• Jessica Cerovic

Food in Croatia

Croatian cuisine is something not to be missed while on vacation. With seafood plucked fresh from the Adriatic daily and year round markets full of fresh produce, meats, dairy and baked goods, your tastebuds are certain to be tantalized. Croatian food is and has always been organic. They do not need labels or stickers separating conventional vs. organic and they do not call it "organic," they just call the food item by it's actual name, like apple. I will never forget the first time Igor went to a grocery store with me in the states and he looked at what was labeled "Tomatoes" and "Organic Tomatoes" and he was beyond confused. He said, "If this is a real tomato, then what is that?" Croatia has strict government laws protecting the quality of their food and it is 2-3 times cheaper than food in the United States.

Most Croatians, men and women, are really good cooks and when I say good cooks I mean, they can make things from scratch without needing to follow a recipe or take a short cut with something already pre-made in a box or that needs microwaved. I hate to admit it, but Igor is a better cook than me. He showed me how to make noodles from scratch. It's so simple! How have I been buying noodles from a box my whole life?! Croatians take pride in their cooking and it is an important part of their culture. Mealtime is still conversation time for family. Special events and holidays are celebrated with a whole lot of cooking from home. Igor's dad makes his own wine, his mom makes her own vinegars, pickled vegetables, yogurt and liquors and his brother makes his own olives, prosciutto and cheese. If you have a house, you have a garden and are growing fruits, vegetables and herbs to use in your cooking. Some of my favorite dishes Igor's mom makes for us when we visit are:

- Sarma- mix of beef, pork, rice and spices wrapped in soured cabbage leaves and baked

- Octopus salad- boiled octopus that has been cooled with onion, garlic, olive oil, spices and wine vinegar

- Goulash- chopped pieces of beef simmered with onion, garlic, tomato and spices eaten on top of polenta, pasta, rice or potatoes

- Fažoli- pork simmered with onion, garlic, beans and spices into a thick stew

Croatians do not go out to eat like Americans do because food is two times more pricey in a restaurant, even this is still less expensive than going out to eat in the United States. On occasion, like birthdays, weddings, christenings, or if there is just no possible time that day to cook at home, Croatians will spend the extra money to eat out at a restaurant.

When you go out to eat in Croatia, I highly recommend you try some of the following dishes:

- Pljeskavica (hamburger) sa sirom (with cheese)

- Čevapčiči- small sausages made of beef, pork and lamb

Typically these dishes are served with french fries, raw white onion and Ajvar (what I call Croatia's ketchup), a blend of red pepper, tomato and eggplant in a salsa like consistency, can be mild or spicy

- Grilled calamari, sardines or really any other fish on the menu would be a great choice

- Black risotto- it's black because it's made with squid ink, rice, cheese and spices

There are only a few fast food places to choose from but they are not very popular with locals. They are more for tourists' comfort and are usually high-priced, unlike American fast food being the cheap spot to go. Normally, restaurants in Croatia are for either lunch or dinner. If you are looking for breakfast, I suggest going to one of the country's many bakeries. These carry everything from fresh bread to pastries to cakes to even pizza. My favorite pastry is their cheese or apple strudel. We know Italy is their neighbor but Croatia knows how to make some excellent pizza and gelato as well.

Whether you get the opportunity to eat in a Croatian's home or out at one of the country's phenomenal restaurants, you will surely be in favor of the flavors discovered during your vacation.

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