One of the goals that Jared and I set for ourselves was that we’d cook the majority of our meals on this trip. I think for Jared this was mostly a cost-cutting move, but I considered it a challenge that would help us settle into our environment by forcing us to explore and make use of what was available. I knew it was going to require a bit of creativity to cook full meals without an oven (we just have a 2-burner cooktop in our apartment), but I was looking forward to being resourceful and seeing what we could come up with. Also, it’s been my experience that we eat a lot more nutritiously and feel a lot better when we cook for ourselves, and I had romantic visions of wandering through charming farmers’ markets in quaint town squares to motivate me.
Our landlady gave us directions to the main Konzum “supermarket” (I use that term loosely – it’s tiny) in Gundulic Square when we arrived…we didn’t find it until our third day, but that didn’t matter. There are a bunch of small bodegas (funnily enough, on the WAY to the Konzum) and we were able to find a potato gnocchi that Jared could eat. How we lucked out enough to not only find a gluten-free pasta but one that had enough English on the package for me to determine it was gluten-free, I will never know.
Our landlady also graciously offered to take us to the big supermarket outside of town that first weekend, so we stocked up at the Konzum with enough to get us through the next few days. Sadly, when we went to the big supermarket, I forgot my camera! This was a real tragedy because let me tell you, this place was INSANE. It was like a COSTCO compared to everything else. They had washing machines! Next time we make it out there (I am crossing my fingers for this weekend) I will do a follow up post, I promise. At this point we were pretty stocked up and had a much better sense of what we would be able to find.
Leading up to the trip I had been reassuring myself that even though Jared has many dietary restrictions, we would be fine due to the heavy Italian influence in Croatian cuisine – meaning gnocchi and risotto – and I seem to have been correct. After 3 1/2 years of cooking for Jared I can make a risotto in my sleep, so I knew at the very worst we’d be enjoying some fine variations on that front. And have we ever!
You’ll note that peas feature prominently in those last two dishes. That’s because so far the farmer’s market thing has proven to be a bit of a fantasy. There are two markets – one in Gundulic Square and a larger one in Port Gruz in the main part of town. We seem to always be hitting the smaller market as they’re closing up, but even then the most I’ve seen in terms of greens are some nice looking beans. I’m going to lay it on the line here: the vegetable situation leaves a lot to be desired. For whatever reason (probably the season) there is very little available in any of the stores and what is available isn’t always in the best condition, so for someone like me who craves green vegetables, it’s a bit of a nightmare. One supermarket had some really good frozen options (brussel sprouts and broccoli), so we stocked our freezer for when we can’t find anything fresh, but mostly the stores around here just have kale, maybe some OK salad options and zucchini. We’re figuring it out though. Today we managed to finally make it to the larger farmers market and were able to purchase a large head of beautiful lettuce, some green beans, a cucumber and a tomato all for 20 kuna (less than $4)! We will definitely be making weekly trips out there for the rest of our stay, but sadly it’s a bus ride away so not really feasible to visit more frequently.
Shopping is a little challenging with most labels being in Croatian but not impossible – fortunately most packaging has helpful pictures of the food or flavor (and what remains unknown probably won’t hurt us too much). The real surprises have been the two things that have been most difficult to find: peanut butter and black tea. Amongst large sections of herbal teas, we will be lucky to find one caffeinated black tea and we have only been able to find tiny containers of peanut butter. These are both staples of Jared’s diet so I feel really bad for him! What’s really odd (but fortunate) is that there are tons of gluten-free and dairy-free options everywhere. We’ve found gluten-free pasta, crackers and bread, and more than one brand of rice milk, so that’s been a huge relief.
Some interesting things we HAVE found in the grocery stores:
I’ll cap things off with a little gallery of some of the dinners we’ve had:
So far, we’ve met our cooking goal with flying colors. We have cooked every meal (except one piece of pizza – I’m human) at home. So far, even with having to buy some essentials to get the kitchen started we are spending about 150 kuna ($28) per day on food, which puts us on target to come in under budget for the month. I’m really proud of that!
I’m off to cook dinner now, but check back tomorrow – I have a treat planned!