6.1 Do you have any (other) ideas how we can all preserve, present and communicate Slovenian culinary heritage in Australia? How can we encourage active participation and thus enhance creative potential of younger generations of Slovenian Australians? You’ve probably seen the prototype of the website Slovenian Australian Cook Hub.
Participant: It’s important that any such attempt is integrated in to a broader community. Facebook is useful because it gets a lot of traffic and a lot of members participating. It’s not just about one aspect such as recipes or culinary heritage. It tends to get more traffic and more participation. Anything that’s very focused in to specific cultural aspects and it’s not integrated in to another tool, that’s more commonly used on an everyday basis, it’s going to slowly lose interest.
Participant: If we’re talking ideas, maybe making an app, because mobile is big these days and having an app on the phone that would have Slovenian recipes on it. Just Slovenian recipes and have a little chat room, linking with Slovenian recipes or putting your rating on Slovenian recipes. That’s sort of a community on an app based interface. And pictures, you could make pictures and they could be shared with that specific group. Mobile’s the thing right now, the apps.
Participant: I’ve seen the Slovenian-Australian cooking hub and I think it is a great website for future generations to come, especially the younger generation that are very much more involved in technology. That’s where they are going to go. Getting certain recipes out of the cookbook it’s probably not an option for them because they’ll probably always lean towards the technologies. Something that they are more engaged with their origin. What would be a good benefit, maybe more friends would gather amongst the communities and organise their own little cooking hubs as physical cooking hubs. They could tape those, upload them on the system and share with other people across the world, within Australia or maybe even Slovenians. This is the way we would interact with each other.
Participant: My best idea would be to travel back and forth from Slovenia to Australia, but that’s hard to do for some people. Nowadays as society’s getting smarter and we’re learning a lot more things, it’s important to be on the web to connect through the Internet. Especially to be together. It’s important not to lose that connection. To do this we need the Internet to talk to one another. [Interviewer: You have already explained me some of your ideas, Skype cooking…] Food Skype. The idea was to cook not just Slovenian and Australian people but worldwide, so you can learn more about culture and food. The idea was that every time you have a conversation over food Skype, you’d teach someone how to cook your dish, and then they’d teach you how to cook theirs. You’re learning a lot more about cooking and how to add to your dishes, how to make them different and twerk them up a little bit. Things like Facebook and Twitter, that’s what’s gotten a lot of advertisements out on the web these days. The idea would be to test out, in schools get the teachers to talk about it within the school community, to get parents talking about it, getting it on the web, trying them, making it an app, making it something that you can download and try.
Participant: The Internet is quite a good option for younger Slovenians to promote Slovenian food. At the moment it’s mainly promoted in Slovenian clubs all around Australia. We can do more to make it more public to other people as well, because not many Australians are coming into Slovenian clubs. It means that it’s mostly a close community. All these medias like Internet, Facebook, Twitter, can be good opportunity to make more advertising in a way to promote Slovenian food in Australia. At the moment, as I said, Slovenian clubs are doing excellent job around Australia to promote Slovenian food. [Interviewer: Do you have any other ideas to share?] Difficult to say any new ideas, but what I can say that your job, or what you are already doing is really the best promotion I have ever seen Slovenian food in Australia.
Participant: This is going to be a different scenario but it can relate. When I do assignments with my friends we have a group chat on Facebook and one person messages the group chat. Everyone knows about it and then we meet up after then. If someone says 03:00 o’clock we go study seven or eight of us know just because of that one text that we’re going to go study at 03:00 o’clock. To do with food there could be group chats on Facebook. The only problem is that the major of the Slovenians in Australia are more older and… Technology… How they would be advanced with Facebook and all that. For the younger generation if you had a group chat which would be very relevant, you could say if anyone would want to go Saturday afternoon, organise something, go over to this place, make something there, then everyone would be able to know and people would be able to say “yeah I can go to it, no I can’t go to it”. Group chats would be one big thing.
