Although today’s post is about a very unique yet not very unique food, it’s going to be on the shorter end since it’s just about one food item, not an entire restaurant review like you’re used to on Mastication Monologues.
While I’ve tried my fair share of different types of Mediterranean cuisine, I encountered a new and strange entry to my encyclopedic knowledge of all things consumable. Janice and I were at Midsommar Fest in the Swedish Andersonville neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. While I was expecting plenty of classic Swedish foods such as meatballs, lutefisk, and ammonia chloride treated licorice, I instead was greeted with corn dogs, tacos, and gyros…kind of a negative effect of increased globalization, I think. However, one tent at the entrance made me come back after stuffing myself silly with free bags of sour gummi worms at the button booth. Their poster of a long word filled with lots of accent marks along with a pronunciation guide that included a famous Communist guerrilla fighter only drew me in further. Upon first examining the cooks’ setup, I could smell the smoke coming off the grill on the side that quickly enveloped us with a heady mix of general grilled meats and charred wood. I could somewhat see what the guys in front of me got. It was some sort of flatbread in tin foil where they put this mysterious red sauce on top. So, I got to the front of the line, and ordered one ćevapčići or “little kebab”. I asked the cook if this meal was Romanian based on the formation of the word, and he said it was Croatian. However, the Romanians do have their own version of it called mici which is why there was a tub of mustard there next to the red tub of mystery condiment. Apparently the Romanians like the meat without pita but with mustard and beer. The word “ćevapčići ” in Croatian breaks down into “ćevap“ or “kebab” originally from Persian and the Croatian diminutive suffix ” čići” which combines with the previous element to say “little kebabs”. So I bought one sandwich which translated into a two of these compact beef, pork, and lamb nuggets nestled into a grilled pita with the option of chopped onions put on by the cook. Obviously I said yes, and then I asked them what the sauce was? It was a red pepper and eggplant sauce called ajvar which was brought in from Serbian cooking. I gave my pita a good couple squirts from the pump, and I proceeded to down the kebab. It was unlike any other Mediterranean meat I’ve tried in a pita. They were slightly charred on the outside yet had a semi spicy seasoned crumbly interior. I think the chef got a little buck wild with the onion pieces, but I enjoyed the pepper sauce that was subtly sweet that complimented the dry meat. All of this was wrapped up in an extremely fresh and soft yet substantial pita. Thankfully I didn’t spill any of the red pepper sauce on me, but Janice was the unfortunate victim of a pepper attack. For once it wasn’t me! Poor girl though…
Anyway, long story short. If you ever have the chance to try a ćevapčići, I highly recommend it even if you won’t know how to pronounce it. I personally would still pick a gyro over it, but the pepper sauce brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the table that this xeno loves.
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