Being sworn to secrecy means that my memoir has to be postponed for quite some time; hopefully, somewhere in my eighties i’ll be able to add names and places to some amazing stories…
I don’t care about retelling events which shaped the history – many witnessed them and most wrote about it, rightly or not; but there are small things, some amazing details i’d love to write down, yet can’t – at least for now.
I was both blessed and cursed to witness an amazing time – and as a minor figure, not being in the center of the events, yet still being present – i had the possibility to observe things which normally are hidden from the view of general public.
That being said, i need to add that i loved my job and highly respected the people i worked for; in the times i worked for the government – it had another dimension too, we were fighting for our country’s independence and for renewal of our identity, language and culture.
I quit my job three years ago, after our main goals were achieved – Montenegro regained its statehood and Euro-Atlantic integrations were set as the priority of our foreign policy – all i and everyone mine ever wanted for our country.
Of course, there is plenty of work to be done still, many internal changes and reforms are due, but the most important is done.
Somewhere around that time – i had received recognition for my writing and was offered the status of state endorsed writer – that meant i’d be covered health and pension funds, if i became a pro writer, not accepting any other work engagements.
Together with my former superior whom i hold in highest possible respect and with my family, we decided it’s for the best because diplomacy is not a job, it is a way of living and one can’t possibly be a diplomat in career and a surrealist; i know many were serving and writing – but history proves that inevitably one of the two suffered; either they didn’t conduct the foreign policies of their countries properly- or their writing became mediocre – hence i choose writing.
I must say that none of the two – if done properly – are neither easy nor fun, at least most of the times, i’ll go further to say that probably these are among most difficult vocations one can choose, especially during times of changes and – especially if one sticks to certain ethics and morals; truth to be told – most writers and diplomats still do.
Anyhow, all of the above is merely an intro into the current essay – see, a blogger i love following had asked me to share some recipes from Montenegrin cuisine.
The thing is that Montenegrin recipes are tricky – they seem simple, but the secret is in the ingredients which sadly are not available abroad…
Common entrée would be a piece of Njegushi cheese stored in oil – let alone that goats and cows are fed freely on the nearest valley on herbs and grass typical of this region, the cheese is later smoked at home and Njegushi is unique for its blend of sea-air with the air from the mountains, two climates intersecting in that very spot give the food a taste that’s impossible to second.
After the cheese is imbued with this unique aroma – it’s stored in olive oil and that’s a story unto itself, because the oil is hand made by monks in the monasteries on the coast; at the end you get a a small piece of cheese that’s threaded with history of this magical kingdom of Black Mountains, served merely to accompany the story of Petrovic Njegos dynasty and their tribe of Njegusi, where most important Montenegrin rulers were born; the monks, while making the oil – read prayers and these prayers give you the strength of a tiny rebellious nation, which resisted its numerous oppressors for centuries and was never enslaved.
The main dish served would be carp baked with dried plums – the carp being from Skadar Lake and of endemic species, unique due to its development in biological and geographical isolation…
With it Montengrins drink their favorite brandy – Prvijenac which again is made by unique technologies, in limited quantities, is pricey and comes in numbered bottles, like a part of a collection – which basically it is.
There is that joke – the proverbial Russian, American and Montenegrin argued whose beverage is the best and , as expected, without having agreed –
had decided to conduct an experiment; a group of mice would be treated to Whiskey, Vodka and Prvijenac respectively and the effects would be observed and recorded.
The mouse who had Whiskey started walking around nonchalantly, with a seductive aura of a western-movie actor, he demanded his own Colt to protect the mice maidens and after a while rode into the sunset.
The mouse who had Vodka started quoting Russian Classics and despairing over the current state of the world’s affairs, lady mice were admiring him while silently wiping off tears with tiny handkerchiefs and praying that this hero wins the duel against the usual bad guy.
The mouse who drank of Montenegrin Prvijenac just stood there… Of course, Russian guy and American guy started mocking their friend of how useless his beverage was, but Montenegrin laughed and said: hold on…
After some time, the mouse high on Prvijenac stood on his back paws and yelled out in a human voice which carried menace of vengeance high and low: Women, back to the hole, you have no business here! Where is the bloody cat?! I’ll do it away with my bare hands! ‘Nuff of this oppression! Come out, you villain, fight as a man!
You get an idea…
For my mother’s birthday last Sunday i ended up making international dishes, after all, one can’t live on a diet consisting of history and myths alone, so eggplant&parmigiano, fish and veggies au gratin and Chinese ‘marble eggs’ were served :
And as per the Carp with dried plums: i was interpreting at the time at an official dinner which our first guy hosted for a foreign counterpart of his; now the high state official in question is known for his charisma which is surpassed by few- among those few who do surpass him in charm and popularity being – his own spouse, a classy, powerful lady with great public standing of her own. (Think of our counterpart of Bill and Hillary Clinton.)
So, as the casual conversation after the row of successful meetings goes on, the majordomo in elegant moves escorts in the waiters who are serving the national dish – carp with dried plums; the 1st guy uses the opportunity to say more about this delicacy to his guests and starts explaining the somewhat complicated technology of its preparation… The first lady, as she is snacking on the above mentioned delicious carp, in low yet chilling voice adds in our language: ‘Funny, darling, at home you don’t know how to cut a piece of bread, yet here you turn out to be a connoisseur …”
(For the record, the couple is known for keeping it down to earth and living like ordinary people, without bodyguards, servants and so on, which, of course, makes them even more respectable – and popular with the people.)
Montenegrins at the table start laughing histerically, while the 1st guys looks at me and, smilingly, asks: It’s not that you are going to translate this?
Of course i did.