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Food from the Underground

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

People have always been fascinated by caves, grottoes, abysses. It is the front door to the underworld, which signifies not only the physical that is in the womb of the earth, but everything that is hidden, secret, and therefore a little evil. For example, potatoes have not been accepted in Europe for a long time, because the clergy thought it was a devilish tuber, always growing in the soil and devilishly inclined. In some languages, potatoes are still considered inseparably linked to the underworld: thus, in Persian, potatoes are said to be sib-e-zamini, meaning literally an apple in the ground. Devilish creatures that dwell in hidden parts of the world are the legacy of pagan beliefs, but Old Slavic mythology is quite special here. Namely, the old god Veles or Volos (after which the fishing port of Volosko, near Opatija, was named, as well as the Macedonian town of Veles) was the god of the underworld, but also interestingly the god of food, peasants, agriculture and livestock.

In Devil's Garden When it comes to the devil, nothing is left to chance. The Romans also thought that as they built roads throughout Croatia. Gorski Kotar was bypassed in a wide arc, and they traversed it when they really had to. For them, the place was hidden and mysterious, full of dark coniferous forests, rugged intertwines, and dire peaks. The real place where the devil lives (in later German tradition, this is where Rumpenstilsky lives)! That's why they named the area Hortus Diabolicus - Devil's Garden! Just as a memory of it, Vid Arbanas, a charismatic man from Lokve, near Delnice, became famous in Croatia, and beyond, by the liqueur Papra, which proudly bears the name Hortus Diabolicus. It is a mixture of 13 varieties of grasses and four roots, all of which grow in Lokve and the surrounding area, and is based on the Muscato wine grappa. This fire is felt by everyone who drinks it, first mixing the liquid by mouth. After a short tingling, sensation of relief comes, and later a velvety taste in the mouth, as if we had just brushed our teeth. Arbanas tends to reveal all ingredients except one secret root, and it is this hidden root that provides the key taste to this drink. Sometimes that fire is just as needed, especially because of the unhealthy habit of lying down and having a little nap after lunch. Nothing is worse than that! Some statistics show that most people die in a stomach full of sleep. The opposite is required, a good digestion (in normal quantities, of course) and then further daily activity. Therefore, it would be a good idea to stop by at Lokve, eat the famous frogs from Lokve Lake, and after a visit to the local Frog Museum, head for one Papra!

Mining diners One of the most famous visitors to the underworld is always accompanied by a greeting: Good luck! Of course, it's about miners. Descending into the endless tunnels and winding the narrow aisles, these brave men risk their lives to earn their bread. But when it comes to the bread of the Labin miners, then it is not about any bakery skill, but about Kavarski Panin, a small bundle of food in greasy trading paper. It consisted of two equally large slices of bread, precisely shaped to the size of a miner's jacket pocket, topped with bacon, cracklings, sometimes cooked or roasted meat, most often scrambled eggs. Such Kavarski panin is carried into the dark depths where it is eaten for a snack, or for brunch. Such a caloric sandwich kept the miners physically fit in the darkness of the underworld. Similar features can be seen elsewhere in the world. A trademark in the European Union is Cornish Pasty, a baked pie filled with beef, potatoes, turnips and onions, and is considered the culinary representative of miners of Cornwall, the westernmost province of England.

Mexican holiday That we are dust and that we will turn to powder one day, we know this from Adam. From time immemorial, people have been buried into the earth when they die, and in tropical regions such as India, they have been burned. Our dead are always remembered for the Soul Day, but while in some countries this is a peaceful and drawn-out moment of remembrance, elsewhere it is celebrated at the cemetery. For example, Serbs love to eat and drink at the ancestral graves, and Macedonia has retained the old-fashioned habit of burying them with food, brandy and similar things that may be needed in the afterlife. However, nowhere is it as alive in the cemetery as in Mexico, when Dia de los Muertos is celebrated, or Day of the Dead. It is one of the most important holidays in the Mexican calendar and is inspired by ancient Native American beliefs. In doing so, the so-called Pan de Muerto or Bread of the Dead, the sweet bread that families bake for their dead, is always placed on a special altar made only for Day of the Dead. Such bread is baked, glazed and decorated with multicoloured sugar. Sweet pumpkins are also made, with pumpkin slices cooked in a piloncillo glaze. Piloncillo is the unrefined sugar commonly used by Mexicans in their kitchens. It has been used for at least 500 years because the Spaniards came across it when they first sailed to Mexico. This is done by collecting the sugarcane juice, boiling it and putting it in the pots where it hardens into blocks. To use it must be grated or beaten, which creates a special taste but also takes too much time. The taste of piloncillo is smoky, reflecting caramel and earth.

