the new iPhone 7s tomorrow in GOLD! I got white Vasa Blå Headphones, but there are 4 colours – and actually, many other choices re: quality. I have the iPhone 5 yet, and didn’t feel the need to upgrade to the 6, but my eyes are dim, I cannot see, and have not brought my specs with me… so the iPhone 7s will be a God send – and these headphones? The perfect accessory!
15% discount to my readers!
The company is offering an exclusive 15% off discount, using code canadianfoodie15 to my readers for the inconvenience of me interrupting your reading pleasure with this self-absorbed advertisement. But, I love them!
Buy here. This is a traceable link, so if you use this link, the company knows that you at least snooped at the headphones or were referred to them by me, and I am going to be curious (I cannot fib) about how many of you do look into these headphones. I just felt the timing was right with the iPhone 7 just hitting the market and no earphone jack in them… of course, I am an iEverything Geek, but every now and then, indulge in another compatible brand. Let me know what you think, should you do the same.
Why the Vasa Blå Headphones from Sweden?
I have wanted wireless headphones for a long time, and haven’t purchased any as most were outrageously expensive, protrude too much from the ear (Madonna, I am not!), or are just uncomfortable. These are perfect for me when I cook. Love music and music with work seems to make time fly, and with cooking simply enhances the artistic experience. Also….
- Studio quality sound
- Elegant design and comfortable fit
- reasonable price with excellent service (tax free, postage, shipping all taken care of)
- Exclusive leather carrying case
- Long battery life (up to 8 hours)
- Compatible with all bluetooth devices (so I can also use them in my car)
- Built-in microphone (perfect for the car and hands free cooking and talking)
Vanja’s 40th Birthday Party Pig Roast: Ten Years Ago!
Still sharing a beer with the pig and cherishing the experience early on a blistery July 22, 2006.
Still crazy after all these years.
Mom at 76 looks as good now as she did then.
Dad at 76 looking older for his years, but thriving. His little Penny puppy always by his side.
The early crowd was a lot of fun! It was too hot to be serious.
And a moment of reflection. Ten years later were were 5 loved ones shy. My dad. Vanja’s mom. My sister. Amina, above with the orange shoes, and Borisa. All so dear and loved without a thought that they would not be with us 10 years later. Yet, they are not. Remembered, however, and cherished.
Two divas in the sun.
The young adults I made the Kahlua Triffle for are above, 10 years ago. Both Brenna and Josh have pleaded with Vanja for the past several years to have another Pig Roast. It never crossed our mind that an 18 year old and 20 year old may have something else to do on a Saturday night. Haha! Seriously, they were working… and so missed. Vanja would have loved another water fight. His child within is as creative and hilarious as ever!
Parents, above, part of the naughty corner at the 50th. First to arrive at the 40th. Last to arrive at the 50th… and last to leave, too – so no complaints. How blessed we are to have friends for so many years.
You were not seeing things. This was Josh and Brenna’s first pig roast and they thought “Piggy” needed a little nasal piercing. Nothing is sacred.
Above, Rick and Drew, also at the 50th. Dear friends of my sister, and ourselves. Rick was William’s favourite guest at Vanja’s 50th!
The yard is so different 10 years later. The deck has been replaced. The fountain is now a fire pit. There is a completely different pergola and the foliage is resplendent in comparison.
Dad loved his Vanja. He hated the heat. He detested pig, but came early, ate pig and stayed long. That’s my dad. Teased Vanja the entire time.
Oh, the ritual begins.
Dr. Pig laughs as Vanja pretends to start carving.
Piggy is in the garage getting ready for the feast while guests nibble on the appetizers and await with great anticipation. This crowd is primarily a crowd of Vanja’s fellow countrymen. We invited a few others, but not too many. Interesting to note that 10 years later, the tables were dramatically turned. That is how life goes. People ebb in and out of one’s life. Loved always, but not always “there”.
Vanja’s 40th Birthday Party Pig Roast: The Pig Roast Buffet!
Ah, my favourite dish. I recall the day it broke. I covet massive oversized serving items for these kinds of events. Oh – the pig is ready!
The meal is served and I laughed when I saw how much was similar to the meal 10 years later. I did buy the buns. (Did not yet own a Thermomix and it was definitely too hot for mom to bake any.) Served a Tomato Basil Bocconcini Salad (different, yet so similar). Served the traditional Russian Salad which I didn’t for the 50th as I had just made it for Aaron and his mom when they came with Lauren and William. I did make a massive platter of sarma that was eaten much earlier with the appetizers.
Served oven roasted potato wedges! Again, so similar! Sweet potatoes and russets, the seven layer salad that Janet so kindly made for us this year, and my famous Roasted Red Pepper Salad. Didn’t have any peppers in the freezer this year. I have roasted and frozen two cases since, so am again well stocked!
A much simpler main buffet, but a much more complicated appetizer buffet, which I didn’t photograph. You likely saw bits of it here and there in the group shots earlier.
Vanja’s 40th Birthday Party Pig Roast: The Dessert Buffet!
Again, mom’s famous angel food cake, Pavlova (not Judy’s this time, she wasn’t able to attend), my usual summer dessert ice bowl filled with balls of homemade ice cream which I purposely did not do for Vanja’s 50th (it is my favourite, not his) and his other favourite: Tiramisu. The Raspberry Hazelnut Dacquoise replaced that this year. There is also a Fresh Fruit Salad, a Vanja favourite and repeated this year, in the back.
Everyone was younger. Stayed later. Partied harder. Maybe even had more fun. Who knows. It was a great party… but the one this year was somehow more endearing to me. Ten years later. The dearest and older friends. Support. The family and a new little fella in the family. So wonderful to have you grow along with me, my dear sweet Vanja.
Also wonderful to see you so bright eyed after a night of hearty partying cleaning up after your own party. You are truly my hero and I was no dummy marrying such a young fellow.
But, you are an old soul. I am also young at heart, aren’t I? Aren’t I? How did we ever find one another in this muddly mixed up world we live in? How did that every happen? Oh, yes. I do believe in miracles. And now that you are 50, how about no more old age focused jokes, OK? OXOXOX (wink wink)
Wearing my wireless Vasa Blå Headphones listening to tunes as I write this post. Loving them. Have you ever listed to this song by The Smiths?
Bet you know why it’s a favourite of mine.