Mussels a monument



There is one black mollusc that has marked the town and bay and which today is certainly part of its gastronomic brand. We are talking about Šibenik, Šibenik Bay and mussels.
Pidoća, dagnja, mušula, pizdica…the various names mussels are known as from the south and north from Šibenik. However, mussels in Šibenik are not only a food.  For a long time they have been an integral part of Šibenik’s way of life by the sea as each time you would go for a bath in the Jadrija or in St. Anthony’s Channel, until the end of 1970s, that included swimming, a bit of diving and taking mussels from the sea. It also involved a lot of happiness when you came home with a bag full of mussels.
The south-eastern coasts of Zlarin and Lupac were always a golden mine for this simple and modest, but irresistible food. On the islet of Lupac located between Zlarin and Prvić you do not even have to dive as its coastline is shallow. You just need to step into the water above your knees, get wet under your elbow and draw, draw…and then come home with tasty package and – not that tasty, a red sunburnt back...
The fact that mussels in Šibenik’s waters grow three to five times faster then anywhere else has been used by cultivators. That is why now a rather large number of pergolars (type of rope used for the cultivation of mussels) can be noticed towards Šibenik bridge and further down the canyon, towards Prukljan. Whilst Šibenik did not have a collector for liquid waste, the custom of drawing "wild" mussels for eating has almost disappeared, but they have always been drawn and used as bait. There is no sweeter bait for fish than a fresh, carefully cleaned (without breaking the muscle!) mussel. Since the sea in the port and in St. Anthony’s Channel is clean, even the custom of drawing "wild" mussels has reappeared.
One of the excellent connoisseurs of every undersea centimetre in the channel and port is the academy sculptor, Aleksandar Guberina – a passionate fisherman who uses a fish spear and light.
-Since the collector has been functioning, they have multiplied tremendously! Recently I was given a bag of wild mussels – they were perfect!
Ali’s answer to the question how he prepares them was rather interesting.
-On the busera! You cook them, add some spices, and then Silva makes a sauce! And I adore eating them!
“You add a few spices”. So therefore the only right recipe for preparing mussels is on the busera. There are those who add tomato puree, a touch of laurel, others a touch of chilli pepper and others none of the above...but they all add wine!
There is also a special Šibenik recipe: mussels on the tin. You should have a thick, iron tin, made of lamarin (a tin board), put it in the fire-place and wait the mussels become brown on the hot tin. And that is something that just has to be tried!
This summer I prepared busera in the following way: in hot olive oil I put a tiny amount of chopped onion and parsley – firstly just part of the planned quantity! You must not fry it but immediately add the mussels (washed, cleaned, possibly without the grassy "pedicle”…). When the molluscs start to open, add a little white wine, a drop of Prosecco to sweeten it, bread crumbs and pepper. Mussels drawn from the sea do not have to be salted whilst those from the brackish water should be salted.
Whilst cooking, add the rest of the cut parsley and onion – to freshen the aroma.
This summer, by a happy combination of circumstances, a certain older gentlemen came to my home terrace. He was American with Greek origins and his yacht was moored on the waterfront. Both he and his wife Mercedes ate exclusively and only in restaurants. I will never forget how Jani, with great pleasure, dipped his entire slice of bread into the common pot with the mussels!
And another thing: the sculptor Aleksandar Guberina accepted the idea to make a mussels monument enthusiastically!
In Šibenik, as there these molluscs really deserve it!