Working man’s beans

Reason #124: eat May 1st bean soup in great company

May 1st is a national holiday in Croatia – International Workers Day and it’s a custom to have a group outing or a picnic, cook a huge pot of bean soup and have fun. It’s an old socialist tradition that is slowly disappearing, but on Brač it’s still alive, luckily.

If you’re going to join one of these bean soup eating festivities, you can go for one of the urban, public events such as the one in Supetar where you could be served by the cool new mayor Ivana Marković…

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Photo source: Ivana Marković FB page

… or you can go old-school and have a picnic at 600 m above sea level, up on the Vidova gora mountain, with the great folks from the “Profunda” hiking club.

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Master Chef stirring the meat and the beans: Jurica a.k.a. “Lola”

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The line forms quickly :)

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The trick is to scoop out your ideal proportion of soup, beans, sausages and meat. 

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Second helpings are not at all frowned upon, but some room should be left for the dessert. Great news, there’s always dessert in Croatia :)

The hardest part of a May 1st outing is getting back home when you’re completely stuffed and relaxed. Fortunately, when you’re at Vidova gora you can always say: “It’s all down hill from here”.

Za križen – Following the Cross

Reason #119: follow the Cross in a traditional Easter procession

Za križen is a procession ritual, part of the Catholic Easter tradition observed in Dalmatian towns and villages.

The start of the procession varies. In Selca, Sumartin and Novo Selo it starts on Friday morning. The three villages start at their own church and walk to the next village and back. Without running into each other.

The Selca procession starts at 6 am.

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It follows the old road to Sumartin

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At the same time, the procession from Sumartin heads to Selca, but via another route, so that the two processions never meet.

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The Selca procession arrives in Sumartin and is met by Roman soldiers who escort us to the church of St. Martin. The march of the soldiers is eerie and impressive.

 

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Photo courtesy of  Žudije Sumartin.

Here’s a tip for those who intend to join Za križen for the first time: try to be at the front of the procession, where all the singing and the decorum is happening. If you hang in the back it can be annoying and the magic is lost, as most people chat and instead of thinking of Christ and His suffering, they’re more interested in “Whose house is that? Check out those curtains!”, “When was the last time he trimmed his olive trees”, and such.

In the evening we gather in Selca again, for another service and procession. The streets of Selca are lit up by torches and people sing hymns all the way. It’s beautiful.

Change of guards at the tomb of Jesus in the church Krista Kralja in Selca.

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In the video you would have heard a loud, rattling noise. That would be these:

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Rachet or škrpajke are carried in the procession (by kids mostly) and at certain points the procession stops, the singing stops and on command all the rachets make noise in unison.

Although many Dalmatian towns and villages observe this tradition, the most famous and reportedly the most impressive Za križen procession is the one on the island of Hvar. It even made the prestigious UNESCO Cultural Heritage listing.

More on the Easter tradition in Selca and Sumartin in this post: Easter ritual of Žudije – Roman soldiers

Mišanca – edible wild greens

Reason 113: you can pick your own wild greens and cook a healthy, yummy meal

This particular reason for living on Brač would probably make my top ten on any given day. What you need here is a plastic bag (Konzum, Tommy, Kerum, Studenac… any of these will do ;)), a handy knife, knowing where to look and which plants are edible. The latter two I’m not good at yet, so for now I just go with Aunt Nada and follow her lead. IMG-20140226-01074 Once you’ve got a bag full, you can go home and clean it before cooking. IMG-20140226-01075 Cooking is simple. Just boil the water, add some salt and don’t cook for too long. You can also add potatoes, and if you don’t have a lot of mišanca, add any other greens you can buy or grow, such as blitva (chard). Blitva and potatoes will also soften the otherwise strong flavor of concentrated mišanca, if that’s prefereable. IMG-20140223-01049

Some of the plants that go into mišanca: žutinica, kostrič, radič, divlji luk, koromač, martaduha.

