This is another one of those tidbits that slipped through the cracks and I forgot to write about while on my jaunt through the Balkans. Basically, it’s this: You walk in to a restaurant anywhere in former Yugoslavia and you see Tomato Salad on the menu. You think, “Well, that would be nice. It’s hot out. A nice mix of tomatoes and greens would be good.” Ah, but you when you get it, you see one half or maybe one whole tomato sliced and set on a plate. You are disappointed.
So, what the hell is this? Basically, it’s the Balkan idea of what a salad should be, which is a great deal different than what the French, Spanish, or Italian idea of what a salad should be. This concept of salad we have inherited in the US and is what we expect when we see salad. But this does not get translated. It’s like they took the idea of an Italian mozzarella plate and just handily left out the cheese, basil, and olive oil. It is pretty bad and pretty lame, because you’ll pay something like two dollars for this “salad”. People there know this and it’s just something of a side dish. The real issue is that they call it a salad, but then again, who would order, “one sliced tomato on a plate”, if that’s what they saw in English?
So, what are the alternatives if you want to have an actual salad? One word: šopska (shopska). It is a badassed salad with cheese that is similar to feta, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and sometimes olive oil with other spices. It is simple. It is good. It is a meal. It is often not much more than the, ‘tomato salad’. The best one I had was in Novi Sad, Serbia at a traditional restaurant, but they do it everywhere in the region, although sometimes it is called a Serbian Salad. Don’t be scared of the name though. Try it, you’ll like it.