In Ancient Rome, everyday life revolved around the Forums. In Serbia, as it was and still is – around the green market, or as we call it «Pijaca». The word itself is not actually Slavic (in some parts of the country, the Slavic term «Tržnica» is still used, but the most common is «Pijaca»). It derives from the Italian «Piazza», which means “square”, or “forum”, which makes it the same thing.
In the villages and smaller towns, there is something called a «Pijačni dan» or a «Green market day», when all the fruit and vegetable growers sell their products, usually once a week. Globalization has brought convenience stores, shopping malls, mega-markets, but they haven’t been able to replace the significance the Pijaca has to Serbs. Pijacas are usually places where you buy fresh fruit and vegetables (voće i povrće), cheese (sir), and other dairy products, but nowadays the offer is so colorful that you can virtually find whatever you like.
Of course, when in a Pijaca, you will immerse yourself in its colorful world. Let’s go fruit shopping! There are two types of fruit of which Serbs are mostly proud of: the first one is purple (ljubičast-i/-a/-o)*, which is of course a plum (šljiva) – the national Serbian drink of Šljivovica (anglicized as Slivovitz) is made of them. The second one is red (crven-i/-a/-o)* – a raspberry (malina), the pride of Western Serbia.
Our elders say that when you eat five colors a day, it means you will have a healthy meal. So, in that spirit, we are now going to buy vegetables to make a salad (salata). The base is of course, green (zelen-i/-a/-o)*. First, we chop the lettuce (Zelena Salata). A funny name, you will agree, since it translates directly into english as “Green Salad”, not lettuce, but those are the little tricks that you come to realise when you start learning Serbian. After we have chopped the lettuce, we can put some fresh cucumbers (krastavac), and we are done with the greens.
Serbs love onion, leek and garlic, and they sometimes combine all three of them in one dish. Even though they don’t sound the same in English, in Serbian, they have a similar name: Onion – Crni Luk (black onion), Garlic – Beli luk (white onion), and Leek – Praziluk. So it’s all onions, no matter what you eat.
Peppers are next, we can find them in all shapes and sizes, but mostly they are red, green and yellow (žuti/-a/-o)*. Tomato is next. Brought from America, it quickly became one of Europe’s, and Serbia’s in particular, most favorite vegetables. In Serbian, tomato has a very peculiar name; it’s called Paradajz, which in Serbian doesn’t mean anything besides a transliteration of the English word “Paradise”. A fun fact is that in Croatian, which is a similar language to Serbian, tomato is «Rajčica», where «Raj» (as in Serbian) stands for “Paradise”. So, as you can see, there are close connections between the two languages.
Cut slices of fresh white (bel/-i/a/-o)* cheese, add salt (so), black (crn-i/-a/-o)* pepper (biber) and oil (ulje) and you are done. Bon Appetite or Prijatno! Enjoy your healthy colorful meal!
* In Serbian, every noun and its adjective have one of three gramatical genders (male/female/neutral). Nouns usually end with either a consonant, the letter “a” or the letter “o” and the adjectives are conjugated accordingly. Examples from the article are:
1) The noun “Color” (boja) ends with an “A” (female), therefore its adjective ends with “–a” (žuta boja, bela boja)
2) The noun “Onion” (luk) ends with a “K” (consonant = male), therefore its adjective ends with “–i” (crni luk, beli luk)
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