We arrived at our guide’s home and were heartily welcomed as her neighbors were leaving with fresh berries they had just picked. We saw the small, probably Soviet-built house, neat garden, lawn, and TV dish. We entered the back door amid the roaming chickens who called her back yard their home. We were ushered into her large dining room with a long table that could seat at least 12. The table was set for 4 at one end and a cold spread of food was on already on the finely-set table: cold meat, cucumbers, tomatoes, and of course, brown bread. Naturally, we had to sample. Soon Our hostess brought out the kugelis, actually two kinds—one with potatoes and the other with potatoes and chicken! Knowing that all was carefully home grown and prepared fresh, I thought of the hens that called her back yard their home, now minus one.
She heaped our plates full, and I had the kugelis with the chicken. I had no idea that kugelis could be served with chicken, and I soon learned that this was reserved for the most special occasions of which this was certainly one. We were offered coffee or tea, and this time, Jake and I both chose tea, knowing that we did not want to disturb the coffee grounds in the bottom of the cup! Not knowing any better, we chose the familiar Lipton over the Shere tea. Who could deny that the world is not a global market when the hostess in a small Lithuanian village offers Italian LavAzza coffee and Ceylon-grown Shere tea to two provincial Americans who knew neither.
Our hostess also had a small special bottle of liquor that she also saved for a special occasion. I sipped each glass carefully as the warmth of the alcohol seeped through my veins. I had Vilius tell her that our visit to her home was an absolute highlight of our visit to Lithuania and that there was no way anyone could honor me more than she had by inviting us for kugelis. She beamed with pleasure. By the end of the meal, our hostess knew one English word very well, “CYN, thee, a,“ and we raised our glasses and clinked them together. I said her name with gusto, and three small glasses later we were friends!
We could not linger, and so had to depart with handshakes, hugs, and payment for all her preparation for our visit, her guided tour on Friday, and her book on Sudava.
We were on our way Gize/Gizai, home of my Grandma Spurgat.