Balkan cheese pie from Mother's Day dinner.

Do You Know That Is a Serbian “Б”?

From the outside, my family seems perfectly normal, but I know the truth. Like most people, as a kid I didn’t notice a lot of my family quirks, but as I’ve grown up, my eyes have been opened: We are all really strange.

Probably everyone feels this way about their family at some point in time, but I was reminded of this at our Mother’s Day dinner over the weekend. Before I get into the story, here’s a quick snapshot of my parents:

My mom is obsessed with eating healthy and fitness and my sister and I inherited her affinity for sunscreen. She loves CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, sprinkling flax seed over her food and extolling the benefits of ginseng and fresh ginger. She often says, “It’s healthy so it tastes good” and considers fresh fruit to be dessert.

My dad is the perpetual scholar. He knows many languages and is always eager to speak with others – even if they don’t understand what he is saying. A friend from college who had only taken one semester of Russian once made the mistake of mentioning she was learning the language to my dad and of course he launched into a full conversation and now only talks to her in Russian.

In high school he would often answer questions my sister and I had in languages we understood like Spanish and French and also languages we didn’t speak like, German or Russian just for the fun of it. He stopped doing this when I learned Mandarin in college and started chatting with my mom in front of him so he could know what it feels like. Dad does not speak Chinese.

With this background in mind…I bring you an episode of our adventures on Mother’s Day this past weekend.

We are driving to a new Balkan restaurant and Dad is using his Garmin GPS to navigate, but completely ignoring its instructions preferring to go his own way through the back roads, one of his favorite pass times. For some reason Dad feels the need to drive at breakneck speeds in a minivan so that we can arrive at the restaurant 20 minutes prior to our reservation.

We get turned around a few times, but eventually head in the right direction and arrive at the restaurant where there’s lots of paid street parking. But of course paying to park is ridiculous and it’s a nice day so we drive three blocks into a neighborhood to parallel park.

My sister's response when I texted her about avoiding paid parking.

My sister’s response when I texted her about avoiding paid parking. I agree – Why pay to park!?

We arrive at the restaurant 15 minutes early (because we walked from the car) and fortunately they are able to seat us quickly.

While browsing the menu, Mom tells me all how fattening Balkan food is and which cuisines from around the world are the most (Japanese) and least (American and Indian) healthy according to her expertise and my doctor aunt who told her about a patient she once had. We still decide order the unlimited small plates option for the table.

Dad then points out that the “B” in the restaurant’s name is actually a “Б”, a Cyrillic letter. The restaurant manager sees Dad gesturing at the logo and comes over to our table: “Do you know that is a Serbian ‘Б’?”

Dad immediately lights up and begins talking to him in Serbian. Fortunately the manager is from Serbia…so he understands and they chat. Dad has talked to wait staff, friends, family members anyone in random languages only to find out that no, they do not speak [insert language here.] Dad does try to talk to the manager in Russian, but he switches back to English.

The rest of the meal is uneventful and my parents want to go back when my sister and her husband visit. Mom wants to try more small plates and Dad probably wants to speak in Serbian again.

This story may only be funny to me and to my sister since we were raised by our parents, but I had to share it anyway. Sometimes I think my parents are absolutely nuts and then other times I realize I am just like so I must be equally crazy.

Photos taken by A Lively Fancy, Feature Image – Balkan Cheese Pie

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