Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rakija; the Spirit of Serbia. Ziveli!

The spirit of Serbia is in no small part carried by a wholesome elixir called Rakija; a brandy-like distillate, home-produced from fruits like grapes, apricots or plums. As with all cooking, the secret ingredients are rarely revealed, and should a consumer’s taste buds survive a swig, they may discern a flavor that varies from house to house.

The quality of a man’s Rakija reveals his degree of devotion and artistry, which then becomes an indication of traits such as leadership and lovemaking. Since Raklija counts as ultimate proof, no other evidences are required.

But no unwitted visitor should mistake Rakija for mere booze to be imbibed. The testimonies of many experts have convinced me that Rakija takes care of a broad range of business. It works wonders on rheumatism, frees the chest and lifts the sediments. Rakija has been known to settle disputes, appease in-laws and raise the most downcast of spirits. It heals bones, cures flatulence and is even recognized as a most benevolent ointment or rubbing oil.

All gloom and misfortune vanishes with a nip and Rakija has even found a place in the religious experience of Serbia, in an adaptation of the Levitical ordinance of libation. At the conclusion of a Serbian funeral, bread and Rakija are served. Some of the Rakija is poured on the ground and the mourners say, “Bog da mu dusu prosti,” meaning ‘God forgive his soul.’

When Serbs make their glasses meet, they take care to look each other in the eye, and cheer ziveli! Ziveli comes from the verb ziveti, meaning to live. In that regard the Serbian drinking cheer is not unlike the Hebrew l’chaim, also derived from the verb to live.

1 comment:

  1. I hate rakija for it had brought unmeasurable misery on generations of farmers in the Balkans.
    At the same time you are right about its apperently all-healing properties.
    My parents used rakija for arthritis,digestion, bronchitis, any kind of skin problems, stress or just a warm-up during cold winters.


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