Cuttlefish Risotto Is How I Stay Connected to My Family Overseas

Turns out, a person's favorite food is often about more than just how it tastes.

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Photo by: Photograph by Michelle Baricevic

Photograph by Michelle Baricevic

Known as crni rižot or rižot od sipa, in Croatian, cuttlefish risotto is a staple in Zadar, Croatia, my father’s birthplace and my second home. Much like burgers and fries in the U.S., you’ll find it listed on nearly every menu in the country, and though it’s hardly the most attractive meal, the unique fishy and creamy dish is hands down the very best thing I have ever eaten.

For years, I figured my love for cuttlefish risotto had to do with its novelty in my life. Though Croatia is far from the only place you can find it, cuttlefish risotto isn’t something I’ve ever eaten in New York City or even the United States. Whenever I’ve ordered it, it’s always been in Croatia. I literally wait all year to scarf it down. In fact, during my most recent trip to Croatia, I ordered rižot od sipa five different times. (Yes, I’m a bit obsessed.)

This summer however, I realized that flavor was only part of the reason crni rižot is my all-time favorite food. Though the inky rice is absolutely delicious, it also has such a special place in my heart, because of the individuals I always share it with. Like me, my 83-year-old grandmother, Boja, my uncle Bożidar and my aunt Zarka all love crni rižot, and we eat it together every time we see each other. Our love for the dish is something that links all of us Baričevići together, despite the seven-hour time difference and miles of ocean that separates us. Sharing our excitement for the dish as we’re sitting at a table, waiting for it to be prepared, just makes the meal all the more special and sacred.

While I might not get to see those family members more than once a year, looking back on all the moments we’ve dug into crni rižot together is enough to keep both my heart and my stomach full until my next trip comes around.

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