By Anastasia Kinkusic, content writer for LingoLearn.com
Croatia is, in many ways, the California of the Balkan Peninsula. It’s not hard to see why, with its mountains, rivers, warm climate, seaside walkways and fresh fruits and vegetables. In nearly every town, there is the downtown fresh fruit and vegetable market. The fun doesn’t stop here, however. Depending on the size, there may be homemade wool sweaters to buy, homemade leather shoes (shlappe – spelled “šlape“), lavender and other home grown, scented sachets to add to the chest of drawers back home.
Other specialty items include honey (med, pronounced “maid”), fresh cheese (sir, pronounced “seer”) in particular Pagski Sir (a specialty cheese from the island of Pag – pronounced “paag”). Pag is famous for its salt fields. The sheep eat the salty grass, and the milk the sheep produce is also very salty and aromatic. This is used to produce the legendary cheese that is famous all over the world. Springtime lamb is another delicacy used for Easter, baptisms, first communions, weddings, and other festivals.
The perfect accompaniment to Pagski Sir is Dalmatian Pršut (pur-shoot), a finely sliced variegated meat product. A typical plate of appetizers is the sir with prut accompanied by black and green olives – known as Maslina (mah-slinn-ey), which are harvested here. Tiny slices of French bread disks – kruha – meaning Bread – are served so that the guest doesn’t fill up on meat or cheese. Bread here is a regulator of food and must be purchased fresh every day (The used bread is often saved to make breadcrumbs or given to the chickens).
The meat-cheese-bread-and-olives combination goes so well with the domestic wines, particularly the red wines. The locals call the red wine crno vino, which means “black wine”, because it is so potent that if you dip your finger in it, it leaves a mark on your skin. One of the best known is called Mali Plavac (mah-li Plah-vats), which means Small Blue, since the grapes have a bluish cast to them when they are harvested.
The vegetable portion of the market is stocked full of goodies. Many of the fruit names are logical and similar to English names – but not all.
Orange is Naranća (Nar-ahn-cha), which sounds a little bit like Orange. Grapefruit is appropriately named Grejp (which sounds just like Grape). Lemon is Limun (lee moon) – what could be simpler than that?
Banana and Kiwi are – conveniently enough – named Banana and Kiwi. The Apple is another story. Jabuka, Yah—boo-kuh. Pear? – Kruška (kroosh-ka) and Pineapple – the unlikely Ananas – which sounds exactly as it is written.
The green vegetables get downright complicated, however. Zucchini is Tikvica, of all things!! (Tick-vit-za!) Tikvica can be the orange squash, but it most usually refers to the long green ones. Tikva is also a nickname for one’s head – “that’s using the old tikva!”.
Salata (sah-lah-tah) is easy enough to figure out…. but cabbage is Koo-poos (kupus). Asparagus is tiny and spindly, growing wild and sold in abundance during April. The Croatian word for asparagus is Šparoge – pronounced Shpar-o-gay. Artichokes are called – ar-ti-choh-kee – which is also manageable enough for even a foreigner to pronounce. When in doubt, point and gesture – the vendors are motivated to sell and they will surely figure out what you are trying to say.
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