Skype is very limited because they have to be there to talk and not everyone has the time to be there at a certain time. Text messages are very good. What you created is quite good. Showing the recipes and all that. I would think that if the Slovenian Club would have more activities for younger generations. That would mean that the older people would come with the younger generation and everyone would cook more. Would be more people at the club, but that’s not really the online version as you were saying.
[Interviewer: It doesn’t mean that it’s everything online, it’s about connecting people to find each other as you said in a physical way.] Definitely if they wanted to connect people, if they had a few dart tables and a few pool tables in the club, a lot of younger people would come. But there’s a lot of politics involved in the club and it’s boring for young people. If there was a bit more fun. [Interviewer: Now you are old enough to do something.] To change. [Interviewer: To activate your friends.] Correct. [Interviewer: Maybe with other non-Slovenians?] That would be what would usually happen. Because there’s not many… I know a few Slovenians at my age but they’re in [a name of the city] so it’s a bit far. I have a lot of European friends which would like to… [Interviewer: So one day one Italian dinner, another day Slovenian dinner, and you can taste different foods through that.] That’s right, correct. That’s what we do, we change it up. Every Tuesday night we have something different, everyone cooks.
Participant: That’s the hardest question for any part of the community here. Not just the culinary heritage. The Internet and social media would be a good tool because there’s more and more of… Kids these days when they’re one or two years old they know how to use an iPhone. The more of that message that we can keep people connected via Facebook, via Instagram, via Twitter, via these web pages keep them connected and keep them talking to each other. Not necessarily see each other that often, but at least if they have some contact with some part of the community and continue sharing recipes. There’s way that they can bring up their stories or their recipes that they got from their parents or their grandparents and continue doing that. They can starting posting things on YouTube of themselves making particular Slovenian foods. That will inspire other people to go “oh maybe I’ll do that too”. Some people won’t like that but that might be a good way to keep that connection. As long as people are contributing and connecting and looking at these pages we’ll have a lot more involvement with people.
Participant: They could create another website for young Slovene people. They could come together in this little spot and talk about Slovenian and what they can do to improve on the Slovene heritage. [Interviewer: Which technology can be good to do that?] Probably Skype or Facebook, because you can communicate and see each other so you really get to know each other. I think Facebook and Skype.
Participant: To connect the Jamie Oliver. [laughing] This is direction that you want. The most successful story…that you have succeeded in your life, that you can preserve, represent your culture, territory where we live in… Slovenians… Where I’m from, this is only that matters. The best way to do it, to open good restaurant and invite people that finally try Slovenian food. [Interviewer: What about younger generations of Slovenians in Australia, second, third generation: How can we encourage them to maintain this tradition?] You must ask their parents, because their parents surrender. They surrender because they must work for other people, not for theirself. Parents lost this ability to prepare food for theirself, so there is a problem. If they admit that they do wrong way, the children will know where is the right way.
Participant: The sort of cook club or something like that could be helpful, that people can share the recipes. People who are willing to learn they can learn from others. Like it was in the old days when there was no books and things. Regarding the Facebook page, some video clips might be helpful if people are willing to do those things. It brings people together. People are happy when good food is on the table, and drinks as well. And everybody wants to be happy.
Participant: If there is some good videos. I would be using this because now I have to meet this older lady to show me how to make it. If I was able to see some good video how you can do. Strudel dough I can do because I watched my grandma. But I didn’t never saw anyone doing “prekmurska gibanica” [Prekmurje layer cake]. If someone showed me or I can see a video, I don’t have to travel to Slovenia to learn exactly how older generations is making that, I would be the happiest in the world. I want to show my kids, I want to share with Australians, I want to take it to work. Now, I’m doing strudel. I would to take something else, but it’s not enough for me to read the recipe. Especially with those difficult ones. That would be perfect if you can see video how it’s done, I would appreciate that the most. How to preserve it? By cooking. I have two boys, but still I will teach them how to make strudel and to cook Slovenian food. It’s healthy, it’s tasteful way to do that. I try to do by teaching my kids, but if I wanted to learn more… Video, because we don’t go to Slovenia that often. You don’t have time to learn when you have workshops, “delavnice” [workshops], you don’t have time. You have only two weeks to spend in Slovenia, but I will go and I’m sure some people would like to learn how to make some dishes.
