Mišancija [mishantziya]

February 14, 2018

When I was a kid, I was the first one to wake up. I couldn’t wait for the sun to show up, to run outside and dive into the magic which was all around me. I walked barefoot, wandered through the hills, went skinny-dipping; I was happy, wild and free. I was picking wild fruits from the bushes, eating whatever the season would bring – wild figs and peaches, and blackberries; licking honey from the hives, without fear of scratches and stings…I used to bring home all kinds of wild herbs which granny Luca would cook. Dock, goat’s beard, fennel, dandelion, shallots…bitter, zesty, spicy plants which can grow only around the edges of a forest. All of it wild and organic (when organic wasn’t even a word!), untamed by the sweet taste of consumerism and horticulture…
Luca would then get to work – wash the plants, add two potatoes and cook it al dente. She would sprinkle it with olive oil, add garlic and salt, and some of the water all of it had been cooked in. The meal was ready. The fishermen and the peasants from Mandalina near Šibenik knew it very well. The unique taste of mišancija is in the unusual sweetness of bitterness. It has marked my life forever…
I found it again twenty years later, upon returning home from the world. I have been revealing variations of this flavour to my guests ever since. Some try to reproduce it at home – in Austria, Holland, in the States, but without success. They ask me why. I tell them – it’s impossible to transfer Dalmatian stone, soil and forest where these plants grow. It’s impossible to transfer this climate, sun and coastal wind that caress it…If you drop just one note from a staff, the composition will never be the same.