Tradition is kept in the language
“Oću ti sinko, parćat ćo god?” or “Are you hungry?” – my grandmother asked me while putting a log in the fire. I remember it as if it was this morning. A simple table with pale wood color. Few breadcrumbs, lemons, a hemp bag full of olives, and some herbs on it.
Nowadays, her table would probably go around 600 bucks in IKEA and it would be called something like Dragönhvitbărd, but that’s another story.
Her chair is tucked away in the corner, next to the stove. She’s getting up with a pale smile rising through the cold winter air. And then, even before hugging her grandchild, she says: “Oću ti sinko, parćat ćo god?”
Later on, while I’m eating, she would tap me on my head. She is content as my cheeks are all getting red of brudet and wine. That’s a lovely-to-see-you tap.
What does it mean to “parćat ćo god“? I could translate it as “Will I make you something?”, or even “Are you hungry?”, but there is so much more behind it.
“To parćat” is to quickly make something out of nothing and at the same time make it taste heavenly.
Just a few elements for a heavenly beauty
Fish, herbs, salt, and olive oil are the true elements of dalmatian cuisine.
Colorfully empty plates with an exotic dot of food in the middle you’ll find in numerous restaurants actually have a lot to do with dalmatian cuisine. Dalmatian plates in the past were as well mostly empty. People were poor.
Salt was considered white gold. Who controlled the salt, controlled the food. Sardines were n important element of dalmatian cuisine.
Nets were expensive and at a certain point, people were even fishing with dynamite. the same one that Italians threw away in the sea after the second world war. Kids would inherit the clothes of their older siblings. And clothes were even made out of brnistra, Spartium junceum. A flexible green herb with simple flowers that paints the scenery yellow during the springtime. Brnistra or Spanish broom was also used for knitting nets or stuffing pillows.
When it comes to traditional cuisine, I can’t imagine my grandparents fixing up parsley on the top of a dish and that way giving it the last touch. Them squeezing together, accidentally stumbling one on another with their hips, all content while two leaves of parsley are being gently let on the top of brudet. The last touch of aesthetics and than a snap of selfie .
There was just never enough time to spend around those kinds of things but still, the taste of every meal was always divine.
How’s that possible?
Pretty much everything was fresh, all was from fields and the sea. As simple as it gets. They only eat from nature because they had no stores to buy from. And if you know how, that’s still double.
“Toćat” – means to deep in. That’s how you eat brudet. You take a slice of a bread and you dip it in, in this type of a dalmatian fish-stew. And the taste, oh how it dances together with the wine on your tongue. You pour olive oil over cheese to get the most of it and than you dip your bread in it. When you’re eating shrimps on buzzara (škampi na buzaru) you suck shrimps and you lick your fingers till the very last, the sweetest drop. You don’t use a knife to break bread but your hands.The same way you make love you dine, with your hands deep in pleasure and thrill.
Everything you’ll ever need is around you
When I was a kid, I used to harvest lavender with my father. Ohhhh, how I hated it at the time! I was fifteen-sixteen, all high on hormones and everything was before field work, so how wouldn’t I?! Everybody was having a good time during the summer and all my pals chasing girls, while I needed to get up 4am to harvest lavender. I mean, I was having a good time as well and chasing girls, but there’s never enough of both of it, apparently!
I would go to night-clubs, or discotheque as it was called at the time and after the party straight to the field. I remember once, I had too much to drink the night before, so I was dehydrated in the morning. You can imagine, it was around 9 am, 35 degrees Celsius ( 95 Fahrenheit) that even bees were tired of all that flying around through the thick aroma of lavender. With a begging sparkle in my eye, I ask my grandmother if she has any water to spare, as I apparently drunk all of mine.
She just said: “Go suck a stone.”
And I did. It doesn’t taste much, by the way, but there’s plenty of it.
And between those stones an exquisite life with everything you’ll ever need to make a heavenly cuisine: basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, sumac, tarragon, thyme, turmeric and so on. On the trees apples, apricots, cherries, clementines, dates, figs, grapefruits, grapes, melons, nectarines, olives, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranates, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes…
And the endless sea.