Living simply and naturally seems to be such a hard thing to do these days. It requires so much effort to rebuke the constant temptation of an overcomplicated life. I've spent the past few weeks in Europe starting with a visit to Croatia and it was the perfect trip to remind me of just how rewarding a simple life can be. I was invited by the Adriatic Luxury Hotel group to come to Dubrovnik and experience a bit of Croatian life. They have a collection of gorgeous properties that sprinkle along the Dalmatian coastline, an area that most are now familiar because of #khaleesi. But Croatia is so much more than that. It has an incredible history of being independent, strong, simple and beautiful and the people and lifestyle reflect that still today.
Much to my excitement, most of my experience of Croatian life revolved around the sea. We lived on it, swam in it, eat from it and sailed along it to discover it. The Adriatic has an incredibly high salt content. When I first took a dip my eyes burned! But after I ate a few meaty pieces of the best fish I've ever had in my life (and I don't even like fish usually) I realized that this part of the world is brimming with life. And by life I mean the Earth gives you everything you'll ever need to survive and thrive healthfully. Their approach to lifestyle and diet is so inspiring because it's so simple. It's the Mediterranean diet as pure as you can find it with a little dash of Slavic flavor.
I can sum it up in 3 words: Fish, olive oil, wine. Some of the worlds best olive oil comes from Croatia and the wine industry here is pushing for their delicious Plavac Mali variety to have its own section on wine lists around the world. Im not exaggerating when I say that every single morsel of food I consumed had come directly out of the sea that very moment. Sea Urchins were plucked from the rocks, cracked in front of us and eaten raw. Oysters that have been maturing for over 2 years were perfectly ready for our consumption from the dock 10 feet from our table. It was actually a fascinating study on what would happen to my body if I stopped working out, which I honestly didn't have time for, and just ate fresh clean food. I'm convinced this is the healthiest lifestyle you can ever find.
So what does the Adriatic Diet consist of?
- Fresh fish
- Oysters, Urchins, Lobster, Shrimp
- Olive oil
- Nuts (great source of fat and they use walnut to make a delicious type of Rakija)
- Fresh pasta, mostly Risotto with seafood
- Local cheeses
- Citrus fruits like lemon and orange
- Meat. Most of the Croatians I met didn't eat a lot of meat. They explained that this was because their fish is so meaty that it keeps them full and they don't need to rely on land animals to feel satiated. I rarely found it on the menu. There are also studies that say fish takes less time to digest than meat and is full of healthy minerals, the antioxidant Selenium, and fatty acids.
- Butter. Olive oil is used for everything from cooking to smearing all over fresh bread
- Heavy sauces. Herbs make up most of the seasoning here. We visited the family summer home of our host and they had the most fragrant Lemongrass bush in their backyard. Rosemary and things like capers add enough flavor to keep it light.
I'll be working on having an herb garden on my balcony maybe with basil, rosemary and thyme and looking into local Gulf fish to add to my diet. The fish feels lighter and oilier down here but I haven't given it much of a chance. Our host's family made use of every single thing that grew in the garden. Her mother also still went out to fish for her own food, specifically squid. If she has extra lemons it's made into Limoncello, rotting tomatoes are crushed into sauces and almonds from their backyard are candied and put out for a dash of sweetness.
Simplicity and life at its finest!