“Gloria”, 10 June 2003
“CEVAPI” FROM DEDINJE
Aware of the fact that the way to a man’s heart leads through his stomach, Princess Katherine made “musaka” for his prince, Alexander Karadjordjevic, on the first day of their marriage. Their love began at the table, where he, with his sleeves rolled up, enjoys the role of the promoter of Serbian hedonism.
We go straight into the kitchen to assure you I don’t act like an emperor or like Tito. That was how Crown Prince Alexander II Karadjordjevic greeted me in a relaxed atmosphere of The Royal Palace, ready to prove, with his sleeves rolled up, what promoter of Serbian hedonism he is, which still means “gibanica” and barbecue as symbolic ideological terms of reference.
It is perhaps because of the rhetoric of a film script, including baptism in Westminster Abbey, with the then Princess and the present British Queen Elizabeth II as the godmother, family ties with the British Crown and bachelors’ evenings with Prince Charles, that Alexander II Karadjordjevic in the conspirative manner of unpredictable reality, uses only Rosenthal set as the official Palace dishes. It used to belong to Broz and it is in gold, maroon, cobalt, blue and gray color, with a small coat of arms of FNRJ (Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia) with five torches in it.
For the lovers of historical thrillers, there is the mystery of Queen Maria’s golden spoons, that mysteriously disappeared from the leather trunks, in the first days of hard-line communism, just as in a genuine plot of Agatha Christie’s crime novels, which impaired the lavishing dowry of the Romanian Princess. What was it all about: the fact that the spoons were golden, or the Soviet soldiers simply took them to use them for putting on their shoes during their liberating activities?
The menu of King Alexander and Queen Maria’s wedding lunch was a masterpiece of French cuisine, and “walnut pie” was served as the desert, written in Cyrillic.
The coat of arms of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the sign “by appointment of King Alexander I and King Peter II” stands even today on the small label on the bottle of the French cognac Gaston de Lagrange V.S.O.P. That means that the institution of the Royal warrant existed in our country, and today it is only used by the Windsor Family.
Royal wine cellar belongs to the genre of “partisan” stories. Out of for hundred bottles with the Royal coat of arms cast in glass, only two were preserved, like the souvenirs of an encoded image of a rather unhappy country.
Some other big shots came later, and the directors of personal political episodes agree that the family row of the couple Milosevic-Markovic has left the deepest trace at The Royal Palace, for a broken Chinese vase was rather poorly put together.
Princess Katherine, however, dines watching a romantic scenery through the windows. The golden Salon, from the artistic point of view, is the most valuable room in the entire Palace. On both sides of the door leading into the dining room there are authentic renaissance chests, originally from the Florentine palace of the Frescobaldies. In a semi-circled niche, on a granite stand, there is a bronze sculpture of “Prince Marko on a horse” by Ivan Mestrovic, and the room is illuminated by a bowl-shaped chandelier made from pink onyx.
What is it that a woman needs most, I wanted to ask, but kitchen talks are a sort of short biographies. Some people just talk about their lives the way they cook.
- I know for a saying that the way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach – says Princess Katherine, matching her image to the accepted standard. – Alexander and I met during a very nice lunch. We were invited by a mutual friend, a Greek gentleman. We sat across each other and ate bread and cheese from the same plate. Our love began literary began at the table. I was fascinated by my future husband. I was excited because he was a real Prince, a King to be, so that it seems almost unreal to me. When I found out how real he was, even more real than the so called ordinary people, how much he enjoyed his life, good food and man to woman talks, I was already married to him.
- We got married in London in 1985. On the first day of our marriage I made chicken soup with eggs and lemon, and “musaka” for lunch, aware that I would have to deal with a real gourmet.
- I inherited that from my father – adds Crown Prince Alexander II – I still remember the meals that we had together. While my mother took strict care of not to overdo in eating and ate salads only, especially after she had moved to Venice, my father and I enjoyed a good meal. He particularly insisted on Serbian specialties. He loved a good snack. During those “male” lunches, he would keep on telling me about Serbia, the life at the Palace, Oplenac, and he regretted very much that he never climbed up Triglav. The lunch would always end in cakes and Turkish coffee. We both thought it was extraordinary, for it must be prepared very carefully. Every Christmas in London I go with my wife and my sons to have lunch at Father Kosta and his wife Dobrila, with traditional Serbian goodies.
- I also like “cevapcici” and “gibanica” – explains Princess Katherine. – But, having in mind how often we travel, we have all the cuisines of the world on our menu, above all French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and oriental. When he is in good mood, my husband makes me fussili with mushrooms and chili in our private kitchen! He passed on his cooking skills onto our younger son, Prince Philip.
Food is still a metaphorical substitute and resume of enjoyment, and so Crown Prince Alexander II who maintains the image of being ordinary by going to the green market, receives as gifts live lambs or chicken. How long will we have the label of a country where people eat only cevapcici and drink only slivovitz?
Slivovitz is great! It should only be controlled better. Serbia among plum trees still smells the best!
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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