I crossed the border. Several times in fact. After three weeks in Italia we decided to see if what everyone else tells us is true, that the Croatian coastline is simply beautiful. The rumours are true but the funny thing is, to get to Dubrovnik from Venice one must go through Slovenia followed by a brief interlude into Croatia, a quick sojourn through Bosnia and then back to our original destination of Croatia. The quickest way to see to see four countries in 12 hours of driving surely.
Some interesting culinary experiences presented themselves on the drive which alternated between the austere never ending autostrada, winding rural countryside and the azure of the glittering Adriatic Sea. My lasting memory of Slovenia is of little wooden huts dotted along the roadside, smoke puffing out of their chimneys with a whole little piggy roasting inside. Not sure whether the whole pig gets presented to the customer or pieces get sliced off as needed as we went past too early for lunch. The parts of Bosnia that flashed past the window were very rural and it seemed that strawberries, cherries and oranges were the main crops, with many of the farmers selling their wares on the roadside. One of these stalls provided some unexpected relief from the hecklers in the backseat, who after being in the car for most of the day spent their time alternating between fighting each other, generally driving their parents mad and chanting ‘are we there yet?’ The farmer manning the stall was very happy to see us and offloaded some cherries, strawberries and what I thought was orange juice. Thankfully he offered us a taste of the ‘juice’ before we bought as it lit a fire on the way down my throat. A sensation that children should probably not experience with their breakfast cereal. The look on my face must have been encouraging as the farmer then produced another bottle, this time from under his table, called Prosec. I know what you are thinking, I went there too. If you have ever tried the liquer known as Marsala, Prosec was just like it without any prescription required, but the fact that we would have to make our way through one litre in a matter of weeks made it a no sale.
The move from Italy to Croatia meant a transition from a carbohydrate based diet to one that was centered around meat, meat, meat. The mixed meat platter is on every menu, generally always huge and consists of kebabs, sausages of several kinds, liver and pork or chicken steak. The other thing that I noticed after a few days is that EVERYTHING is salty. Salt does add flavor to food but frequent use can have a negative impact on blood pressure, especially for those with existing hypertension. Plus taste buds get used to it and then food without salt seems to have no flavor. Have you noticed that celebrity chefs are very liberal with adding salt to their dishes? So many everyday foods that we eat already have salt added, with cereal, bread and cheese being perfect examples and eliminating the need to sprinkle it ourselves.
Grilled vegetables are divine here and mostly consist of eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and onion, although my new favourite food is Swiss Chard mixed with boiled potato with this dark green vegetable being very similar to silver beet both in flavour and colour and is very delicious.
My withdrawal from salt begins now. The rolling countryside of the Umbrian hills will surely provide some inspiration.