Friday, July 14, 2017

Eating (Fresh) Pea Soup in Croatia. . . . A Special Evening

You might remember that while in Croatia, we spent a few days in Split with our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter who live in Rome, but flew over so we could all hang out.  Our time there was governed largely by the soon-to-be-Three (at my Happy Birthday, I going be Free, Nana!): If she wanted to go to the beach, why not go to the beach?; if she wanted to find a playground, there was generally one along the way, so that we could manage both a stroll to and through Diocletian's Palace and spend fifteen minutes moving from slide ladder to slide bottom to teeter-totter to swing. . .

Wandering through Diocletian's Palace, we marvelled that this 4th-century building -- as much fortress as residence, clearly, is still being used today, housing shops and restaurants, and comprising a good chunk of old-city Split

Naps were generally more hope than reality, but she would catch a few winks when being carted by her very patient (and strong!) Mama and Papa. And while she's not one for sitting still, we managed dinners at restaurants, in large part because Croatians are almost as charmed by children as Italians are, and because her folks, like so many parents, have a few food-ordering tricks up their sleeves.

Yep, still in Diocletian's palace. Can you spot my four ahead?


But our second night in Split, we miscalculated in our late afternoon ambling, and all of a sudden, it was 7:00, we were in the very pleasant, well-touristed area of Diocletian's Palace, and we agreed the restaurants there weren't the best for visiting with a very active kid. We had in mind a place we'd passed the previous evening, and we decided we'd aim in that direction for an 8:00 arrival.  Indeed, we pulled up in front of the restaurant about 8:15, Little Girl running off immediately to the playground just across the lane, the rest of us happy to see there was a table just adjacent to that playground. The table wasn't set yet, but surely we could prevail on our server to make it available, if only to keep the active kid out of his path. . . .

It would have been perfect, but sadly, the only work the server was doing, standing in front of the restaurant, was advising hopeful diners that "Something had happened in the kitchen," and there would be no meals coming out of it that evening.

Yikes!

Okay, so now it's 8:15, and by the time we pull The Active One away from the swing set it's almost 8:30, and although she hasn't registered hunger yet, we suspect that when she does, the need will be conveyed loudly, perhaps even vehemently. . . . And we've moved past the most obvious cluster of likely spots . . .

Luckily, we quickly come up with a Plan B, a restaurant closer to our temporary home, considerably more upscale and hence one that we were "saving" for the following evening, perhaps even one Nana and Granddad might have sent the recent newlyweds off to, keeping Little Girl home with us -- Restoran Dvor, which features a series of terraces working their way down alongside the path to the sea, each terrace dotted with settings of attractive white tables and lacy white chairs.

A well-dressed, well-behaved assortment of diners were settling in o their meals, a pleasant, convivial buzz of happy conversation, the irregular metallic percussion of cutlery on china, the occasional clinking of crystal all mixing with sounds from swimmers and Picigin-players on the beach below. There were a few young children, so Frankie didn't seem out of place, and she sat for a minute or two at her own seat, then scooted over to nestle on her mom's lap.

That didn't last too long, but first Nana, then Granddad, took her for a stroll down the path to the beach, and back up. (She squawked, squealed a bit, in protest at being taken away from Mama and Papa, but both Granddad and I know how to move quickly and explain firmly and distract convincingly. . . and then the lure of the beach . . . )

Back at our table, her next diversion was clambering from her chair to rustle the stones from the gravel carpeting the terrace. Throwing them was quickly declared a no-no, and that was a big disappointment (I began to understand why my daughter isn't a fan of eating out with this girl, but on the other hand, none of the other diners seemed to notice and our server struck up a parent-to-parent talk, comparing notes on Twos and Fours).  When Nana found a fine-tip marker in her bag, many, many small rocks were given primitive faces. . .

and we acted out little plays with the rock puppets. And we hoped that food would arrive before she got too fractious.

