“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park – enjoy the ride.” These are the words of one of the world’s most famous chefs, and words to live by when it comes to the Mediterranean cuisine on the Adriatic. Sure, you can try Mediterranean cuisine halfway across the world, but the real “spice” of this particular type of food has always been the ambiance – the thousand islands of the Adriatic offer a thousand different gastronomic delights. Take your pick – each place is a treasure trove of specific ingredients that are still being grown and prepared using traditional methods. Along with Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco, the Croatian islands of Brač and Hvar are centres of protected Mediterranean cuisine, since a part of the ingredients and spices, as well as the customs surrounding the preparation of some dishes, represent a shared cultural heritage.
Each dish tells a story, whether it’s the fish stew gregada from Hvar, or mutton and the fish stew brudet from Brač – a typical fisherman’s dish – or different foods prepared on a grill. Connecting to traditional customs of preparing food among the locals is as important as enjoying the food itself. Large family gatherings or communal parties are a unique opportunity to delve into the customs, food-gathering skills, and all the knowledge and technique that go into cooking, which experienced very few changes throughout the centuries, other than a few tweaks here and there. Eating is a social activity and an extremely important factor in the Dalmatian cultural identity, and each meal is prepared with pride and eaten with respect for the maker.
Marenda is a favourite meal among people of all generations on the Mediterranean, regardless of whether they are the hosts or the guests. The meal can be eaten at any hour of the day, as long as it’s between two main meals, and there’s a special joy in preparing it. It can consist of only a few pieces of salted fish in olive oil, a piece of goat cheese, or a large pot of cooked fish. It doesn’t matter what you have, as long as you are in good company and have a glass of fine wine. As the old Dalmatian saying goes, a fish is to be washed in three liquids – the sea, oil, and wine – so try and resist this important delicacy that’s part of global cultural heritage!