June 20, 2018 – In order to understand a destination, getting the local perspective is essential. A morning ride with Korcula’s fruit and vegetable delivery man.
A few weeks ago, I can across a rather fabulous Dalmatian tapas called Marendin. Quite apart from the high-quality food and wine, the two owners had us laughing all night look. With a very simple approach to life, their concept is a total winner, and Two Peasants in the Old Town: Don’t Miss the Dalmatian Tapas at Marendin was a pleasure to write.
One of the constant themes of the cuisine at Marendin is the freshness of the ingredients, all locally sourced. I have heard many restaurants over the years boast about their fresh local vegetables (bought from the supermarket) and the freshest fish (waiting for its time on the grill in the freezer), and I have become a little sceptical at some of these claims over the years. But these guys were different, and as I wrote in the article, the freshness was guaranteed by Ante, pictured on the right, who has been delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to Korcula Town for 17 years. When I wrote that he seemed to personally know every vegetable in the dishes and had probably even babysat the young pig which went on to become some fine prsut, I was only half-joking.
Ante invited me to come on his morning delivery run around the town, a chance to learn more about his business and to see Korcula from a different perspective. First up, a visit to the stall run by Ante and his wife for 17 years now – and business was brisk! I particularly enjoyed the speed and skill with which he served his customers. Half a kilo of this vegetable? He would delve into the relevant box, pick out the appropriate number of handfuls and put the vegetable on the scale. Years of practice showed that his judgment was perfect, and I would not be surprised if he gave the customer a little extra.
Ante and his wife sell fruit and vegetables from his cousin’s farm near Vela Luka. Some 5 hectares in total, the farm now employs 15 people full time, and there are sales outlets in Vela Luka, Korcula Town and Blato, as well as plenty of private clients along the way. They leave home at 05:30 6 days a week (Sunday off) to get to the Korcula market and do deliveries, then drive back to Vela Luka, before Ante returns in the evening for his shift at Marendin. A busy day!
Leaving his wife to run things at the market, Ante loaded up his goodness for a few restaurants in the old town.
The old town in the early morning is a hive of activity, as restaurants prepare for another busy day. Lots of sweeping, sweeping, sweeping. Delivery vehicles are allowed in until 09:00, before most tourists are out and about.
And there can be traffic jams. Patience is one of the great Dalmatian virtues, and there was zero stress. Having to wait for the car in front meant more time to share a joke with one of the locals passing by.
Deliveries done, there was time for a coffee before heading back to Vela Luka. Ante has become an established part of the daily routine for many locals, and the old ladies of the town have a morning exchange with him built into their daily routine, a routine which gets upset if he is not there for a day for some reason. A super friendly way to see real life in Korcula, with lots of greetings, plenty of jokes and an endless supply of fresh, local produce.
Some photos of the farm near Vela Luka. A lot better than the supermarket, as well as supporting a successful local business and those 15 jobs.