Garlic against vampires

When we don't eat and drink with the dead, sometimes the dead can come to life, so they eat us. Or at least that's how old beliefs claim. Of course, these are planetary vampires that are popular today. That they suck blood is what we know from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, and today various eroticized depictions of vampires speak more about us than about these hellish creatures. But did you know that this is a totally wrong image of a vampire? According to traditional belief, they do not suck any blood, but only express their sadism. Vampire is a name that became popular in the premodern Balkans in the fight against the Turks. The bloodthirsty wars and later blood feud, or blood thirst, is called vampirism. When we talk about those who rise from the graves to frighten people, then they are completely different beings, and they do not suck blood. One of the oldest records of such anger comes from our Istria, from the town of Kringa in the central part of the peninsula. Jure Grando is the oldest documented European vampire by name and surname. On a dark night in 1672, nine Kringa villagers, led by a village chief and a priest, made their way to the cemetery, determined to deal with the temptation that had been terrorizing the village for 16 years. Ever since he died in 1656, local Jure Grando began getting up from his grave every night, wandering the place, banging on doors to homes where someone would soon die, and visiting his widow. Nine fearless men dug up the grave of a dead nightman and found in him a preserved body of yellow and red cheeks. After unsuccessfully piercing the hawk, the vampire was beheaded, the grave was buried and after that Jure Grando no longer bothered the Kringa locals. Jure actually bears the name of the štrigun, and the štriguns and štrigas are the greatest horror that can happen to you in Istria and Kvarner. How to defend yourself against them? Well, we all know the answer - garlic! But why is there such a belief that garlic protects against vampires? One of the most convincing theories is that vampires are a symbol for the mosquito bite. Mosquitoes suck blood and thus spread disease. Just like vampires. Some of the symptoms of malaria - fatigue, fever, anaemia - are known to have effects on humans when, according to literary works, they are bitten by a vampire. Garlic is known as the best insect defence and works especially well against mosquitoes. Don't forget that vampires also appear as bats. Although the bat is not an insect, but a mammal, it can quite well be symbolically linked to mosquitoes, and especially where people have been infected with malaria.

In mystical Islam, in Sufism, the Stone of the Sages is a metaphor for man himself, sulfur and salt being his body and soul. The hidden meaning, the search for the Stone of the Sages in some caves and the like, is often reflected in the food of certain nations. So the northern peoples, just like the English or Scandinavians, like to hide what they eat. That is why in these countries we can try a variety of pies that are bland on the outside, but only when we pierce through the crust can we get inside. Isn't it amazing how food reflects the mentality of the people!

KAVARSKI PANIN From the largest surface of the bread half, cut a slice from two to three inches thick and halve it. Asparagus stuffing was prepared from twenty grams of dried bacon diced and melted in a pan. They were added about fifty grams of asparagus broken to an inch in length. When the asparagus was done, three pre-hatched and slightly salted eggs were added. Such a warm, lush, semi-hard scrambled egg would be stuffed with panin, pressed lightly, and wrapped in a clean kitchen cloth to cool. The cooled panin was stored in greasy paper, which was fixed with four rings of rubber.

PAN DE MUERTO ¼ cup milk ¼ cup margarine or butter, cut into eight pieces ¼ cup sugar Lič teaspoon salt 1 dry yeast ¼ cups of very warm water 2 eggs 3 cups flour Ica teaspoon of anise ¼ teaspoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons of sugar Boil the milk and when it boils add margarine or butter, ar cup sugar and salt. In a large bowl, mix the yeast with warm water until melted and let stand for five minutes. then add milk. Separate egg yolk and egg white. Add the egg yolk to the yeast, and keep the egg whites aside. Meanwhile, oil the baking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make a dough and cut it into four pieces. Roll three pieces and place them in a baking pan. Turn the remaining part into the shape of two bones, fold them and place on top of the second dough. Cover with the yeast mixture and let the dough rise for half an hour. In the meantime, mix in the bowl anise, cinnamon and two teaspoons of sugar, whisking the egg whites in another bowl. After half an hour, coat the top of the egg whites with bread and sprinkle with the locust, except where the "bones" are. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Garlic soup 10 garlic lobes Lice tablespoons olive oil ½ tablespoons plain oil 1 onion 1 tablespoon flour 100 ml of white wine 700 ml of vegetable stock 200g milerama ½ teaspoon chopped parsley ½ teaspoon ground chilli peppers salt and pepper In the pot, add the chopped onion to the mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil, fry a little and fry until lightly browned. Then add the pressed garlic and continue to fry until the garlic softens and smells (being careful not to burn). Then add the flour, stir, pour in the white wine and vegetable stock, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. At the end of cooking, mix the soup with a stick mixer, stir in the miller, season with salt, pepper and ground chili pepper. Serve in deep plates or bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.


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