The food that arrived first, though, was my bowl of deliriously green soup adorned by pea sprouts dancing atop a soft egg. So much there to trigger a Child's skepticism.  Quite hot, as well, so before I offered her a spoonful, we played up the drama of blowing to cool it down. Then carefully moving the spoon to her lips, I watched her tentatively sip a tiny portion, then wrap her mouth around the bowl of the spoon to swallow the rest with a contended sigh. "Peas," she surprised me by declaring. I hadn't said what kind of soup it was, but the bright taste of the fresh vegetables obviously spoke for itself.

After that first spoonful, I could barely manage to get in a slurp or two before getting her next cooled-down mouthful ready. At one point, she said quite firmly, "Basta, Nana, basta." (Have I mentioned she's well on her way to bilingualism?) I thought she was telling me she'd had enough, but no, apparently -- as I found when I directed the next spoonful toward my gullet, this baby bird was telling her feeder that Nana had had enough. Leave the rest for Hungry Girl. . .

We lingered for another hour or two that evening, enjoying a beautiful bottle of Croatian red, and then a second.  Delicious course followed delicious course as the full moon rose in the sky, emerging from behind one tree, crossing over to hide behind another. Swallows swooped, hurling their fierce insect-eating cries all 'round us, and bats darted their dark ghosts through the twilight skies. We planned future visits and celebrated how much we'd enjoyed this one. And finally, Papa hoisted Little Girl against his chest and we wandered up the hill, and home. . . .

One of those memorable meals you tuck away, think about happily when distance rudely wedges itself between you and your loved ones.

And back at home, remembering that meal, I decided that I wanted to recreate that pea soup. Pater and I shared my first attempt last week, and we both agree that it was a success. I'll have to try it out on the grandkids here, to see if they like it as much as their Italian cousin, and I'm still playing a bit with recipes. But next week, I'll share the simple instructions I followed for my first batch, along with some serving suggestions and an idea for using up any leftovers.

And here we are, bottom of the page, so it must be comments time. Memorable meals in faraway places? Or eating out, with kids or grandkids? Or memories of Split, if you've been? Three-generation outings? Fresh pea soups you have known? Or just a wave, to let me know you were here. . . Always happy to hear from you. (oh, but may I just say -- if you comment at the Bloglovin' site, I may not see your comment and I'm very unlikely to respond to it. I'd much prefer that you click through to my actual website, if you don't mind)



40 comments:

  1. Sounds positively idyllic! Croatia has long been on our list of places to visit, and I think I'll be moving it up a few notches now.
    Fresh pea soup --albeit made from frozen peas mot of the year -- is one of our favorites, both for its vibrant color and intense flavor. So simple, yet always elegant.

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    1. That's exactly what it is, Adele. Simple, yet elegant.
      And yes, I heartily recommend getting to Croatia. So much more to see than what we managed, but what we did see was wonderful.

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  2. Although it is close to home, meaning my Maine home, one of most memorable meals was at Nico's Italian restaurant...grilled,enormous shrimp on pasta dripping in garlic and oil. I actually dream about this dinner! Have travelled a good deal, live in a city with fantastic food served in thousands of places, but that really stands out. The North End in Boston, where Italian everything reigns, is it for me.
    Dining with small children is a challenge. The most I can managed without losing my marbles is cake and tea after school with my godchild of 7.
    Sounds like the magically produced marker used to create faces-clever- saved the day!!
    Croatia,in your telling, and the blog post I read by an Australia blogger today,(about her recent trip to an island there), has me completely enchanted.
    Then again, because of your photos, Vancouver is enchanting me just as much.
    A.in London

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    1. Even better, if you've got somewhere close to home that makes food you dream of! Impressive that it holds its own against what you can enjoy in London.
      What's the Australian blog's title, if you don't mind? I'm curious to read that post.

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  3. I must say that Croatia is not on my "go there" list, but you make it sound so inviting, so... comfortable. And, too, pea soup has never been high on my culinary list, but your description - and the Grand's reaction, I can just hear her sigh of "peas!" - make me want to try my hand at a batch.
    Wonderful photos. And that Palace! Wow.

