CULTURE QUARTET COMPETITION
LEAGUE OF WRITERS
THE HUB OF MEDITERRANEAN TASTE.
MADE IN ALBANIA
ALN | ARCHITEKTURBÜRO LEINHÄUPL + NEUBER
PROF. PETER T. LANG
The idea of the project is to use the League of writers as a center for the promotion of the Albanian and Mediterranean wine&food culture inside the city of Tirana. The aim is to realize a structure capable to be an international point of reference about feeding culture, agriculture and sustainable development.
The cultural quartet:
Made in Albania.
For the general strategy of the “Cultural quartet”, our hypothesis is to work on the theme of “Made in Albania”, exploiting the four buildings in an original way to promote the excellence and tradition of the Albanian culture. The idea is also to promote a network of exchanges with other countries bordering the Mediterranean. In this sense, the attempt is to try to understand what are the qualities that can be shared to build a network of exchange. Somehow the four buildings are to become Hubs, places for cultural exchange to trigger a broad network of relationships and dynamics.
So the Museum will tell the history and artistic culture, the “League of Writers” will promote food and wine culture, “Villa 31” will present the memory of political history, and “Palace of Brigades” will promote the artisan culture. In these sense the four buildings are not just important in the city but they can become benchmarks to exchange different culture, with the richness of several traditions, with an international context.
What happens inside the League?
The building will host different functions inside, some of these will be temporary, others permanent:
– A bookshop on wine and food culture, both Albanese and Mediterranean, selling of professional and traditional tools for cooking, selling of biological and local products;
– A multifunctional hall capable to host meetings and debates about food and wine culture, about food production and sustainable agriculture;
– A school oriented on traditional food and cooking, with classrooms equipped to host courses and workshops;
– A cafè, which can work as a meeting space independent from the opening hours of the other activities;
– An administrative area to manage and organize all the different activities.
How it relates to the city of Tirana?
The new “Hub” is a public building that will offer services to the city. It will be accessible and open for daily activities, weekly meetings, or monthly events. Thanks to the presence of the courtyard, cafe on the ground floor, in the space of the portico, will also be a place of exchange and a daily meeting point. The new “Hub” will be for the city of Tirana a benchmark for the gastronomic culture, to promote it and for its spread.
Who use this building?
This space is open to all the citizens of Tirana interested to learn and develop a culture related to the world of taste and flavor. The Hub is open to professionals in this field who wants to participate to an extended net related to the excellence of food tradition in Albania and in the Mediterranean countries; to tourists who are curious to know and taste the local food culture and its specialties; to producers who want to spread their products and show their specific qualities; to people who want to learn cooking following local traditions or experimenting other kind of cuisine; to chefs who want to share their experiences and knowledge.
What is its economic sustainability?
The economic balance works on the possibility of a synergy between funding and revenue from activities. Everything must necessarily start from public funding. This initial expense is necessary for the re-functioning and the retrofitting of the structure. Once the structure is activated a series of collaborations with private and entrepreneurial can be triggered. This will be necessary for the management and supply of services, such as coffee, shop, school with several courses and the management of multifunctional space. These activities can become the economic engine around which the whole system of events and cultural offerings can work. So the “Hub” will gain from the activities of services and sale and will invest in the promotion and protection of local food culture. The idea is to reach an ideal level of self-management, where the income produced by the services can ensure a program of cultural activities for the city.
Who are the players involved?
The actors involved in the building are related to the activities inside:
– The space of the cafe on the ground floor in the glazed porch, will be an open and accessible space that can take advantage of the outdoor space.
– The shop, also in the groundfloor and directly accessible from the outside, will be a sales and distribution activity, which will focus: on journalism with the sale of books and magazines specializing in the world of gastronomy; on the sale of professional equipment linked to the world of cooking; on the sale of traditional instruments and handicrafts which are linked to tourism; on the sale of specific products of local food production.
– The multi-function room is definitely the most important and public space inside the building. This is the heart of the general “Hub” and is its cultural engine. Within this space it is possible to organize events, presentations, debates, conferences, parties, gala dinners, wine tasting, presentation of local products, in general, all activities related to the promotion and popularization of wine and gastronomic Albanian culture and the relations with its territory.
– The cooking school is another crucial activity for the dissemination and protection of culture and local culinary traditions. This will then turn to an audience as large as possible; from professional chefs willing to learn some traditional techniques; to amateurs who want to grapple with the world of the kitchen; children as a way to approach the world of tradition and to proper nutrition; to old ladies who want to rediscover their family traditions. The role of the cooking school is the dissemination and awareness of the local gastronomic culture.
An organic future?
Albania is an excellent source of organic products, as it is a country blessed with fertile agricultural land, warm weather and mild climate. Yet again this sector remains in the incubator stage. Albania has about 100 production and 0.01% of all arable land is used for organic farming. At the regional level, Albania is probably the country with the smallest surface in terms of organic agriculture. According to Albinspekt currently has only 38 certified organic farms.
