One of the things I’m definitely looking forward to is the food. Gibanica, kajmak, Turkish coffee, ajvar, incredible cakes and pastries, fresh fruit, vegetables, and farm goods: tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, chicken that actually tastes like chicken. And then of course there are cevapcici (pronounced “chevapcheechee”). Little grilled meat rolls served on a bed of chopped onions or with kajmak and lepinja (flatbread). What could be more innocent than longing for a food that kindles deep-seated memories?
What could be more innocent, except when one misguidedly recommends that food to a friend in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Once you could get regional Yugoslav foods pretty much all over Yugoslavia. Apparently I was still stuck in that time warp when I told a friend he must, simply must order cevapcici when his cruise ship made port-of-call along the Dalmatian coast some two years ago. I was definitely living vicariously through him and the others taking that particular cruise. Following their every move on facebook, even as they were already underway I kept reminding him “don’t forget! Make sure you order cevapcici!”
And so he did. At a small restaurant in Dubrovnik. And was almost thrown out as a result. “Cevapcici?” the waiter almost spat at him, “we don’t serve that here. That is a Serbian dish, and we do not serve that.” Having just seen the holes made in 1991 by Serbian artillery shells while walking around the walls of Dubrovnik, he got that. A geopolitical lesson in a plate of food.
Sometimes I wonder — what part, if any, of their once conjoined lives do the south Slavs miss the most? Travel? Music? The slight variances in the inflections of their languages? Somehow I believe it would have to be the food…