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    1. We found Croatia very easy to like, although I would imagine that the coastal areas might be overwhelmed by tourists in the high season.
      Fresh pea soup is so completely different from the split pea soup I'm used to making in colder months. . .

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  4. Croatia is on my very long places-to-visit-one-day list. You make it sound enchanting. Memorable meal - one that comes to mind took place in Vancouver, at the now-gone Cannery Restaurant. Sea scallops in a creamy sauce are all I remember of the food, but the views were amazing and the two of us made up stories about Pogo and Pogo II, tugboats big and little, moored just below us.
    You all did a masterful job of entertaining Frankie. Amazing to think of the history there.

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    1. Ah, The Cannery. . . Fond memories as well. Those were the days, weren't they? There weren't too many stand-out restaurants in Vancouver, and that was one of them. Wish we still had something so nicely focused on seafood...

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  5. Such a wonderful story Frances! Yes,it sounds entchanting (and actually I know that it is :-))-I want to go there immediately!
    Split is one of my favourite cities (and you've the perfect timing-during July and August there are too many people and it is to hot,and right now there is Ultra festival),two of my best friends (one unfortunately late) from med school were from Split,so I've spent a lot of time there
    And your weekend with the charming little italian girl-amazing!
    Especially stealing her pea soup!
    Dottoressa

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    1. Wait a second! It was my soup! (I know you're teasing me ;-)

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  6. What a wonderful story. It brings back memories of a crazed day in Mexico visiting the grandparents when we got off schedule due to the electricity failing. All the restaurants in the part of town (Morelia) that still had power were full except for the most elegant and expensive so there we were with a three and a seven who both had food allergies. The kitchen and staff could not have been nicer trying to understand our Spanish, and they even took the boys off to see the kitchen. It was a beautiful night in the mountains and a great meal. The power even came back on the next morning in time for breakfast.

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    1. Now that's a memorable meal story! To me, the most elegant and expensive restaurants take themselves a notch higher when they can offer gracious hospitality to all. (Reminds me of arriving at a gorgeous, high-end restaurant in Montreal's old-city after walking an hour or so through a snowfall, shaking of snow, embarrassed a bit by my clunky boots, my failure to have dressed up for the elegant room, but really wanting comfort. And being received as warmly as if I'd been dressed for a board meeting or a client lunch. . .
      I would imagine your Seven remembers this as well. Lovely story.

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  7. That was a lovely description of a few hours in Split . We had a couple of great holidays in Croatia many years ago & took my ten year old nephew there on his first holiday abroad . His son will be ten next birthday , so it was quite a few years ago . Regarding holiday meals , I remember one that was memorable . We were touring Oregon & Washington states about thirty years ago , having visited The San Juan Islands , we arrived in a little place called Twisp one evening to find it closed . The one little diner wasn't open & we ended up late at night at an empty , just about to close , Macdonalds . I explained I didn't eat meat but there were only burgers on the menu . The lady was very kind & offered me a full breakfast , so late that night I had juice , cereal then eggs followed by toast , jelly & plenty of coffee . I had not been in a Macdonalds before & I haven't been in one since but I was very grateful for that late breakfast .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Bravo for MacDonalds -- I don't think they often go off-menu anymore, so bravo to that kind woman (and to the manager who must have allowed some latitude).
      Isn't that something, how the years roll 'round and the nieces' and nephews' kids get to the ages we remember the nieces and nephews at?!

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  8. Lovely to read and enjoy vicariously. I just came back from 2 1/2 weeks in Belgium, Amsterdam and London. I had three scrumptious versions of fish soup in Belgium and on our bike/barge trip and am determined to work out my own version. I've already found a 20 step french recipe, a Julia Child version and a quicker immersion blender one that I will try first. Bon appetit!

