Dec 022011

After almost four months in Serbia, coming home to the U.S. was not an easy feat. My roots took hold and in a way it felt as if I never left, even though I have been a guest in my native country for more than twenty years. I breathed in the crisp, evening air of my town and all the Septembers and Octobers of my childhood and youth rushed to hold me, offering the comfort of the past. With every day I spent there, I felt more and more like I never left, falling comfortably in sync with with the old paths my feet established a long time ago.

When I finally plopped down on the seat in the bus to Belgrade, it felt as if someone had plucked me out of the dirt and left my wounded roots to crumble and dry. I was like a child taken away from the warmth of her mother’s lap and the security of her father’s embrace. I was returning to my own family that I missed horribly, but I was coming apart inside, clutching at all the familiar sights, sounds, and smells, unable to leave them.

I suffered for a week the merciless consequences of jet lag, waking before dawn and getting drowsy just when the kids were finishing their homework. I felt as if I were sleepwalking through my daily routine, while I established the patterns anew and grabbed the reigns of my girls’ daily lives. It made me happy when I made the first school day breakfast and saw the excited grins on their faces, while Husband gave me the most endearing smile full of gratitude and relief. I welcomed the routine and the schedule that took my mind off Serbia for a few hours.

During the day, when the girls were in school and Husband at work, I took to cleaning with passion, finding therapy in menial labor. I cooked Chinese, Indian, and Thai dishes that I missed while in Europe, filling the apartment with exotic smells that transported me to lands far away from both California and Serbia. I kept all the windows and doors open to take advantage of the wonderful spurt of hot weather unusual even for our latitude, hoping to shake off the remnants of chilly continental nights in Mother’s room.

But I would go back again and again, spurred by a Skype talk with my sister who took over when I left, a sip of strong Turkish coffee,  the touch of the scarf I bought for peanuts in one of the myriad boutiques in my town. I bruised myself daily bumping from counter to counter to the fridge in the pinball machine that we call our tiny kitchen, and cursed silently when I had to play Tetris to extract a pan from deep and dark cupboards. I missed the freedom of movement I had in Mother’s kitchen and the ease of locating anything I needed in her immaculately organized huge pantry.

Over the years, she has accumulated a nice collection of enameled cooking pots, and while as a child I failed to grasp their appeal, I stood mesmerized this summer looking at each metal dish, banged, yellowed, and scratched from use. I wanted them all, knowing that I coveted the impossible. I guess that one day we can reserve a big container on one of the Trans-Atlantic ships and appropriate the whole lot, providing that my sister gives me her blessing.

And like a magpie that absconds with various sparkling objects, I semi-furtively packed in my suitcase a dozen items that reminded me of growing up in that house and Mother at Her strongest and healthiest. It did not surprise anyone that most of the things I smuggled out were connected with cooking. I counted on my luck when I was approaching customs, assured that my treasure would be viewed as odd at least, which would make me very suspicious.

my loot

These four old enameled dishes live a luxurious life in my little kitchen, adored daily and used as frequently as I can justify. Their handles get hot and they don’t hold a lot, but looking at them makes me bridge the expanse of the ocean and bring Mother and my beloved house closer to California.

While I was gone, Husband went to HomeGoods and found beautiful mini cocottes for me. Moved by his thoughtfulness and inspired by their cute design, I grabbed them from their shelf and put them to work, leaving my Serbian beauties to watch from the bleachers.


This dish is very easy to put together, but cooking grits demands some time. I grew up on cornmeal and husband on grits – it’s no wonder that our girls love maize in any form, and we always have a bag or two in the pantry. If I had not brought the pots, I would have had room in my suitcases for a kilo or two of Serbian, mill-ground corn meal. But, there is always the next time.


  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 1 cup of stone-ground grits or polenta
  • 4 cups of water (for creamier grits, use 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk)
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper (if black specks bother your sense of esthetics, you can use white pepper
  • 1 bunch of scallions, green parts only, diced
  • 4 oz shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 4 eggs


Place the bacon in a skillet and heat on medium temperature until crispy. Flip and fry the other side. Let it rest on a plate covered with a paper towel and when cooled, crumble into pieces.

Heat the water (and milk, if used) on high heat until it boils, turn the burner to low, and gradually add grits, salt, and pepper, constantly whisking for a few minutes. Let it cook for 20-30 minutes (polenta cooks faster than stone-ground grits) until creamy and thickened. Mix in the scallions.

Heat the oven to 400F.

Divide the grits between four ceramic ramekins. Sprinkle with grated cheese and crumbled bacon. Carefully break an egg into each ramekin on top of the bacon and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending if you like your eggs more runny or less.


 Last year: Baby Bird Buzzes the Nest (and a recipe for Leftover Turkey Soup).