While the market for organic products is still very small, seasonal, fragmented and highly personalized. What restricts the merchants and sellers logic whose business is based in large volumes and permanent supply all year and not only in the season. For example in the area of Durres an organic vegetable farmer does the role of collector, the merchant and retailer having a stall where he sells his products on the market. While in other areas, for example as in Vlora, Shkodra or Tirana organic products producers cooperate closely with retail stores or restaurants to provide more frequent deliveries.
Despite all obstacles the organic sector in Albania has a dynamic development. “Organic agriculture is now a reality with positive impact for producers, consumers and the environment, and not only for the present generation but also for future generations,” said Prof Enver Isufi, Institute of Organic Agriculture. Even in the legal way for organic farming it is open, because since 2004 Albania has legislation for Organic Agriculture (2004), although it took several years that it be implemented.
In 2007, the government of the day recognized the great potential of organic agriculture as an important part of the development of the agricultural sector in the country, making it part of a national strategy. According to the current Minister of Agriculture, Panariti, Albania has an excellent perspective for growth of organic products, as the country has the potential to have 200 organic farms.
Being a small country with mountainous and with a wide range of agro-ecological zones, rural areas have an obvious advantage for the development of agriculture, which is also very friendly to the environment. In these areas agriculture depends heavily on manual labor of farmers because it is untouched by modernization and chemical inputs. This makes organic products in these areas have a very high quality.
For this reason, the market for exports of organic products, is linked to and rely primarily on natural resources that grow in rural areas of the country.
More important are the medicinal and aromatic plants, mushrooms, chestnuts and wild fruits. These cultures dealing with 250,000 hectares of certified organic to collect wild products, including thousands of different collectors in rural areas. Through intermediaries, these farmers then come in contact with companies from different countries of the European Union, after which Albanian organic products marketed at a price several times higher. This result and the lack of conservation, refrigerating or processing, such as the essential oils from medicinal plants.
But excellent opportunity of exports have the olives in Tirana, Berat and South, chestnuts Tropoje, organic strawberries, apples Korce and Debar or grapes organic, figs, pomegranates, excellent Shkodra, products which hatch window of opportunity for organic agricultural development.
Albanian Cuisine is national cuisine of the Albanian people…
Its Mediterranean and Albanian cuisine is influenced a lot from western culture, east culture, from oriental / during Ottoman empire (1400 -1912) and north from Slavic culture. Because of no industrial system, Albanian Food there has no division between bio and industrial. The cuisine of Albania is divided in regions, because of really strong divisions in geography of Albania: sea site use a lot of sea food, this cuisine is really influenced by western, Italian cuisine. This cuisine is really reach and healthy because there is nothing industrial harmful and pollution in seaside, we have to mention also that Albanians has not such a big marine and ships to have a sea pollution so the flora and fauna of the sea is really strong saved and reach. Since geographically Albania has two type of climates the meditation and continental, the food in other site of the state is really different depending on region and the side of Albania. We have to mention that mainly after five-hundred year of occupation, traditional food of Albania has a lot of influence of Oriental in our dish. Albanian cuisine offers a truly unique blend of Mediterranean flavors. Representing a rich historical past, the food of modern Albania has been developed over millennia reflecting a variety of influences. East meets west in many discernable ways throughout Albanian culture, but nowhere is it more evident than in the cuisine. The mild climate is favorable for many agricultural pursuits. Among Albania’s most popular are: peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, and an assortment of legumes. The wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown here serves to further enhance this varied fare.
These vegetables are combined with meats in a number of delectable ways to form the basis for many Albanian delights. Most often, these creations are baked in earthenware or sautéed, and take one of the following forms: stew, casserole, stuffed vegetables, or meatballs. Other types of dishes blend many vegetables (with or without meat), and can be traced to Asian origins. As in many other Mediterranean countries, olives are a staple in Albania. Although they are most frequently enjoyed on their own, olives combine with many foods and are an essential ingredient in many signature dishes. Types vary by region. Olives from the Berat region are prized for their unique flavor and low fat content. Olives from Vlora, Borsh, Himara, and Tirana are higher in fat content and are more often used for olive oil production.
Albanian cuisine also uses a variety of spices to enhance food flavors. Garlic and hot peppers are popular options for flavoring. Often subtle, the flavors sometimes arise from non-spice ingredients such as lemon, vinegar, and/or yogurt. Albanian chefs rarely mix spices, instead choosing one that harmonizes most closely with the dish’s natural aroma. Recipes rarely specify quantities of spices to be used, recognizing that this is a matter to be adjusted based on the other ingredients in the dish.
Milk and dairy products play a large role in Albanian cuisine, as well. Yogurt is consumed daily by many Albanians and forms the basis for many sauces and other dishes. Buttermilk is also very popular; both as an ingredient or alone, as a drink. Albanian cheeses are unique and also vary by region. The most popular is a white cheese made from sheep’s milk and originating from the south. Similar to feta, it is found in many dishes. Desserts often accompany Albanian dishes, thus completing the meal. Often they are made from a variety of creams and fruit juices, and sometimes use local honey as a sweetener. Baklava, cookies, and puddings are all dessert staples. Another popular option is some variation of sweet or savory dough balls. Boza is a common drink served as part of dessert. It is produced from maize and originates in the north. Particularly refreshing in the summer, it offers a pleasant, non-alcoholic option. Often the most delicious desert, however, is the most simple: a variety of seasonal fruits, served plain, can be the perfect ending to a scrumptious meal.