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    1. I'd be curious to know how close you get to the versions you enjoyed while away. For me, that's sometimes a way of folding the time way into my life back home, extending the trip.
      I don't yet have an immersion blender, but it keeps seeming like a good idea, so much less fuss than pouring a hot mass into my blending and then back again when puréed. Have fun taste-testing!

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  9. Your post reminded me of a memorable meal in a local Chinese restaurant when I was caring for a friend's three children (the youngest also almost "free"). The children had been at the restaurant several times before with their parents, and the staff eyed me with suspicion when we first arrived. (Did they think I might be foolish enough to kidnap three children?!)

    I knew the three were adventurous eaters, but was surprised when they dug into the whole rockfish with delight, the youngest chanting "more, more" when I fell behind in my re-filling her plate. We devoured the fish and much more, leaving rice strewn about the table and floor, thanks to the enthusiasm and lack of skill of the almost three year old. The staff beamed with approval throughout. One of the most enjoyable meals I've had!

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    1. How good a friend you must be to take three small children out for dinner on your own! That sounds like a wonderful evening for all concerned -- don't you love to see kids with eager palates! And I'm always delighted to see restaurant staff recognise that children are their future customers -- or even just to enjoy their presence for its own sake (I must say, this always seems to be the case in Italy, in my limited experience)

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  10. My most memorable meal....easy. I was maybe ten and my mother was in the hospital. These were the days when fathers did not go near the kitchen. Yes I'm that old. He made rice pudding. It was backed in the oven and burnt. I ate every bit and told him how good it was. He had never cooked a whole meal before...l was so proud of him. You can tell that I was a daddy's girl....

    Ali

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    1. Oh, that's a sweet, sweet story. I was a daddy's girl as well (although mine cooked professionally, so had no problem stepping up at home).
      Did your dad go on to build on his culinary success? ;-)

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  11. Hello Frances
    The name of the blog is stylingyou .com. au and the post is ten things to do on a Croatian island, or something close to that.
    Happy weekend.
    A.in London

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    1. Thanks! I'll check it out. We want to get to a Croatian island next visit.

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  12. Such beautiful description, Frances. Your words brought back a rush of memories of meals of the kind you describe, where the evening lengthens; the second bottle of wine is opened. When my nieces and nephew were small, there was often the challenge of keeping everyone entertained. We would do as you do, and take restless children out and away to distract them, and then bring them back to include them again. My parents took we four children out to all sorts of restaurants, from diner to upscale, where we were expected to enjoy the food and the conversation. My mom instilled that in us. It makes me smile to remember the ways she did that with us at home. We ate with cloth napkins and napkin rings. We were asked to come to the table with a topic to discuss. My brother still might be in possession of a spoonful of peas he was threatening to launch across the dinner table, but we usually did well. As a result, we grew up to enjoy long, slow meals with good conversation. I love meals where both the food and the conversation are savored. It is particularly lovely to do in a beautiful place with people one loves. (In my head is the clinking of glasses, plates, flatware; the murmur of voices; a laugh here and there. I love the peace that comes with that.)

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    1. Wasn't your mother wise?! There's a lovely line in How Green Was My Valley that suggests there's no conversation as good as the happy sound of forks and knives, but personally, I'm like you, loving meals where both can be savoured.

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  13. Such a wonderful story, and what happy memories you will all have to savor and share. Now I am yearning for fresh pea soup, but it is long past pea season here, in fact the Farmer's Market opened past pea season as well. I am reminded my old pea patch, those first peas, and lovely soup. Sigh...

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    1. I'll admit that the soup I made used frozen -- but peas come so early in the season that Farmers' Markets are often not up and running yet, and of course there's little point hoping for much from any podded peas you might buy at the grocery store. Yes, those personal pea patches, I miss mine too. . .

