Tag Archives: Croatian

Croatian Bakalar Recipe

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. Bakalar is a traditional Croatian dish from the coastal region of Dalmatia that is served on Christmas Eve.


“Dried cod”


  • 2 pounds salted cod
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 slices lemon, rind removed
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 4 finely chopped cloves garlic
  • 1 large finely chopped onion (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

 What kind of dish is Bakalar?

MV: “Bakalar is a salted cod stew with potatoes that is always cooked and eaten on Christmas Eve. Bakalar, meaning ‘cod’ is the main ingredient. The cod must ferment for at least 2 days for all the favors to come out. Once the fish is cooked, other ingredients like onions, garlic, and olive oil are added to a large cooking pot where you have the potatoes. Then you add the cod to the cooking pot with the potatoes. You can adjust how much garlic or olive oil, depending on your preferences in taste. It’s important that you remove the bones from the fish before you add it to cook in the pot. Then you let everything simmer until you have a consistency that suits you. You also add salt, pepper, parsley, and more olive oil. You can never have too much olive oil.”

How did this dish become so popular on the Dalmatian Coast?

MV: “Well, your Dida (grandfather) told me that cod is not known in the Adriatic Sea so it has to be imported from areas that have cold waters. It has been said that the reason why we have Bakalar in Croatia is because the fisherman from Dalmatia were working on ships that were in the North Atlantic, who learned about this dish while they were away. When they came back to Croatia, they shared their experience with this dish and it became a staple in our cultural cuisine.”

Why do you like making and sharing this recipe?

MV: “It’s a delicious recipe that is pretty easy to make but it takes time to make. If you have the patience and the urge to try something new then it’s a great option. I have shared this recipe with my American friends and they found it to be very tasty.”

Who did you learn this recipe from?

MV: “I learned how to cook from both my parents growing up. I found cooking to be fascinating and relaxing, so as a young adult I picked up a lot of the recipes that my parents made, Bakalar being one of them. My mother taught me this specific recipe while I was probably 15 years old. She showed me step by step how to successfully make this into a stew.”

In what context is Bakalar usually cooked and eaten?

MV: “Bakalar is mostly eaten on Christmas Eve, but we also eat it on Easter and during Lent. Since we are Catholic and don’t eat meat on certain days of the year, Bakalar is the typical go-to dish on those holidays.”

What does this dish mean to you?      

MV: “Bakalar is a classic dish that is from our region and it brings back a lot of great memories while growing up. It is a dish that I love to cook and eat. I have enjoyed making and eating it over the years so much that now my kids have learned to make it. You really can’t go wrong with a great dish like this.”


Bakalar, a Croatian cod stew, is a staple of our Croatian culture. It is a main dish that we eat during Christmas Eve and other religious holidays as part of our fasting traditions. You will find Bakalar at almost, if not all Croatian social events or gatherings. This is a dish that brings our families and friends together because it is a dish that is universally loved and cherished by many.


Photo Credit: Croatia Week Magazine

Photo Credit: Croatia Week Magazine

“Idimi dođimi”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

“Idimi dođimi” “Coming and going” 

In the Croatian language, the “đ” in the word “dođimi” has a “j” sound like in English.

 Where or who did you learn this Croatian proverb from?

MV: “I learned it from my parents and heard it from other family members in Split, Croatia growing up. It is a very descriptive, common proverb that is used to describe a person who is not reliable or consistent in their work or character.

Do you like this proverb?

MV: “I do very much and it is very short, sweet, and to the point.”

Does it have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “I just have heard a lot of people in my family say it and it has stuck to me over the years. It’s meant to be used in a light manner; it’s not a serious critique of a person or situation. It is usually said in a light, joking way and it usually involves a little laughing so that’s why I like it and use it because it really isn’t a negative thing. It is just a light way to describe something and everybody who is from Split knows what it means.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “This proverb is generally used to describe a personality type, someone who is not that driven or career oriented. It can also be used loosely to describe someone who does not have a clear goal in sight. It can be said in situations that are frustrating to help relief the tension in a light way.”


