Here in Belgrade, Serbia, we have had many different food experiences. We of course got to experience food from restaurants, but we also got to try food from the dining halls and from our friend’s mom!
Dining hall food:
We were fortunate enough to be able to get temporary cards to use in the dining hall. We were pretty excited because this would save us a lot of money on food. The dining hall is connected to the dorm building we live in, but we can go to any cafeteria we want, just like in the states. We were so excited to go for the first time, as we didn’t really know what to expect. The main dish is usually a kind of meat with sides (vegetables, mashed potatoes, etc.), and then there is also an option to get bourek (a layered pastry that has cheese in it), which they have everyday. There are always big crates full of fresh bread already sliced and some other additional sides.
Most of those things are very similar to college dining halls in America, but there are some huge differences we had to get used to. For starters, when we went to the cafeteria for the first time, the lady scanning our cards started yelling at us in Serbian. We got a random guy to help us translate. She was telling us we needed to have coins. Coins? No one told us we needed coins! Turns out they used to have a big problem with people stealing the silverware so you have to buy a special coin to give when you get your food. Then when you go to return your trays, they make sure you returned the silverware and then you will get your coin back.
Another thing we had to get used to is that they don’t have drinks. For breakfast they have some hot tea and hot milk, but for the other meals if you want a drink, you have to either buy it from the kiosk right outside or bring your own. We asked a friend why they did this and he explained that that is how they keep the cost of food so cheap. The dining hall meals only cost 60 cents and if they had to provide drinks for everyone, the cost would double. Another thing they don’t provide is napkins. All of the food can be eaten with utensils, so you don’t need to pick anything up (they prefer to not eat with their hands as well), and I’m sure that also helps to keep the cost down. In the back of the dining hall, there are sinks for people to wash their hands before and/or after.
Ćevapi and Kajmak – Serbian Staple:
When I told friends and family that I was studying abroad, one of the first questions I would get asked was about the food, and mainly if I would eat it. I was a really picky eater when I was younger and have gotten a lot better with age, but am still picky about certain things.
One of the first things I tried was ćevapi. It is beef or chicken in sausage shapes, in a half circle pita shell, usually filled with onions and kajmak (a mix between butter and cheese). Kajmak is one of the best things I have ever had, and I really want to try to make it when I get home, so I can share it with my family! Ćevapi is a very popular meal and you can get it everywhere. It is so good that another girl here and I have had it almost every day since we arrived.
We have made so many friends while living in the dorms here. The best food we have had here was all made by our friend Stefan’s mom. He went home one weekend and brought back a whole meal for us to eat! There was some chicken, sausage, homemade ivar (pepper spread), homemade kajmak, fresh bread, and for dessert he brought homemade baklava. I have tried baklava from one restaurant so far, and his mom’s was definitely better! I’m glad we got to experience some home cooking while we were here!
Everything that I have eaten or tried has been amazing! I actually wasn’t too nervous about the food because I love to eat meat and am always down to try anything. I’m glad we have had people show us some really good spots to eat, and that we also got the experience of the dining hall here.