There is a guidebook on Brač wild plants which can help you identify the mišanca plants. Read about the guidebook here.

Sirnica… where’s the cheese?

Reason #111: tasty and sweet traditional Easter bread

sirnice2Photo by I. Cvitanić, via braconline.com.hr

Sirnica (or pinca, as it’s called in some parts of Croatia) is a traditional sweet bread made and eaten at Easter, marking the end of Lent.

As a kid I used to wonder where the cheese was, as the word sirnica contains the word sir=cheese in Croatian.

Sirnica is made with eggs, flower, milk, butter and sugar –  no cheese.

You can buy a decent sirnica at the baker’s or the suprermarket these days, but some people still like to make their own. In fact, they even compete for the best sirnica on Brač, each year on Easter Monday.

sirnice1Sirnice on display at the competition in Škrip. Photo by I. Cvitanić, via braconline.com.hr

This year Selca won first place. Yay!

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Photos by V. Radmilović, via braconline.com.hr

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Team Selca: Marina Jakšić, Ela Tonšić, Sandra and Marta Mančić… and, of course, their husbands ;)

More: sirnica/pinca on Wikipedia and photos at braconline.com.hr

Easter ritual of Žudije – Roman soldiers

Reason #110: attend a very special ritual on Easter Saturday to see Roman soldiers fall at the tomb of Jesus


To skip to the highlight of the ritual, go to 1:50

Easter is an intriguing holiday as it is, but in these here parts they add even more excitement to the festivities with  Žudije – 13 men dressed as Roman soldiers. Both Selca and Sumartin have their Žudije organizations. In some Dalmatian villages and towns this tradition has been observed since before WWII.

selca.sol Žudije from Selca, selački soldati župe Gospe Karmelske (Photo selca.hr)

zudije_rogotin2010413 Žudije from Sumartin, sumartinski žudije župe sv. Martina (Photo selca.hr)

Žudije take part in ceremonies starting with Easter Thursday. The highlight is the reenactment of the moment Roman soldiers realized Christ was resurrected. At that moment the soldiers first fall to the ground then flee the tomb as angels appear. Although the basic premise is the same, the beauty of the tradition is that each Žudije club has their own performance style and costumes. All the Žudije organizations gather each year on Easter Monday to show off their styles and compete for the title of the best Žudije of Croatia.

zudije_rogotin8010413 Last year’s Žudije festival in Rogotin. (Photo: slobodnadalmacija.hr)

Good luck to our Žudije at tomorrow’s festival in Vrlika!

More info (in Croatian) and photos: Žudije on Wikipedia , Slobodna Dalmacija article, Tourist Board Selca photos and (in English): Žudije of Vid

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UPDATE from this year’s festival in Vrlika:

Slobodna dalmacija article with photos

Žudije from Selca with their youngest member Niki :)

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Photos by Loreta Mošić. Thanks!

More on the Easter tradition in Selca and Sumartin in this post: Za križen – Following the Cross

Palm (olive) Sunday

Reason #103: bring your olive branch to Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday Catholics other Christians gather in a ritual to commemorate the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, before he was crucified. They carry with them palm branches, or in our case, olive tree branches.

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Olive branches in front of the old church in Selca.

Don Jakša, the parish priest, blesses the branches before the procession. Choir ladies sing and we say prayers.

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Everyone joins in the procession to the cathedral.

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Most people bring their own olive branches. But some go the extra mile in effort and creativity:

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Special “palm branch” made by Marina Jakšić.

And my friend Ruža with her bunch of olive branches and sun in her eyes :)

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Scarcity and Lent

Reason #88: a sense of scarcity

We’re in the middle of Lent right now and that means that many Christians are using this time to give up something and reflect on their relationship with God, with themselves, with material possessions, addictions, and much more.

Living on a rock where resources can be scarce and historically people have had very tough lives, it makes you think of the act of abstaining in a different way.