In Croatia, there are many different types of proverbs that are used throughout the different regions of the country. However, each region has its own vernacular. “Idimi dođimi” is a classic Split proverb that is used casually to describe a person’s disposition or demeanor. It is meant to be used in a light-hearted and joking manner. Growing up listening to my mom say, “Idimi dođimi” was also a type of way my mother reminded me that there are going to be people ‘coming and going’ out of your life and not everyone is meant to stay. She would say that those who ‘come and go’ are the people who are temporary placed within my life.


“Mene musika nosi”

Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. This is a Croatian proverb that MV grew up with that she has passed down to her two daughters:

 “Mene musika nosi”

 “Music carries me”

Can you expand on the meaning of this proverb?

MV: “This is generally used for describing yourself or another person who is fairly upbeat most of the time, not much gets them down. They don’t let the burdens of everyday life get in the way of their happiness. Music also tends to make people happy so this proverb has a positive, happy connotation.”

Where or who did you learn this Croatian proverb from?

MV: “I learned it through growing up in a Croatian and Italian household with parents who immigrated from Europe. It’s part of my cultural heritage. We spoke Croatian in our household fluently as it was the primary language in our family and friends.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “This proverb is mainly used to describe a person disposition. To this day, it is pretty common to use, not so much with the younger generation, but mostly with the middle age generation and the elderly. It is a quintessential proverb from Split, which is on the Dalmatian Coast where the Adriatic Sea is. That region is where a proverb like is originated.”

So this Croatian proverb is mostly regional more so than a generalized proverb that is know throughout Croatia?

MV: “Exactly because there was an influx of different people in different areas of Croatia who don’t know the history of Split and don’t know the old dialect and the old proverbs. It’s a melting pot like many places in Europe and in the world today. A lot of that gets filtered away, so it really is quite a gift to be able to move this forward generationally to my children. Knowing that my daughters know the Croatian language, they will uphold these proverbs and other traditional aspects of our heritage and that they will continue to pass them on to their own children and even their friends as well.”

Do you think Croatians from other parts of the country would be able to relate or understand this proverb in particular since it is a proverb from Split?

MV: “I think they would understand it, but they would look at you like you are from another generation or era because of the Split dialect used in this proverb and also because throughout Croatia, there are different dialects depending on the region, so that can influence the ability to fully understand the meaning behind it. There are people of course that would understand it who are not from Split, but it is not used as readily as it was when I was a child, so that is why I made sure and still make sure that my kids understand it and carry it along with them.”

Does this Croatian proverb have any significant meaning to you?

MV: “I use it quite frequently actually. It was kind of a joke in our family for a while because there was a good family member who would always be happy really no matter the circumstance and we would always say about him, ‘Mene musika nosi.’ It is certainly a positive, optimistic proverb used to describe how you feel or a person’s disposition.

What kind of context would you use this proverb?

MV: “It could be something like if someone said, ‘Gosh, you are never down. Do you ever get upset?’ and the person would say, ‘Mene musika nosi,’which means that their general path in life is one of happiness as opposed to looking at life as the glass is half empty instead of half full. It is very comparable to that. It is a framework in which they view their life, but it’s not something that they think about, but more so how they live their everyday life.”


Music is a large part of our Croatian culture, which embodies positivity and self-expression. Croatia has maintained a vital musical culture since its independence in 1991 from the former Yugoslavia. “Mene musika nosi” is a classic proverb from the city of Split that my mother always uses. It is used as a reminder to never let the negative aspects of live interfere with the positive. It is a way at looking at life in the most optimistic way. Those who are content about how they live their life commonly use this proverb. It is a reminder to themselves and to others to not take life so seriously. I found it interesting how based on the regions and the different dialects that not everyone in Croatia will fully understand the meaning behind the proverb. Since the people of Split strictly use this proverb, people from other regions may not fully be able to relate to it.


