I never thought I would contemplate writing a book about vegetables, but after a glass of stinging nettle rakija too many with a journalist and great photographer who had just emerged from a chestnut festival which had attracted some 40,000 people in three days, I realised that there was a need to bring global attention to the weird and wonderful world of Croatian vegetable festivals and traditions.
THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF CROATIAN VEGETABLE FESTIVALS AND TRADITIONS
My earliest memories of life surround vegetables. Sunday lunch with the family. Brussel sprouts and cabbage. When the plate arrived accompanied by meat and potatoes, the vegetables looked so small, but having eaten the meat and potatoes and pushed the vegetables around the plate in the hope they would disappear, they loomed larger than life.
"You are not leaving the table until you have finished."
It was the same ritual every Sunday, with the end result that I ended up eating cold cabbage and cold Brussel sprouts for most of my youth.
I hated vegetables.
Years later, I found myself as an aid worker in Rwanda, after the genocide of 1994. An incoming donation from an American seed firm meant that I was in temporary charge of some 20 metric tons of vegetable seeds, some 1.5 million sachets in all, and enough to feed the whole of Africa and beyond. As the waybill detail of the shipment was limited to the helpful description 'Seeds', I spent a joyous three weeks with 15 non-English speaking locals sorting the vegetable seeds into their own categories. I noted with incredulity that the American company had sent 8,000 sachets of catnip seeds to help post-genocide reconstruction, and gave up when i saw one guy mixing white and orange carrots in the same box (parsnips are not big in Central Africa).
The highlight of the African seed donation was an appointment with the Minister of Agrictulture, who had taken an interest in this fascinating seed collection, and he invited me to tea to overview the selection and to discuss the possibilities for introducing these vegetables into the Rwandese context.
"And what are these?" he asked, picked up a sachet of Brussel sprout seeds.
Fantastic! A minister of agriculture asking ME to explain Brussel sprouts.
"Oh, sprouts. They are not very nutritious, not very tasty, and I would send them straight back to America," I replied, doing perhaps my greatest service to the children of Rwanda in the process.
Vegetables and I are not close then. But then something strange happened. I moved to Croatia.
Having been to 90 counties, I would not say that Croatia has a bigger or better selection of vegetables than other coutries I have visited, but one thing it does best of all was very soon clear - this is a country who knows how to celebrate the vegetable. In style.
Pumpkin festivals, world-record cabbage dishes over a kilometre long, a chestnut festival with more than 40,000 people in just three days. Ice cream from lavender and fava beans, rakija from olives. If you were a vegetable in Croatia, you were a superstar.
And yet, despite the rich calendar of festivals, there has been no dedicated book to the gastronomic richness and contribution of the humble Croatian vegetable to the quality of life in this diverse and emerging European country. Until now.
"The Weird and Wonderful World of Croatian Vegetable Festivals and Traditons" is a journey through the rich regions of the EU's 28th member, investigating the traditions, the festivals and the recipes that make Croatian cuisine one of the most diverse and undiscovered in modern Europe.
The book takes the reader on a journey to 30 of the country's more popular fruits and vegetables, with associated annual festivals, recipes and traditions, as well as a closer look at some of the best restaurants in the region promoting the most traditional of vegetable dishes.
The book will focus on 30 festivals and vegetables throughout the regions of Croatia, providing in-depth analysis, as well as festival details. Each vegetable/festival will be accompanied by 2-3 recipes, as well as a feature on a well-known restaurant in the location.
About Paul Bradbury
Author of Lebanese Nuns Don't Ski, Lavender, Dormice and a Donkey Named Mercedes and the Hvar's first comprehensive guidebook, Hvar: An Insider's Guide to Croatia's Premier Island, I have lived in Dalmatia full time since 2003 and run various tourism information websites about Hvar, Split and Zagora, and am co-author of Split: An Insider's Guide with Mila Hvilshoj.
I also have various blogging clients, including the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board, Restaurant Gariful, Hvar Adventure, Villas Hvar and Andro Tomic Wines, and print clients include Qatar Airways inflight magazine, Out! magazine from New York, and Croatian Hotspots.
I also provide website content services, including Agroturizam Pharos, Toto's Restaurant, European Coastal Airlines, Restaurant Gariful and Divota Aparthotel. Please contact me if you would like help with your website content.
I also write for Google News via Digital Journal - see my range of articles here.
Ongoing writing projects:
A History of Hajduk Split, co-author with Frane Grgurevic
Around the World in 80 Disasters
Total Hvar in the Media:
Interview of the Month, Croatian Embassy in Washington (May 2013)
Special Feature in Globus Magazine (May 2013)
Featured on Croatian TV show, More (2012) - watch the report here.
4-page special in Nedjelji Jutarnji, Croatia's leading paper (August 2014)
Interviews in Slobodna Dalmacija, Dalmacijanews, Radio Split
I am available for writing services. Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Total Hvar - www.total-hvar.com
Total Split - www.croatia-split.com
Total Inland Dalamtia - www.total-inland-dalmatia.com
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