86 | / Howdid ajvar emerge andwhowas it that came up with the idea of so many hours and days of work to convert dozens of kilos of bell peppers into a few jars of hedonistic enjoyment known as ajvar? Claimed by all countries of the Balkans, the subtext of where it rst came from has not yet been proven scienti cally. Conclusions can only be drawn indirectly on the basis of the development of culinary technologies. Speaking about this is art historian and gastroheritologist Tamara Ognjević. “There aren’t many written sources on this topic, but it is unlikely that ajvar emerged prior to the mid-19th century. Speci cally, ajvar requires exceptionally high quality sun ower oil, and thatwas unheardof before the19thcentury. The rst mention of ajvar is linked to Belgrade’s kafana taverns during the time that Serbia was a principality, where it was served almost exclusively. It is interesting to add that the owners of these taverns weremostly‘Tsinters’ fromnorthernMacedoniawho’dcometoBelgradetowork. That authentic ajvar was composed exclusively from roasted red bell peppers, oil and salt, making it virtually identical to today’s version.” Apartfromonthemenusoftaverns,ajvarwasonlymentioned as a dish prepared in homes in the rst half of the 20th century, because it was a very expensive dish for the time, and also required speci c conditions for preparation. “Iwouldremindyouthat inthe19thcenturymorethan half of Belgraders didn’t have ovens in their homes, so they brought food tobecookedat citybakeries. Apart fromthat, cooking oil was extremely expensive, so obviously it only paido for tavernowners tomake ajvar,”explainsOgnjević. Ajvar is also referred toas Balkan caviar, while it’s name is derived from the Turkish word“hayvar”, while the assosicationwith actual caviar was really just amarketing ploy of old Serbian tavern keepers. “‘Hayvar’isatermthat referstocaviarmadefromtheroe ofDanubemoruna(beluga), ahighlyprizedspeciality inthis areaandasought-afterexportproductofSerbiathroughout thecenturies.Thatwaspracticallythecaseuntil theconstruction of the Đerdap dam, when this species of high-quality shwas“banished”downstream. I think it was a small marketing ploy of 19th-century tavern keepers employed to attract the attentionof clientele during a timewhen local beluga caviar was well known,”says Tamara. It isknownthatajvar isbestwhenproducedfrommeaty redpeppers,whichareeasy to roast andpeel. Although the recipe isuniversal, everyonewhomakes it claims that theirs is the best, or actually that there’s always some aunt who has a recipe like no other. In this region that was simply a matter of prestige... “This isaculturalphenomenon, andthestrugglefor superiorityinthebestajvaralsooftenhasapoliticaldimension. The fact that foreigners who visit our region are extremely fond of ajvar, or rather delighted with it, undoubtedly encourages this internationalgame. Ipersonallythinkthebest is from the south of Serbia, more precisely from Leskovac, because that regionhas thebest climatic andgeographical conditions for thecultivationof thebasic ingredient inajvar - red bell peppers,”explains Tamara. zni artikal Srbije kroz vekove. Praktično, sve do gradnje brane na Đerdapu, kada je ta vrsta kvalitetne ribe proterana nizvodno. Mislim da je u pitanju mali marketinški trik kafedžija iz 19. veka da privuku pažnju klijentele onog vremena, kojoj je bio dobro poznat kavijar od morune – priča Tamara. Znaseda jeajvarnajbolji odcrvenihmesnatih paprika, koje se lako peku i ljušte. Iako je recept univerzalan, svi koji ga prave tvrde da je najbolji baš njihov, u stvari, uvek neka tetka ima recept kakav nema niko drugi. Na ovim prostorima to je prosto bilo pitanje prestiža... – U pitanju je kulturološki fenomen, a borba za primat u najboljem ajvaru često ima i političku dimenziju. Činjenica da se strancima koji posete našu regiju ajvar izuzetno dopada, tačnije da su njime oduševljeni, nesumnjivo podstiče tu međunacionalnu utakmicu. Lično, mislim da je najbolji onaj sa juga Srbije, tačnije iz Leskovca, jer ta regija ima najbolje klimatsko-geografske uslove za proizvodnju osnovnog sastojka ajvara – crvene paprike – objašnjava Tamara. Apart from on the menus of taverns, ajvar was only mentioned as a dish prepared in homes in the rst half of the 20th century, because it was a very expensive dish for the time, and also required speci c conditions for preparation Osim u kafanama, ajvar se u kućnim jelovnicima pominje tek u prvoj polovini 20. veka, jer je to bilo veoma skupo jelo za ono vreme, a zahtevalo je i odgovarajuće uslove za pripremu „Hayvar“ je pojam koji se vezuje za kavijar od dunavske morune “‘Hayvar’ is a term that refers to caviar made from the roe of Danube moruna (beluga) iStock / bhofack2