The morning air was alive with the sounds of Croatian love ballads and it all emanated from a charming little boat with a table all dressed to entertain - bottle of dry white, dried figs, dried almonds, bottle of grappa (whisky infused with Mediterranean herbs). It felt like a mini Greek wedding on a boat, with just the 3 of us.
Despite this, Daniel Sepanovich didn't smile at all. In fact, his blue-grey eyes stared at us with the look of Daniel Craig's James Bond at his most lethal. He did not smile the whole way there and back, even as he cracked jokes and spoke drily about the aphrodisiac properties of oysters. At one point, I asked him if he was part of the Bota Sare restaurant at Mali Ston. Still dour-faced, he replied, "No, I work on the boats and with the oysters. I cannot work in the restaurant. There are too many people."
With nary a smile, he was an impeccable host. He was entertaining and educational. He was warm and helpful (still no smile)... I did not know it was possible to be warm and unsmiling. Better still, he fed us seafood fresh from the sea. It was literally pull stuff out of the clear briny sea and eat. We really had a great time with the food pairings, figs, almonds, whisky, fresh oysters and fresh mussels... with a squeeze of lemon. I think it is me. I am apt to think that someone is hospitable if they feed me yummy things.
When you squeeze lemon on the oysters, they cringe. Best oysters ever!
Daniel works for the Bota Sare oyster farms. There are Bota Sare restaurants everywhere in Croatia - Zaghreb, Split, Dubrovnik and at Mali Ston. The chain is owned by the famous Sare family who originated from Mali Ston and still owns a private island off the coast, where they entertain guests with oysters from their farms and restaurants. Waaaaaaaah!
Oysters, it appears are hermaphrodites. The same oyster can change from male to female as the months pass. They lay eggs and release sperm into the clear cold waters of Mali Ston. Once fertilised, the eggs stick onto any support they can find and grow. Daniel said, "All we have to do is to put something, anything into the water, and something will grow on it."
He showed us the nets with baby oysters. He showed us how he would take the baby oysters and anchor them to ropes, two by two in regular intervals all the way down the rope. He showed us how the ropes could be lowered into and raised from the water. I, normally curious about such things, was a poor student. It is hard to pay attention to words people say when someone keeps putting fresh succulent oysters in front of you. I was too busy listening to my tongue.
Mini Greek wedding.
Ropes with 3 year old oysters (ready to eat).
The oyster harvest.
Shucking the oysters.