Anonymous Interviews: CULINARY HERITAGE – 1.5

1.5 Do you feel a need to show your ethnic identity through food? Do you feel more Slovenian if you prepare or eat Slovenian food?

Participant: Yes. I’m really, really proud. Especially because also others now, I have [Asian] friends, they bring their food and then automatically you feel “okay, I’ll show you also what our food is”. I’m really proud in Slovenians, like apple strudel, it’s absolutely amazing, they all like it, and they know about it. Australians, I am surprised how many they know about apple strudel, but not the other food. I’m proud if I can bring it. Actually, this is my signature dish, they are joking. It started when [a name of the son] was in kindergarten, and he said if I can make strudel and bring it for his birthday. They loved it, and then [a name of the son] said: “Look, you didn’t bake it for my school.” So I did it for his birthday, too. Since then, I’m baking it all the time, even for school. Sometimes the principal ask me “Can you do strudel please?” Then I bake two strudels and take them for school Christmas party. I think it’s now tradition, and I did it for three years in a row. They asked me if I can bring it, so I’m really proud about it.

Participant: No. I moved to Australia because I wanted to experience different cultures and I enjoy trying different things. I’m still Slovenian no matter what food I eat. This is why I’m here, to experience variety and I don’t feel more Slovenian eating Slovenian food. I also don’t feel the need to eat Slovenian food… But it’s nice in a group of Slovenians, it’s absolutely essential. When we do make “štruklji” [special dumplings] or something with a friend, you feel a bit homesick and you feel more Slovenian. Absolutely. But I don’t feel a real need to do that, to feel nostalgic or to feel… But it does increase.

Participant: I do feel a little bit more Slovenian, I feel a bit of a sense of pride when I do it, because typically I have this incorporated mix of Slovenian and Australian cuisine. When I decide to cook traditional Slovenian food it’s usually because I’m feeling nostalgic or homesick. That’s the time when I’ll go and purposefully cook something that’s very traditional. For me it’s a way of soothing my homesickness and nostalgia. If I miss my family, particularly my sisters and my mum, I’ll cook something that’s traditional, I’ll take photos of it, I’ll post it on Facebook and share it with the family. It’s a way of saying “hi” remotely and feeling a little bit more connected to your roots.

Participant: Probably depends on the occasion. At home, because this is our everyday life, it just comes as natural, this is what you do. If you go out and you are with friends from the other ethnic background, of course that will then show you or pull you… Yes, you would feel more Slovenian.

Participant: It’s not so much a need to… In a way it is. I don’t need to show it but I do like people to taste it. Which means the same thing. I wouldn’t go there just to show off that this is the prosciutto that we make in Slovenia. I view it from different ways. I would make it so other people can taste it. Mum makes it and the family makes it, so other people taste it. Not so that we say our food’s better.

Participant: It takes you close to heart. A recipe that you make here in Australia, I can remember when I made it with [family members] in Slovenia. I was making strudel with my grandma last time I went to Slovenia and when I made them here it reminded me of her.

Participant: Australia is somehow a country of different nations. Every country has a different, specific food, and it can identify through that food. It’s important that we show with our food. If we have any traditional, on the one spot like a barbecue, if there are different people from different nations, and to show our identification of this food.

Participant: It brings back memories. I don’t know, it just feels like home.

Participant: It’s more who we are. It makes me more Slovene, because I’m preparing Slovene food. It’s just who we are, not to prove anybody anything.

Participant: Not so much need but it’s nice to do because then people, particularly ones that haven’t seen it before or haven’t tried it good to. To showcase something that is typically Slovenian because there aren’t a lot of foods that are typically Slovenian because they are from other regions in the area as well.

Participant: I like to take the basic stuff from Slovenia. Like soup, must be vegetable soup with a “mineštra” [minestrone soup], but much more like “goveja juha” [beef soup]. You put meat inside, boil water and then meat and vegetables. Then spices, salts and pepper. It’s basic, everywhere. In this soup you cook a long time, because this is like you prepare, to 2 hours. Much longer you cook, the better it is. If you want to prepare it, this is the basic stuff for everything. Then you make the sauce and everything else if you want to. Today is like that. There is no culture because no more people standing what they know, or they didn’t bring the knowledge from their parents. They will mix all the culture. Also broaders open than people just jump from the culture to another culture. The culture is lost and people didn’t realise that culture is like food: only culture is worth food, prepare food, grow food.

Participant: It adds to it. I don’t feel any less Slovenian because we cook a lot of Asian food at home. I don’t feel any less Slovenian by not cooking Slovenian. No. It just adds to it. It creates a lovely balance in life.

Participant: No. I love cooking my own food. Because I have the taste of it and because I know what I’m cooking. That it’s not too salty, it’s not too sweet, and is not too fat, so that I keep myself reasonably shrunk. And my husband. [Interviewer: Do you feel more Slovenian if you cook Slovenian?] I am Slovenian through and through. Wherever I go, anywhere I go, everyone knows that I am Slovenian. In gym when I’m going twice a week all the ladies over there they know where I come from. Most of them they have been already and I invite them to the club too. I feel “domača ženska” [home lady].

Participant: Yes, the children love it. Christmas time or Easter time. “Potica” [potica cake]. With my daughter we usually make a lot of “potica” because her in-laws and her grandparents and I have Australian friends, and they love “potica”. That was my Christmas present to them every year, a big piece of “potica” for them for Christmas. We didn’t buy expensive presents, but the food. And the lady made lovely old time jams and we exchanged.

Participant: Yes, because our Slovenian food is different and something else to offer. We’re in Australia and we’re diverse, multicultural, we all have something to offer, different things. I like to share through food my heritage. It’s a good conversation piece.

Participant: I do. Where I work we talk about food all the time and it’s very much… What’s sort of in our cultural background. There is that real consciousness of it and wanting to share it, but I suppose… [Husband: But because you work also with a [Slavic] lady…] Yeah, we’re just food obsessed. We talk about food all the time. It’s how you have the opportunity to do that in your everyday life.

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Next:
1.6 If you imagine a virtual or a physical museum exhibition presenting iconic Slovenian food what would be shown? Answers.

Other questions:
1.1 On which occasions do you usually prepare or eat Slovenian food? Answers.
1.2 Is it you who usually prepares the Slovenian food or does someone else prepare it for you? Answers.
1.3 If your non-Slovenian friend invites you to a barbecue or a dinner to bring your plate of food what do you usually bring? Which of the foods you bring is a part of Slovenian tradition (ingredients, a way you prepare or serve it)? Answers.
1.7 Which are the most iconic Slovenian food/drink brands? Answers.
1.8 For the 1st generation: Which food/drink or ingredients that you usually consumed or used in Slovenia, do you miss in Australia? It can be also a commercial brand. For other generations: If you go to Slovenia is there some kind of food you like and that you cannot have it here? Answers.

See also:
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)

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This is a website of a research project exploring digital technologies for communicating the culinary heritage of Slovenian Australians in collaboration with the University of Canberra under the 2015 Endeavour Fellowship Programme (PDR).