Thursday, May 14, 2009

Introduction to New Flavors

I get a lot of questions about the food in Croatia. I like to eat and apparently other people do to, so I thought I would start posting what I'm cooking for lunch each day (lunch is the main meal - as is often the case in cultures which historically honored the siesta). A new feature on this blog then is On the Menu for Today (right column, first entry) so readers can check in to see what's cookin'.

Talking about ˝Croatian Food˝

I don't know what constitutes ˝Croatian Food˝ per se since I do notice some differences between the typical fare in the North - say, around Zagreb or up around the Hungarian border - versus what we have here in Dalmatia. So, I would be leary to talk about such a thing as ˝Croatian food˝...let alone SERBO-Croatian food which you still manage to hear from time to time in the English speaking world (Note: feel free to just forget those two words in conjunction with each other). Up north, the taste profile is more Eastern European. It's a more sour taste profile - sour kraut....things made with splashes of vinegar. It's actually a taste profile that I know well having grown up in a heavily German part of the country. But we live in Dalmatia. Generally speaking, I would say that Dalmatian food fits the average North American's notions of the Mediterranean Diet. Lots of olive oil. Lamb. Procuitto served with hard cheese and bread. Ironically, despite being on the sea, fish is quite a bit more expensive here than in the U.S. but people still go for it...Sardines, anchovies - in an oil and vinegar marinade or marinated in oil and salt, sea bass, octopus, cuddle fish, various kinds of shells (mussels and so on), shrimp and the mother of all fish, Scorpion Fish (škarpina - ugly but tasty). Tripe is actually pretty popular around here, but I personally haven't gone for it.

Now, since I'm American (with no Croatian background whatsoever), I bring slightly different tastes to the picture. Whenever we have guests over for dinner, they are often curious what the would've gotten exactly what they would have had they gone to anyone's house. However, for the past year or so, I've been slowly introducing some new taste profiles whenever we've had guests. Take, for example, potato salad. The typical service here would be boiled potates with sliced raw onions, vinegar, oil and lots of salt and pepper. Last summer, I started serving more American-style potato salad...meaning the kind with mayonaise & mustard, chopped hard boiled eggs, pickles, olives, red onions, etc. This stuff was like crack for people. I think I could make a fortune going into the potato salad business here. It's like the potato salad that they know and love, but pumped up. Another surprise for people here was the concept of carrot cake. Cake made from carrots? How weird (!)...but is it? Not when you taste it, my friend.

We'll see what this summer holds.