And video it’s better than recipe. It’s all about how you put everything together. To show, that’s how you learn, and that’s how grandmas were teaching us. Whatever I didn’t learn from my grandma, at that time, I’m not able to cook now. If someone showed me… It’s not her but any older generation, doing by hand, that would be the best. That’s how I learned to cook. I know a few dishes. I would be happy to share. I’m not professional, so for me to make video and then share… I don’t think I can do one, but I would use it if someone else would make.
[Interviewer: Do you have anything else to say for the conclusion?] I’m surprised to know… I’m happy that someone is thinking about it. We younger, we are not that good. The older generation, they were more loyal and aware of being Slovenian and being proud of it. Younger, we are like, “oh, doesn’t matter”. Older generation, they had Slovenian school, they made the children not to lose Slovenian. If I now see us, I don’t make them to go to Slovenian school… Okay there is no Slovenian school, but even if it was, I don’t know if we would take time to take them, that’s sad. That’s beautiful to build up awareness, not to lose it, because we should all be proud of it. We didn’t leave Slovenia because it wasn’t nice country or anything. We just want other opportunities, and you are still very, very proud. People like you… then you start thinking about. Before that, it’s just natural, if it is or not. When you think, it would be really nice to keep it, especially in Australia, because it’s so welcomed. You can actually buy products here. It’s not difficult to cook Slovenian food in Australia, because you have all products from everywhere from ex Yugoslavia.
Participant: The younger generation… Because of their lifestyle these days, I know some of the younger generation Slovenian. They still do eat the Slovenian-type foods, but it comes down to time. They have a busy life because they want a busy life. It all comes down to time for them and whether they’re prepared to carry on that from the older generations… Carry that generation on is very much dependent on them. Most of them walk around with the phone 24/7. The social media thing, they can’t get off it… It would have to be something exciting. If it’s not exciting I don’t think you’re going to get the population looking at it. It’s got to be something that hits the eye straight away and goes wow, wow. That’s with anything. You would have to have it in both languages, Slovenian and English for the younger generation.
Participant: I think as long as we got a “peščica” [handful], a handful of good Slovenians, like her [shows on a woman] sister, [a name of the woman]. She is the bone of the club now. Should see her cooking. That is her sister, [a name of the woman], is always with “predpasnik” [apron]. As long as we got people like that, that they are prepared to keep going it’s still… They speak in English but they are proud Slovenian, I have a feeling.
Participant: There are quite a few young people, several of our family friends, young people in their late teens, early 20s, very passionate Slovenians. One of my daughters is very much Slovenian. She’s part of our church choir as well. My other one is a bit more timid in that regard. Eating Slovenian foods, being involved in the community, is very important to them. How to contribute and how to share this… I think with something like the proposed hub. Facebook because it’s involving the younger generation, is probably the only way I would imagine promoting it unless it was through a physical expo. That would be far harder to organise and not necessarily as successful as possibly through the media. [Interviewer: Which technologies could be good to help younger? Facebook, YouTube or Skype?] I think Facebook because it’s more connected. Most of them are attached to Facebook… Be easy to read, easy to understand content and good photography that the recipes are visually appearing.
Participant: It’s about asking them how would they like to be involved, or what would they need to help them be involved, rather than us trying to impose onto them. We, older people have a very different view of what young people need, whereas young people have more creative ideas than we do. It’s important to ask them and listen to them, and enable them instead of saying, “Here’s something I prepared earlier. Take it, and if you don’t take it I’m going to be really upset.” It’s more valuable to find out what they need and to be able to respond to that.