12 Responses to “Smuggling Pot(s)”

  1. Oh my pots! That definitely is a huge and lovely collection, but even better is that recipe, looks so comforting and perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

  2. Uzivala sam i zaista se dobrim delom i sama setila starog posudja koje ipak ima posebnu i vecnu draz za razliku od ovih danasnjih…mada, mozda je to sve stvar osecaja, mirisa, dozivljaja, proslosti, uspomena a ne toliko posuda… ipak, ove danas jos uvek nemaju dovoljno “staza”, jos su mlade:)
    Nisam uvek raspolozena za komentare ali kod tebe skoro uvek nesto zasija i ja moram reci nesto “malo”…listam tvoje strane i nedavno sam se pitala jesi li se vratila iz Ca (Ča) i kako je sve prošlo…pa, procitam prosli post… a, sada vec idemo redom…
    Predivno barataš s’ recima. Izvini. Ti ih komponujes. Uzivam i zamisljam samo kako bi sve to tek pisala na srpskom, kada ovako dobro prenosis na ingliš:)
    Veliki pozdrav i loncici su preslatki…

  3. Oh I love all the old pots – glad you were able to smuggle the pot(s) in :-) hope you are adjusting to the states again. I’m sure hubby and girls r thrilled to have you back though I’m sure you are feeling a tug from the east.

    I will have to try this egg dish – think my family will love it!

  4. Predivno, predivno, upravo se tako i ja osjecam kada se vracam ‘odozdo’:(

    Serpe su genijalne, mu nemamo niti jednu jer je svo pokucstvo stradalo u ratu, na zalost nema vise za kupiti takvih serpi i zdjela (gledala sam i u exYu i nista), rado bih imala jednu dvije iz sentimentalnih razloga…

  5. Nisam od onih ljudi koji se vezuju za stvari ali postoje neke sitnice koje mi pružaju utehu, koje prizivaju prošlost i koje su mi neizmerno drage iako nemaju nikakvu materijalnu vrednost. Ja volim one metalne posudice i šolje iz vrtića, kafanske, a njih više nema. Iako sam traume preživljavala, više mama nego ja, u vrtiću, ipak zveckanje tog posuđa i vruć čaj u tim srebrnim šoljama mi priziva lepa sećanja. Valjda sam i kao mala uteh pronalazila u tom ručku u vrtiću iako je put do njega uvek bio u suzama. I dan danas kad vidim Metalac posuđe, obuzme me neka toplina i tako mi je drago da se ono još uvek proizvodi.

    Drago mi je da si se stabilizovala i da si ponovo u svom domu. Čitala sam i prethodne postove, ali me neka tuga obuzme, strah da sve nas to čeka, briga o najmilijima i da neće večno biti sa nama, da nisam imala snage da ostavim komentar. Ti si jedna divna žena i ono što mi ne umemo da iskažemo ti to tako lepo pretočiš u pisano slovo.

  6. I think I get it. When my grandmother had to be moved into a nursing home, I found myself scouring her kitchen in search of her 50 – 70 year old baking sheets, loaf pans & cooking pots. Over a decade later, these are still some of the most used items in my kitchen. They make my heart warm.

  7. Lots of lovely pots! Like you I was lucky enough get some loot from home too….got my Grandmother’s tea set & some old baking dishes of Mum’s…I am so excited to organise a tea party. To the grits….just something I don’t quite get, though that dish with the eggs & the bacon & the scallions does look very good :)

  8. I love, love all of the pots, particularly “your loot.” They all have such a cozy, comforting feel. And of course so does the egg dish. Your posts are always a lovely read. So look forward to seeing you soon! xo

  9. I adore this post and love your photos of the pots!!! So glad you were able to smuggle some in and still thinking about how delightful it was to meet you in Santa Monia at Andrew’s house. I had such a nice time :) I have some photos to get to you too!

  10. Lana,
    So wonderful to read of your mother’s kitchen of comfort. Welcome back home-I know that is a bittersweet comment as youmust have one foot in Serbia always! What treasures your mum’s pots are-so many stories echoed within, memories of lovely meals.

    We just brought 24 English cups from my mom’s kitchen for each of the kids and us. They are lovely reminders of things she so enjoyed. We are slowly going through her things, sorting, and deciding what we all can use. It is such a sad chore going through her treasures.

    Much love o you! I am happy to read of your times in Serbia and will pass it on to our daughter and husband. BTW Djed’s brother just died in a fire on the farm near Glina :-( He was the last of the family of Yugoslavian times.

  11. Oh those pots are beautiful! You could open an enamel museum! Could I curate your enamel museum for you? I don’t blame you for smuggling a few of these in your luggage. They’re certainly special, with all their family significance and good looks.

  12. Impresionirana sam kolekcijom, a jeza me prošla od opisanih osećanja…

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