I’ve revised this a little and changed the title:
We’ve been in Belgrade nearly two weeks now. We needed a few essentials like oil, pepper, soap etc and so we went looking for a big supermarket. There are minimarts on all the corners but it took us three attempts to find a big supermarket, although I suppose that’s not too surprising as we’re in the central downtown area.
We’ve also been to the big Zeleni Venac market several times, which is heaps of fun. The vegetable selection is not extensive – red peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes and bunches of carrot and parsnip for soup. But it is abundant, incredibly cheap and of very good quality. It is also almost exclusively Serbian, or at most, from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. They’re just as into their ‘local’ provenance as we are, with lots of chalked up signs promoting Leskovac peppers or cucumbers from Ub.
Interestingly, and in contrast to UK supermarkets, the supermarkets here offer the same selection of veggies as do the outdoor markets. There don’t appear to be any imported vegetables at all and so they really are operating in line with the seasons.
Seasonality seems to be the modus operandi in Serbia. The first time we went to Zeleni Venac, I wanted spring onions but, as The Man pointed out, there weren’t any because it’s not spring. Later that week, at a restaurant the waiter told us that saurkraut wasn’t available because it’s not the right time yet.
The Man and I were talking about what, then, would be available during winter. Would there be nearly 5 months of nothing but swede? It certainly makes me think about the amount of consumer choice I’ve taken for granted. To overcome the swede problem, many cultures pickle, bottle or otherwise preserve fresh food in summer for long winters and it’s still a relatively common practice in Serbia, particularly outside the big cities, to prepare a well-stocked larder.
Stay tuned for the next installment on the seasons in Serbia about ‘zimnice’, winter preserves.