Crikvenica and its ties to blue fish by Darko Baretić Barba

more than a year ago

If by any chance you find yourself, say on a Friday at our fish market, you will surely notice the largest cue at the stands selling fresh sardines and anchovies. And it is these species of blue fish that is sold the most, both because it is rather cheap and foremost extremely healthy. In saying that, even if small blue fish such as sardines are known to catch the eye; it is topple, whitefish, bream or grouper that is still highly sought after. Hence, it would seem that people survive on blue fish, whilst dreaming of having white fish and for that matter, large tasty portions of it. To put it mildly, this is a somewhat unfair attitude towards a category of fish that has in the past nurtured and raised our entire coastline.

Darko Baretić Barba decided to change that and restore the dignity of blue fish, popularising it the way it deserves. And he is one person who can rightfully do so because not only is he a food blogger, a critic of fine gastronomy and wine, a hedonist and a man who knows every corner of per excellence taverns and restaurants of the Primorje and Kvarner region and beyond, but he is also a child of Crikvenica. He grew up in a time when fleets and the shipment of blue fish around Crikvenica, together with those from Kali, were the largest of all Adriatic ports on the Croatian side of the coast. His cookbook on bluefish, ‘The Blondes Without Bones’ is a great and worthy tribute to harvesting blue fish after which Crikvenica is widely known.

Apart from being a story of a man’s childhood and history, it is also a story about the present and the bright future ahead; just as Darko Baretić had returned with pictures and words to his roots, but in a little more modern way. In his cookbook, an anchovy is cut into fillets; burgers and moussaka are made of blue fish, only to show in which directions a recipe with blue fish can and should go. Nevertheless, one ought to start from the beginning, from asking why books exist at all. And then there is the PŠRD Association called ‘Arbun’ from Crikvenica who, to mark their 65 years of existence requested to write a cookbook instead of a biography depicting their history. And naturally, Baretić was the logical choice for the author. ‘When you get to a certain age, say 60, you’ve got to do something for the common good. You need to give something back to your homeland, society, and community’, says Baretić.

He wanted, like he said, to repay and pay respects to the people of his hometown, recall his childhood when children from the Crikvenica promenade would jump into the sea filled with blue fish in full fishing nets. Crikvenica ‘kids’ jumped in the 1950s on seiner and trawlers, on those 18 anchored ships that were tied to the port. The catch of small blue fish was a main source of income, just as blue fish were the main ingredient for Crikvenica inhabitants who cooked in many and various imaginative ways. Primorje inhabitants who lived along the sea have been raised on blue fish, explains Barba.


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