16 December 2008

No local chicks with sticks :-(

I've been trying to get a knitting group together in Zagreb. I've only found one person who likes to knit and who thinks it is cool. But she's not a local gal; she's actually from California! We meet up at the bookstore cafe about twice a month and we spend a good 2 hours chatting and knitting and drinking really good espresso. It is really great fun, and relaxing and so creative. But we're having a hard time attracting new members because knitting is not cool here. Nope. Nobody believes me when I tell them about all the knitting groups throughout North America, and all the knitting cafes and knitting shops, and well just everything knitting related that is so popular over on 'that' side of the big pond. And while smoking is still legal here in the cafes, I'm not so sure about the knitting. I've taken my projects to various cafes, and am met with looks of bewilderment, raised eyebrows and sometimes a wee bit o'curiosity. I'm hoping that I inspire people to go home, take out their old knitting needles and knit up a nice hat or something....and rediscover the joy of knitting. Seriously!

01 December 2008

Skinny Pigs

Something strange is happening with the pigs. First...let me explain a bit about a tasty snack food they have here called Cvarci (pronounced chvartzi). Cvarci is made from pork skin that has a layer of fat and a bit of meat attached. They cut the skin up into little squares, then they fry them up in a hot pan, add milk to the whole thing (don't ask me exactly how), then they take the crispy fried pieces and put them through a press to get out the excess oil. Then they set them aside to dry up. When they are nicely dried, you add a bit of salt and then eat. And eat. And eat.

Cvarci normally is in season when it is sausage and prosciutto-making season (which is the cold months of November, December and January.) So everyone waits for this time of year to enjoy the cvarci. Except this year.....there are signs up everywhere that there is NO CVARCI. I kept thinking that this just meant that they had run out of cvarci, and that there would be more coming. So I kept coming earlier and earlier to the market to get my share.

Finally, I asked the butcher(s) about the missing cvarci. Did they run out of pigs? Well, to my utter shock and dismay, the answer was: Yes...well, sort of yes. A few different butchers explained that this year the pigs were TOO SKINNY. They all had thin skin, and too little fat under the skin, which made it close to impossible to make the cvarci. By the time the little pieces of skin were fried up and then pressed, there wasn't much left but some crumbled bacon bits.

So why are the pigs too skinny? Well, the lowfat phenomenon has made its way to this part of the world, and now they are breeding lean pigs. Really lean pigs. I'll try and get a picture at some point and post it here so that you can see how lean they are. Lean, lean, lean. They sort of look like muscles and bones covered with a thin bandaid for skin.

I'm saddened by all of this because I have a feeling that they'll be doing here what they do in other parts of the world when they start breeding lean meats. First they make the animals too lean. Which results in a tough and dry meat. So then they start having to extra-process the meat by adding things to make the meat tender and juicy. Which usually makes the traditional way of smoking and drying meat impossible because of all the added moisture, so then they have to extra-process the smoked and dried meat to counter the moisture. Then inevitably this leads to the need to add anti-bacterials, and anti-fungal agents, and all sorts of other anti-things.

Sad. Sad. Sad. So I'll try and enjoy the last moments of traditional food while I can. Because I know from experience, that when it is gone, it is gone. I hope I'm wrong about all of this. But right now, the writing is on the wall......