For a lot of people Lent is about removing excess from one’s life and making a personal sacrifice. But I’m thinking, what is the point of doing that in a place that has been in constant state of scarcity since its first inhabitants, all the way up to recent modern times?

What would my grandma, and even my mom, have abstained from for 40 days? Not cake or meat, that’s for sure. They were hard-working, poor and hungry for at least half of their lives. If they finally had a bit of excess later in life, shouldn’t they enjoy it?

And even though most people don’t go hungry on Brač these days, and a few are even quite affluent, the general sense of scarcity is still present. Call it gene memory or culture or mentality, it’s there somehow.

I have no point here. Just something to think about.

 

 

Masquerade ball

Reason #64: another serious carnival business matter: maškare

Grownups dressing up and acting silly is a serious matter in Selca. The big masquarade ball was held this past Friday. All part of the carnival festivities.

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Check out the Babushke Family. Amazing costume work. Kudos guys!

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And how about these Smurfs. With a (friendly) Gargamel, Smurfette, the works!

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Two pirate dudes and a scary lady. Tres chic!

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The ball was held at the Sokolana hall in Selca, with live music from Slaven & Pero. I had to miss it this year, unfortunately, but I hear it was a blast.

Photos by: Marina Jakšić, Irma Bezmalinović Eterović i Nenad Živković. Hvala vam svima!

“Can you please get that? You’re….”

Reason #55: great excuses when you want someone else to do it for you

Let’s say you’re lounging after lunch and you want to read the magazine that’s just out of reach and you don’t feel like getting up… if you’re in Selca you’re in luck because ever since I can remember people here have had this 3-part menu to choose from when they want someone else to get them something out of reach.

You can’t use all three at once, you pick the one you think is best suited for the occasion and the person you’re trying to manipu…. erm, you’re trying to get to do this for you. Here they are…

“Can you please get that? You’re…

  1. Ti si mlađa (You’re younger)
  2. Tebi je lakše (It’s easier for you)
    and my favorite of all
  3. Kad si već na nogan (You’re on your feet already)

Here’s an example of how that goes:

“Ajme, Jube, daj mi te novine sa stola… ti si mlađa.”

“Nu, Nado, stav vo u frižider…. kad si već na nogan.”

“Mali, odnes vo doma… tebi je lakše.”

All three can be used even when they are not true. The person doesn’t have to be younger, for example, or really fully standing up even. And often it can’t be objectively assessed what is “easier for you”.

Pašta fažol

Reason #50: a hearty, traditional bean and pasta meal

One of my favorite “basic” meals from Bračka cuisine. Pašta fažol (pashta fah-joel) can be made with different kinds of pasta (spaghetti, penne, subiotti, pipe, etc.), depending on what you like.

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This is a more soupy version of Pašta fažol, with spaghetti and without any meat. Beacause that’s how I like it :)

Fažol is the Dalmatian dialect word for beans and like many words in our dialect vocabulary, it comes from Italian: fagioli.

My mom says Pašta fažol has traditionally been a poor man’s meal, because beans were cheap back then and the wealthy could afford more fancy food. Plus, the beans would make them fart and that wouldn’t be classy :)

These days you can just buy canned beans, but the proper way to do it is to buy dried beans and soak them over night.

The type of bean is runner bean (šareni grah) from Central and South America.

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Like nearly any Dalmatian meal, you’ll base this on olive oil, onions, garlic and parsley. You can also fry a spoonful of flour to thicken the whole thing. Then add water and the beans.

The cooking will depend on how old the dried beans are. Anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. It’s best to use a pressure cooker to shorten this process.

It’s best to cook the pasta separately so you don’t overcook it. Put it aside and just add when the beans are completely cooked.

You can add cured meats for flavor.

My mom will add a bit of concentrated tomato paste (konšerva) for color. I don’t.

Don’t forget a couple of bay leaves when you start cooking, so you …. you know…. keep things more quiet “downstairs” later on ;)

Prijatno!