Participant: The new technology, the new medium, it’s in thing right now and even if the children don’t speak the language they can watch the YouTube. They can watch things and learn and be proud of and anything with the modern technology. It’s a great step forward for all of the younger second, third and fourth generation, they will be able to keep in touch. Before when we were teaching, it was book, paper, pen, that was it. Now with the YouTube, with the older video’s, with all the Facebook and Twitter and all that, it’s a great social media, they can correspond with each other and exchange ideas, exchange recipes. I think they are so lucky.
Participant: It definitely has to be via Internet. Digital age is the permanent thing. If you think about pre-digital age, you had film and photographs. If you go back earlier you only had photographs. People are very interested in seeing about their family tree for arguments sake or how people lived. I certainly am, and that’s why I think with the digital age. It’s at your fingertips even though you may not have moving footage. Even to have the photos, the images, still images, at your fingertips it’s very interesting. We all relied on encyclopaedias in the past but now you just look on the Internet and it’s there. You can share much more. Whereas before with a book you were restricted to how much you could put in a book because it cost a lot of money. Whereas the digital age is a bit, it’s not as costly and it’s easily done. The question is about your privacy… That’s a separate argument [laughing]. Whereas going back a couple of hundred years ago, you’d have to go through the books and you’re using your imagination. Although you’re getting it probably 90-85% correct you might not have it right. That’s where the digital age is fantastic.
I’m a part of [a Slovenian club] and I am second generation. I’m very heavily involved because the first generation built this place to create a place where they can still share their cultural and heritage, live the way, in one respect the way they used to live back home and get together and do that. That’s being passed onto the next generation.
We’ve diversed with other nationalities but this to me is like my second home. It’s where I can come and celebrate my heritage and culture and learn. I don’t speak the language perfectly but I know enough to get by. It’s all about that. By having the first generation teach us, whether it’s cooking. We’ve had the classes here, or we do the functions and we help each other. We do that sort of thing at home as well, crafts and dancing and particularly learning the language and traditions along the way. I am hoping… Although the atmosphere is not as thick as… That’s not the correct word, but it’s still there, it’s still going… It’s intense, that’s the word, that’s a very good word.
Perhaps the second generation and the next future generations aren’t intense but I believe… Someone once said to me that when you get to the fifth generation they start turning around and they want to know what their heritage is, what their family tree is. That’s what we were talking about. For me the aim is to keep our heritage and remember, keep it going in some way. When that time comes, when that fifth generation or whenever says “I want to know”, here is a wealth of knowledge, footage. Hopefully these people that are practising or living the heritage and the culture and they can share that on to that future generation. Otherwise we’ll just become boring because we’re all the same people. We all have differences of opinion, we all have different views of the world. That’s good as long as we respect each other and enjoy each other’s company. That’s the way it should be. And say “okay we’ll share some food”. That’s the best way to get a conversation started by having some food and a little bit of a drink [laughing].
Participant: That is very hard. [laughter] Force them. It’s difficult when you’re living in a country that is so multicultural and predominantly of a British heritage. It’s very difficult to uphold a tradition that only has a very small piece in a country so large and so multicultural. In your own family and in your own circle you can do that, but to convey that to others outside it’s very difficult. I know myself at work, they know I’m Slovenian, and we make a joke out of something if the situation arises. It’s good. I don’t mind saying I am… I’ve even got a flag on the back of my car and… [laughs] It’s fine. I don’t have an issue with it.
In fact, I felt more connected after I went back than what I did for the majority of my life. For the majority of my life when you’re living in a country you’re in that country, you are involved in that country, you’re in its culture, and you become part of that country. Your heritage and your tradition is behind you, but sometimes… [Wife: It’s like something locked in a filing cabinet.] That’s right. Unless you’re prepared to use it, unless you’re prepared to make it evolve or do something, it sometimes gets put in the background. It’s there but you don’t really use it. Going back to Slovenia, meeting family, seeing tradition, it just brings it all back and you think “Well right, I remember my parents talking about that.” It brings back memories. All of a sudden you come back and you’re a different person. You actually come back to this country and you feel totally different about where you were born or where your heritage is. [Wife: It’s like there’s missing parts to the jigsaw puzzle, and then you’ve got extra bits and you can put them together.] You put them, you can put them together.
