It is often said in Serbia “Hunger has no eyes”. And that is true, but it is also true that some foods are less palatable and some are so good that their taste can be felt in the mouth long after eating.
And here I am now… A month after eating it, I am writing about the food from Machva region in Serbia, in a place near Bogatić.
So, we arrive at a beautiful catering household in Bogatić. The center of Machva. I admit it, didn’t know that the Machvans were so kind and direct people. And it is not that professional kindness that wears and repels, this is that human immediacy, pleasantness and spontaneity. The desire to please the guest.
July, a thousand degrees outside, or it feels like it, and hardworking women in the yard are cooking ajvar.
“Is it spicy?” I ask them.
“There’s both, we have spicy and mild ajvar” they reply, smiling. “It’ll be over in an hour, so give it a try, and I’ll pack one for you to go”.
We sit under a beautifully decorated porch and at some point we are at a different pace. Foreigners would say “lazy”, or “lenjo”, in serbian. Slow down. It is like, when you are so relaxed that it takes you some time to do even the simplest of things. Feels good.
“So, you write about gastronomic offer of Machva region?”, the waiter was delighted when we told him.
“Oooo, now you’re going to get first-hand samples,” he smiles.
I wanted to order something on my own, but he said that we should not worry about anything, and that he would make his own choice of a variety of Machva delicacies.
OK – I guess the man knows what he is talking about. So we shut up and wait.
And… One cup of coffee later, and after not even 20 minutes went by, here he comes, bringing out the food. One by one.
First of all: The Bun.
In Machva region, he says, it is a tradition to bring out a hot, freshly baked bun in front of the guests, first. Then, he brought us some homemade goat and cow cheese, kaymak, and a baked chilli pepper in oil, with garlic.
My God, this is perfect. Even if he stopped bringing out the food right then, this would be a perfect rural meal, a pure 10.
But wait, here come the homemade pork cracklings. Ajvar is also here… mild and spicy. And then he brings a large oval with a roasted pork neck with potatoes and onions.
How can to describe all these flavors now? You throw it in your mouth, everything melts in there, and you simply don’t know what to try next and what tastes better.
But… This would not be over before we are served two other things that are specific to Mahcva: the Machvan leaf and a special cabbage salad.
Machva leaf is a hand-pulled dough made from white flour with grease, then thinly stretched and baked, so it forms a tasty crust.
A perfect product the bakers in the bakeries definitely cannot make.
I ask the cook, “So how do you make this?”. She says, “It is a craft, my daughter.”
Well, it certainly is, I say to myself…
And now the traditional Machva salad.
I’ve never heard of such a recipe before, let alone tried something like this. Although it looks like any ordinary cabbage salad, it has nothing to do with those.
It tastes like no other before it… Quite special: sour-pungent, refreshing, full of some pleasant aromas, and realy healthy, you can feel it.
“It’s realy easy to make, but you do need to know the secret ingredient. I’ll tell you everything except that secret. Put fresh cabbage in oil, with some salt and vinegar, fresh carrots and garlic. It should stay in it all night and there’s the salad in the morning. ” The host smiles while serving it.
We are so consumed with pleasure that even now, as I remember, I am getting hungry. “Well, Bogatić is near, so we’ll come here again, soon” adds my colleague as he hears me mumbling about the specialities.
The hosts showed us that what they served us is only a small part of what they have to offer. Pictures speak more than words.
After reding this, we hope you have an appetite, and you’re sure to go for lunch. If you choose Machva region of Serbia, you are sure to enjoy it.
This text is part of the project “Seven Wonders of Bogatic” co-financed by the Municipality of Bogatic.
(Come to Serbia)