I want to take you back in time and share my memories about the local traditional Christmas Eve meal of bakalar, without a doubt the only menu served in the majority of homes on the Dalmatian coast. The dish comes from a dried North Sea fish and has the appearance of a prehistoric creature with a gaping mouth.
As a child, I watched in amazement as my mother began to prepare the dish by soaking the fish for three days, changing the water often. She would then would take a pair of very strong pliers and remove the skin, cut the still very hard fish into smaller pieces with a small hacksaw and then put the pieces into a very large pot of boiling water to cook for many hours. As she began to add potato pieces, massive amounts of garlic and olive oil, the pungent odor wafted through the entire house. The neighbors would often inquire if there was some type of dead animal in the basement and the smell would linger for days.
This Christmas Eve meal was one of my brother’s favorites and he always told me if I could get it past my nose, it was delicious. It was only last year that I finally gathered the courage to try it. What a surprise when I realized he had been telling me the truth! This year we enjoyed the traditional meal, the easy way…take out from a local Konaba.
For years, the family has enjoyed the Christmas Eve story of my brother Walt and his wife Dottie attending midnight mass. She could hardly contain the laughter as she told the tale. Seems there was some type of bad aroma nearby and she assumed it was someone suffering from body odor. It was not until later that she realized it was the smell of garlic and the bakalar emanating from my brother. Perhaps the moral of the story is not to eat prior to attending midnight mass, especially when the dish if flavored with tons of garlic.
Sretan Nova Godina (Happy New Year)