[Interviewer: It was easier when you came back from Slovenia? You understood more who you are?] I would say yes, it felt you were at home, it brought back a lot of memories of my childhood. As a child your parents were a big influence in your life. You spoke to them, you reacted with them, you had to go to dances, Slovenian dances or functions, or Slovenian friends. As you grow older and you get your own family, you have your own friends and they’re generally not Slovenians. We still have a few Slovenian friends but generally not. You mix with other people and you become disenfranchised with, from your own culture. Going back to Slovenia, seeing the dozens of cousins that I have and the way people live, it just awakens something inside you and starts to make you feel, “Well, this is where I really belong and this is really who I am.”
[Interviewer: Do you think real Slovenia is different than Slovenia in mind of Slovenians in Australia who haven’t visited it yet?] Yes, yes. That’s a valid point. I see my mother on a regular basis; she’s been living here a long time but she only went back once in [70’s]. She hasn’t been back for a long time, whereas we’ve been back in [a few times in 2000’s] and we’re going again this year. We’ve seen the changes in that 12 year period. We’ve seen the changes that have occurred in Slovenia over that time. That’s typical and that’s not unusual. It happens here, it happens all over the world. But for my mother, her thoughts of Slovenia are still back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. She finds it hard when I come back here and I tell her, “Well, you know, Slovenia’s changed like this, like that.” She almost doesn’t believe me, and okay… It’s like denial; “It can’t be like that because that’s not how I remember it.”
In some ways life there is very similar to life here. Economically we can buy the same things and we can wear the same clothes. A lot of people speak English, but what is it that makes it different? [Wife: I think it’s that shared history and those values. It’s that realisation that the Slovenian history shapes what Slovenia is today. Not to forget that. A lot of the older people can’t reconcile the fact that it is a more sophisticated modern country, it’s part of a global village. It’s still Slovenia, but very different from how it was.]
[Interviewer: Were you disappointed when you went back to Slovenia, or were you amazed?] I can’t say disappointment’s the word. I was fascinated with the culture and the history, and to see how my life would have been if I’d grown up there and not moved to Australia. I appreciate the fact that Australia as a country is a far richer country than Slovenia. There’s only two and a few million people living there and 24 million people living here. We have more resources and more land and everything else, so therefore our lifestyle is far better than… [Wife: Australia hasn’t had to emerge from a communist regime either. I think that makes a difference.] Yes, of course, all these factors come into it.
The fact that the people over there are not paid as well as we are here, and their lifestyles are not going to be like ours. I can see that. When I come back here I say, “Well look, I am very lucky to live here,” but at the same time if I had money, unlimited money, I said to myself, “Would I rather live in Australia or would I rather live in Slovenia?” I think the answer would probably be I’d rather live in Slovenia because the people, the culture, just the general pressure of life is far more relaxed and far more gentle, and far more accepting. It’s getting harder to live here, but at the same time it’s easier to live here because you have the wealth as opposed to over there you don’t have that. What’s important in your life, every person makes their own decision on that.
We enjoy our time in Slovenia, we miss our family over there. We try and keep in touch as much as we can. I’m seriously trying to get my cousin to Skype me… [laughter] But she’s just got to get onto that technology. We phone as regularly as we can. It was such a lovely relief of living virtually most of my life without knowing them as such. I only knew them as people through my mother. I didn’t regularly keep in touch, but once we got there the acceptance of myself and also [my wife], of us as family, was incredible. It’s a feeling that I could never get here, and that’s why your heart is over there. That’s what it is.
1 Culinary heritage (see Questions and Answers)
2 Growing and sourcing food (see Questions and Answers)
3 Digital technologies for communicating culinary heritage (see Questions and Answers)
4 Connecting with other Slovenian Australians (see Questions and Answers)
5 Identity (see Questions and Answers)
6 Conclusion (participants’ ideas) (see Questions and Answers)