“Picigin”-Croatian Water Sport

Informant FV is my grandfather who was born and raised in Split, Croatia. Picigin is a Croatian water sport that my grandfather played as a young boy and continues to play. It is a traditional ball game that is played in very shallow waters on the beaches of Croatia:


“Cold splash”

What kind of sport is Picigin?

FV: “Picigin is a typical water sport on the very shallow water up to 6 inches maximum. Usually 5 men get together in a circle formation. The goal is to keep the small ball up in the air and out of the water for as long as possible. Back in the day, people used to peel off the skin of tennis balls and use them in the game. In this game, the players never catch the ball. They only let the ball bounce off of the palm of their hand. You have to run and dive to save the ball from hitting the water. The longer you keep the ball up in the air, the more points you get.”

Is Picigin a competitive sport?

FV: “It can definitely get competitive depending who you are playing with, but typically it’s meant to be a fun and relaxing activity played on the beach.”

Where did Picigin originate?

FV: “Picigin originated on the beach of Bačvice in Split, Croatia back in the 1920’s. It was originally a sport played by only males, but over recent years, women have become part of the game.”

Do other regions of Croatia play Picigin?

FV: “Since Picigin was born on Bačvice Beach in Split, it is tradition to play it on the beach where it was discovered, but people do play this sport on other beaches as well but it must be only on flat, sandy beaches like Bačvice. It cannot be played on rocky or pebbled beaches because you cannot dive or fall into the water to save the ball. You can seriously injure yourself by not playing on a sandy beach.”

What is the typical garment worn during Picigin?

FV: “Well, men wear either swim shorts or ‘mudantine,’ which is what we call a speedo. For women, they wear their ‘kostim,’ which is their regular swimsuits.

What context or time of year is this sport played?

FV: “Picigin is played year round on Bačvice. It is very popular to play it during the hot summer months, but also during the winter season. You will see more people playing it during summer time because the water is warm and it’s vacation time.”

What does Picigin mean to you?

FV: “Picigin is one of my favorite sports to play. I grew up playing it with my friends every summer in Split on Bačvice. It is a sport that was discovered in my hometown so it holds a special place in my heart and it’s an extremely fun sport that anyone can learn to play.”


Picigin is a fun sporting activity that brings true uniqueness to the city of Split. As a large part of Split’s heritage, it has been recognized as a monument and is protected under UNESCO. The game has grown to be very popular over the years that there is an annual World Championship competition that is held on Bačvice beach every June. People from all over the world come to participate in the competition. The game has grown popular in other countries in recent years. The World Championship is a great way to bring other cultures together to share in this experience through a fun sport. Whether it is winter or summer, rain or shine, you can be sure that there are dedicated players playing an exciting game of picigin on Bačvice Beach.




“Živa istina!”

Informant AV is my grandmother, who was born and raised in Florence, Italy. She moved to Croatia as a young adult and speaks Croatian and Italian fluently. “Živa istina” is a phrase used in the Croatian culture when someone sneezes while speaking the truth. It solidifes that the truth is being spoken as the person sneezes:

Živa istina!”

“Truth alive!”

“The truth is alive!” or “The Living Truth!”

What kind of context is this phrase used in?

AV: “This phrase is used in the context of a spirited conversation where a person is trying to speak their truth about a very significant point. If a sneeze occurs while the person is making his or her point, then it is used as a substantiation of the truth.”

How did you learn about this phrase?

AV: “It’s a common phrased that has been used in my family for many many years.”

Does this phrase have any meaning to you?

AV: “Yes it does in that I say it ever time I or someone is trying to make a point in a conversation after they sneeze.”


This is a unique Croatian phrase that is used in cases where people are interacting with each other through discussion. It is believed that a sneeze during a conversation proved the truth of the statement.