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  14. I remember Split from a trip I took with my family (my parents, my sister and a great-aunt) in April of 1968. Just like you, we first went to Venice. Then we took the road all the way along the coast. There was no motorway at the time, the road was pretty narrow with many bends and there were quite a few wrecked cars rusting away on the cliffs down to the sea…
    The trip from Venice to Split took us three days. The first night we spent in Rijeka, in a big old hotel. The building was a fin-de-siècle affair, and the hotel served as a school for future restaurant and hotel staff. As it was very early in the year, we were the only guests, dining at one table in the middle of a huge dining room, while about twenty young waiters-to-be were lined up against the wall. Whenever any of us so much as looked at them, the first in line would rush over to ask what they could do for us. I also remember that my great-aunt ordered lobster, and how impressed I was by the enormous animal that was brought in on a plate - the only lobster I have ever seen in real life. It was served without any other instruments than a knife and a fork, but my great-aunt was completely unperturbed and proceeded to consume her dinner looking as composed and elegant as always.
    Zadar was our next stop. Our hotel was half a block away from the central square (Narodny trg) which has very special acoustics. The voices of the people talking in the square (on a mild spring evening) mingled into one humming sound which seemed to hover above the roofs.
    Of Split I remember the palace and how I could not believe at the time that this huge complex had once been built for the purposes of one person only.
    (There are more stories related to that trip, and to my great-aunt, too, but I think this is enough for now.)

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    1. Wonderful, wonderful description of travels through a very different Croatia -- and that image of your elegant great-aunt working her way through that lobster!
      We meant to get to Zadar and then ran out of hours. I wonder if that square still has the same special acoustics. I'd love to experience that.

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  15. I'm pretty sure, on my death bed, I'll be thinking of the fantastic meals I've eaten...

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    1. Right? (and one of them was in DeKas, right?)

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  16. Leslie in OregonJuly 15, 2017 at 7:50 PM

    Two memorable meals in faraway places come to mind. Both were homemade and eaten with the family that had prepared them. The first centered was a feast of just-caught crayfish that was eaten at a Norwegian family's lakeside table in central Norway very late on a Midsomer's Eve. The second was my first meal of (cheese) fondue (with bread and wine), cooked over a campfire at my Swiss host family's summer-long campsite near Lake Neuchâtel. Thanks for asking and giving me the pleasure of recalling these very special evenings.

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    1. Oh, you've been very lucky. Both of those sound magical -- thank you for sharing them with us.

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  17. Lucky you, all round. Pea soup. Croatia. Some years ago we went on holiday with friends to Sicily and decided to have lunch in a family-run and entirely non-descript restaurant that had been recommended. They were not at all fazed by the arrival of 11 people and simply pulled all the tables together and produced astounding food that was being cooked in the small kitchen by granny. As I was the one doing the talking, they took me into the kitchen to meet her and to show me what was on offer. Although we were tired from a very early start, we did the meal full justice. We still say: do you remember Giovanni's? And look wistful.

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    1. The kind of place that doesn't worry too much about design and decoration, but prides itself on hospitality and really good food? That's the treasure I look for, although I'm not averse to some fancy-fancy thrown in from time to time.

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  18. Hi Frances, glad this tale had a happy ending! I've had many similar evenings with my children when they were younger ... somehow impromptu meals often don't go as planned. Drawing faces on pebbles then acting out a story ...inspired! I imagine "soon to be free" loved it!
    Split and Dubrovnik are on my ever expanding list of places to visit ... hopefully before too long :) think I need to add Zagreb too ...
    At the moment I'm in a beautiful village in Cornwall ... house by the water ...with a balcony! Just perfect :) to think, initially I was happy to let hubby come on his own as I was desperate to spend some time at home and just relax but as I said on Sues blog ...hey I can chill here too .... and with amazing views! (Having some "techy" problems, hence anonymous.)
    Take care Frances and have a great week.
    Rosie

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    1. I haven't been to Cornwall yet, but it's a place I would love to get to -- if only to check out the haunts of artists at St. Ives. I know what you mean about the toss-up between staying at home or relaxing elsewhere, but it sounds as if you have landed well. Enjoy!

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  19. Hoping for soup
    Recipe in due course xxxxx

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    1. That post will be up tomorrow morning, Lib. Hope you enjoy it.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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