Last night’s dinner consisted of ćevapčići (pronounced, as best as I can determine, “chevopcheche”), sliced purple onion, and sliced tomatoes. I made the ćevapčići from a pound of 80/20 ground beef, one-third of a cup of lukewarm water, and a package of ćevapčići mix. The ćevapčići  mix was probably well past its “use by” date, inasmuch as we bought it more than a year ago at a Serbian-owned auto shop/car wash/convenience store on the west side of Hot Springs. Its age, though, did not detract from the flavor. I learned from the director of pari mutuel betting for Oak Lawn Racetrack in Hot Springs that the business sells Balkan foodstuff. I met the Oak Lawn woman through a fellow writer, who suggested he and I write about her history; she was born in the former Yugoslavia and immigrated to the U.S. when she was about eight years old. She’s fifty-three or fifty-four now. But she is not what this post is about. It’s about ćevapčići.

When my wife and I visited the business a year (or more) ago, we were intrigued by the packaged foods and we bought several things. Only recently did we realize we had let them sit in the pantry, unused and unappreciated. So we decided to take action. Hence last night’s dinner. I admit that I was prompted to take action by the fact that the package of ćevapčići mix was made in Croatia, a place we’ll be visiting (me for the second time, my wife for the first) within the next few months. Anyway…

I made ćevapčići sticks, using beef. I cooked them on top of the stove, in a skillet. I would have preferred to have grilled them, but for many reasons I won’t get into here, I couldn’t. Dammit! Dammit to hell! Ach! Well, that’s history now.

I cooked the “sticks” as best I could, then we ate them. I was expecting fast food quality. I got seriously tasty quality, not at all reminiscent of fast food. Damn, it was tasty!

The fact that I used a packaged mix was bothersome, to me. So, next time, I’ll prepare the spices myself. Assuming I can find them and can combine them in appropriate fashion.

Ethnic foods impress me. I find the accomplishments of other cultures to be both inspiring and fascinating. And impressive in the extreme. That’s why I attempt to emulate them. At least that’s part of it. There must be something else. I suspect the fact that other cultures are not so damn arrogant and self-important has a little something to do with it.

I try to love everyone and everything. I fail miserably. But I think my endeavor is an admirable goal. I hope you succeed where I have failed.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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