Monday, February 24, 2014

Culinary Culture Tour with Michael Laiskonis

Clay Moore here, the current American intern with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy Vilnius.

Last week I got to experience not one different culture, but two!  Lithuanian-American pastry Chef +Michael Laiskonis was here on a media tour and it was my responsibility to escort him around the nation and take lots and lots of pictures.  As a man ashamed to admit that I can’t cook very well, I was thoroughly impressed by the skill and talent that Michael showcased for his relatives (he still has family in Lithuania) and other residents of his ancestral land.

Michael Laiskonis (left), His Uncle (right)

Michael was joined by his uncle who lives in Kaunas, an eccentric but delightful older gentleman.  The only language that Michael had in common with his uncle was French, as his uncle did not speak any English.  Even further, the only language I had  in common with the uncle was Russian!  I am so happy to use my Russian here, even more so if its use is related to work.  As I enjoyed kibinai and beer on the shore of Lake Trakai, I listened to Michael’s uncle tell me about the history of the partisans who hid in the hills around the lake and fought foreign invaders.  (They are referred to as “Forest Brothers”, look forward to a post on their history soon).

Michael visited Kaunas Kollegia (College) where he gave a presentation about his own path to success to up-and-coming culinary students.  They reacted with interest, asking many questions and more or less hanging onto Michael's every word.  After his presentation to over 300 people, he met students and sampled their creations in a meeting with faculty and staff.

Michael inspects the spread

Following Kaunas, we went to a Sodziaus Meistrai, a small school in the village, Rudiskes.  The students watched with excitement while Michael was crafting culinary delights and teaching them techniques that many had not heard of in their lives yet.

It was a long day full of traveling around beautiful Lithuania.  The weather was a snowy, wet mix, however the countryside looked great!  I am so happy that I have work-related opportunities like this to travel and see not only Vilnius, but the entire country!