I often purchase a cookbook following a trip as recipes truly give a flavor of the country. A Taste of Croatia (2007) is an exceptional example, as author Karen Evenden provides not only recipes but also narrative about their three-year residence along the Dalmatian Coast in their sailboat. These charming stories enliven the cookbook and evoke memories of my own much shorter-term sailing journey.
Reviewing the cookbook also gives me an opportunity to sing the praises of the Croatian’s dedication to impeccably fresh fish. The selection is served whole so that diners can look the fish in the eye, literally, and ensure that it has been caught that day. Expect to have a platter of fish brought to the table for the selection. On Korcula Island, when I reserved mid-afternoon for that evening, the waitress asked what we wanted: mussels for one and grilled fish for three, I replied. “What do you have?” She didn’t know as the boat was just coming in. The owner’s purchase of the catch of the day was dictated in part on our request. We were not disappointed.
Fish markets are common on the coast. The one in Split is in an ideal location, adjacent to a therapy hospital that features sulfur springs; the aroma keeps flies away. By noon, the fish markets generally have closed, so it’s best to be there early. The same is true for fruit and vegetable markets, and we found wonderful produce in every town we visited.
In addition to excellent fish, Croatia is also known for its olive oil and wine. In both instances, families produce sufficient quantities for their own use—and then may sell what is left over. There is not a vibrant commercialization of either.
Although we didn’t see any porkers in the fields, the presence of prsut–what we’d term prosciutto–and other cured meats was ubiquitous. A fabulous meal could be made on these smoked cold cuts, local cheese, and olives—along with hearth made bread.