Imperial Roast Pork: Even Better Than It Sounds

I was living in Zagreb, in an old working class neighborhood called Kustošija on the west side of town.  My apartment was a good 15-minute walk from the transit hub in Črnomerec, where you can hop a tram or bus to just about anywhere in the city. There at the tram roundabout, a thriving plaza of kiosks, shops, cafes, bakeries, market stalls and tavern-and-grills has taken hold over the years. Sometimes I’d sit on the low stone wall surrounding the tracks before walking home from a meeting, watching people come and go while munching a sandwich. I spent a lot of time there, actually. It’s a good place to observe life in transit and hear little bits of drama or laughter in passing conversations. I enjoy such things.

One relatively recent addition to the plaza at the roundabout is an outpost of the Croatian supermarket chain Konzum. What’s unique about this particular location of Konzum is that it’s particularly well-suited to the shopping preferences of Americans: It’s the size of a small stadium, has anything you could need, and it’s open 24 hours. Imagine a giant WalMart with good European food. There’s a full service butcher counter, a fish counter with the freshly caught bounty of the Adriatic Sea on prominent display, and a full service cheese, cold cuts and smoked meat section.

On evenings when I didn’t feel like cooking, the hot prepared foods counter was my salvation. From beneath marvelous heat lamps you could select baked, roasted, fried and broiled meats, fowl, fish and vegetables. The selection of deli items was unique, but the preparations themselves were not groundbreaking or outstanding. We have such standards in the US. Who among us hasn’t taken advantage of the convenience of a hot rotisserie-roasted chicken from the deli section? But there’s something you’ll find at a prepared foods counter in Europe that you’re not likely to see at a Safeway here in the US, and it’s something that I ate my share of during my time in Zagreb.

Roasted pork belly.

The term for this in Croatian translates to ‘imperial meat’, and the reason is not a mystery. More so than any other part of the pig, the belly is a delicious, filling, naturally potent sedative, fit for an emperor. One ounce is considered a single serving in America. Eat a three-ounce serving and you’ll be full. Eat a bigger serving and you will SLEEP. There were nights when my dinner consisted of a half pound of roasted pork belly and nothing else, and I would not be seen for at least a day afterward. There were also plenty of times when I’d pick some up to eat with vegetables from the farmer’s market on the corner, or even incorporate it into other dishes.  It’s extremely versatile stuff, the roasted pork belly.

Since my American readers are not likely to find it at their local supermarket, I suppose it’s my job to tell you how to prepare imperial roast pork. Well, that’s easy. First, obtain a nice, thick piece of pork belly with the skin on from a good butcher. Next:

1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.

2. Score the skin of the pork belly for easier slicing.

3. Season the meat however you like.
4. Sear it on all sides in a hot skillet.

5. Pop the skillet into the oven.
6. When the skin is crackling, slice and serve.

You can brine the belly before cooking. You can eat it with potatoes and braised leek chiffonade, or have it with a poached egg on Pad Thai. However you enjoy your imperial roast pork, don’t drive or operate heavy machinery afterward.

Lamb Goes In Town!!

Available now for the first time in five years.

Written in the enigmatic syntax of Portland, Oregon’s eccentric kebab smuggler, Alparslan “The Turk” Yılmaz, “Lamb Goes In Town!!” is the delightfully twisted tale of a happy little lamb’s journey and shocking transformation in a strange new world. Lightly edited by Yılmaz’s first cook and co-pirate John J. Goddard, this brisk, mind bending odyssey shapeshifts between adorable, hilarious, thought provoking and vulgar, often on the same page. Yılmaz’s dubious command of the English language and its vernacular lends a likable voice to a lighthearted narrative.

This download contains the epub format of the book for maximum responsiveness across browsers and devices.


I met Alparslan Yılmaz in the spring of 2011. I’d just moved back to Portland from Chicago, and I was looking for a cooking gig. My response to his cryptic Internet post for a cook landed me an interview, and my life hasn’t been the same since.

    I became the right hand man for Alparslan – better known in Portland as “The Turk” – in a bootleg Turkish kebab delivery operation known as Secret Kebab. There was no storefront, no fixed location, and sometimes no kitchen. We were pirates in a landscape littered with high concept restaurants and food carts. We did delivery-only to small sections of the city, completely on our own terms. It was a strange and wonderful gig that was more fun than lucrative, and Alparslan is now a valued friend.

    The people of Portland loved Alparslan’s fresh, handmade food (it’s pretty damn good for street food), and they love Alparslan even more. His only means of advertisement is a Twitter account (@secretkebab) and a half-assed website that occasionally disappears. It’s the Twitter feed that started drawing attention from outside Portland. Alparslan’s unbridled, never ending enthusiasm is infectious, and people from around the world began following the feed to read his messages. Uplifting, absurd, obscene, occasionally touching and always in poorly spelled broken English, The Turk’s online presence seems to do more than inspire people to buy his kebabs.

    At the end of the summer of 2011, Alparslan told me he was going back to Turkey, and that there would be no more kebabs in Portland until at least the following spring. He asked me if I would help him with a book project. I said yes, that I could come on as editor, but that it would be best to let his voice shine through in the way people know and love it. The result is this book. I have edited very lightly, correcting spelling and a little grammar. You may find it challenging to read at first, but the story does shine through in Alparslan’s eccentric usage and unique patois quite unexpectedly and endearingly. I hope you enjoy this mind-bending little tale.

PS – I am The Turk.

Cleaning Out My Closet with Casey Bazzell

Cleaning Out My Closet with Casey Bazzell
General Concerns

00:00 / 23:13

After locking her in a closet and tormenting her with the interminable saga of my Larry David moment in the karaoke showdown where we met, my guest and dear friend Casey Bazzell saves me from further embarrassment by singing three of her songs and closing out the podcast. Download this set at Casey’s brand spanking new Bandcamp page.

Dalmatino – 16×20″ Print for Sale

Dalmatino – Gradac, Croatia – ©2006, John J. Goddard

16×20″ Unframed Poster Print – $50.00, tax and shipping included.

I took this photo on an overcast day in Gradac, Croatia, during a long drive up and down the Dalmatian Coast in the spring of 2006. It was a quietly busy time, when all the family-owned coastal resorts were gearing up for the mad rush of the summer tourist season. This handsome hound wasn’t working at all, though, preferring to enjoy afternoon fjaka on a bed of fishing nets and palm fronds, with the waves singing softly to him.

A friend of my girlfriend’s noticed our framed print of this photo in a social media post, and expressed interest in owning one herself. Well, I can do that for her, and for you. And until I get my photo print gallery set up, this is where I’ll offer it for sale. The 16×20″ unframed poster print will be shipped to you immediately (expect it in 5-7 days), so long as you’re in the US. International customers will need to wait until I get my photo gallery launched.

Thank you so much for your interest in my photography. I look forward to making more available in the near future. Perhaps you’d like to stay informed of my developments and sign up for my no-more-than-weekly newsletter.