Culinary characteristics of Albania’s regions
Corn is widely produced here and serves as the staple for many varieties of culinary delights. Due to the characteristic cold winters, meat is often dried from preservation. Vegetables are chosen for their heartiness, as well, with potatoes, onions, garlic, and cabbage being among the most popular.
Traditional dishes include baked rice, risottos, fritters, casseroles, pies, and mashes. Fish, of both sea and fresh waters, are plentiful here, and also are an ingredient in many dishes. Some cities boast unique dishes and have woven them into local culture. Shkodra, in particular, has several signature dishes, which are described here:
1.Jahni Meat: beef or lamb is sautéed with onions, garlic, sauce and spices. Traditionally cooked over fire, the sauce is reduced, gradually tenderizing the meat.
2.Baked Stuffed Eggplant: prepare several medium eggplants by removing stems, halving lengthwise, and briefly sautéing. In another pan, prepare the stuffing by combining crumbled cheese, parsley, flour, and egg. Bake the stuffed eggplants and serve with parsley and tomato.
In the Lezhë region there are many lagoons which provide a habitat for a variety of game species. Many restaurants and homes incorporate the ducks, geese, pheasants and hares found here into delicious dishes. These game meats are highly prized for their flavor and versatility.
In the Dibra region, many fruits and nuts are cultivated and incorporated into the local cuisine. Most notable is the plum, which has been used in raki production for centuries. Also popular are cherries, walnuts, apples, and pomegranates.
A variety of wild animal species flourish here. From waterfowl and poultry species to mammals such as wild boar, this rich diversity augments local cuisine. Particularly in the Divjaka Forest, on the Adriatic coast, many game species are hunted and incorporated into popular dishes. Fishing, too, represents an important economic activity and enhances cuisine through the use of these “fruits of the sea.” Sole, bass, eel, and mullet are all popular.
The land and climate here support a wide variety of agricultural products, as well. Berries and fruits, in particular, are delicious. Grapes, as previously mentioned, serve as the basis for raki production. Popular dishes of this region include plum casserole, Elbasani yogurt, Tirana stew, baked pie, and baked rice.
Ballokume is a special crumpet-like dessert, and is characteristic of Elbasan. It is masterfully prepared by local homemakers-primarily for the celebration of Summer Day on March 14th. The pastry traditionally combines flour, butter, egg, and sugar to create this scrumptious dessert.
The Berat region is home to some of the largest fig plantations in the Balkans. Often, the figs are prepared as preserves or jam. The figs are renowned for their exceptional quality and are sometimes strung together or ground, formed into shapes, and dried.
The area of Myzeqe is noted for turkey production and a particular dish called turkey with mash. This dish is available throughout the country, but locals say it is most delicious in this area. What follows is a description of this local delicacy:
Clean the turkey. Rub the outside with salt and butter. Bake in a small amount of water and reserve some of this to use in the mash. Crumble the dough (prepared beforehand using maize flour, water, salt and some oil) or the maize bread, and leave it in a pot. Lightly fry a leek or onion, pour the turkey juice and some water and let it come to a boil. Add the crumbled bread and stir until it thickens. Serve the turkey with the mash.
Albania has a large livestock and animal husbandry industry. The southern parts of the country are particularly conducive to raising animals as pastures and feed resources are abundant. Some Albanian producers have started small scale production of organic meats here, and they are gaining popularity. Dairy farms are plentiful here, as well. Gjirokastra, in particular, is home to several large dairies. Large scale milk production (from cows and sheep) results in a variety of delicious yogurts, cheeses, and other milk products. The region makes the famed sheep yogurt—so thick it must be cut with a knife.
Some typical entrees served in the regions around Gjirokastra and Saranda are meat and cheese pies, and rich soups featuring lemon and rice, among other things. Desserts include baklava and many other regional specialties.
Olive and citrus trees thrive in the mild climate here. Olives are served as appetizers and are often incorporated into salads and other vegetarian and meat dishes.
Raki made from grapes is a part of most meals here, and serves to enhance the local flavors.
Raki and wine-making basins unearthed in the Gjirokastra region date to antiquity and verify that the making of raki in this region is a millennia-old practice.
In the Pogradec region, the making of wine or raki usually occurs on a small-scale basis in individual households. Often, the recipes used are traditions themselves, and have been handed down through generations. Production takes place in the coolest nooks of the house and enhances the mild flavor of the wine.
Fish dishes are renown in the Pogradec region, as well. The Koran fish is sautéed and combined with sauces and spices. Several fresh water species, the sardele and cironkat are fried and enjoyed in great quantities. Also common are nut “gliko” dishes.
All along the western part of this region is the Albanian Riviera, where delicious cuisine from the sea can be enjoyed in a truly picturesque and beautiful area. One of the most attractive destinations in the entire country, this area has much to offer and will delight travelers with countless attractions.
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