Nevenka Golc-Clarke, Hon. Consul for Slovenia in Queensland, about preserving and promoting the Slovenian culinary heritage in Australia and about encouraging active participation of younger generations.
Preservation of Slovenian culinary heritage is part of the preservation of Slovenian heritage in general. Food is something we deal with every day therefore the preservation of this part of heritage can be frequented in every day life, as opposed to, for example, architectural heritage, which attracts special or sometimes esoteric interest nonetheless important. By the Australian census 2011 information there are some 6,000 to 7,000 Slovenians in Australia. Usually one has to multiply at least by four to get a more realistic assessment of the number of Australians of Slovenian descent. The second and third generation are often well assimilated into the Australian society. So thinking about how to bring the Slovenian heritage closer to them is even more important.
Of course, the clubs have played a substantial role in retention of the Slovenian heritage and especially the culinary heritage in Australia. I would encourage young people to participate more actively in the clubs. But the core of the retention of the Slovenian cooking would be, in my view, families. Slovenian parents and parents of Slovenian origin would need to nurture love for the Slovenian culinary richness by cooking meals and engaging children from a young age. This imprints in the memory of young children the specialness of their heritage and the knowledge of this interesting part of their heritage, in preservation of which they can quite easily become active participants themselves.
Admittedly there are a number of families where parents are of second or third generation and it becomes increasingly difficult to retain and pass on the ‘original’ knowledge to the next generation. How can we bring the Slovenian culinary techniques closer to people interested in this topic?
Australians, especially the younger generation, and young Slovenians in Australia are no exception, are extremely digital savvy. By the ABS (Australian Bureaus of Statistics) in 2009 some 90% of 12-14 years old children used the internet as part of their education process. Some 60% engaged in social media. Australia has, from my knowledge, one of the highest engagement of young people in social media and digital learning in the world.
The idea to use digital media to bring the Slovenian kitchen closer to younger generation is therefore in my view an important step. Australians love talking about their experiences and share them on social media. Let’s say they read about making ‘krofi’ on this website, a kind of Slovenian doughnuts. I hope the recipe will encourage people to make ‘krofi’ and perhaps share experience about making them with others.
We also need to observe that food traditionally made in Slovenia might not always taste the same in Australia. There are differences in ingredients. For example, sugar in Slovenia is generally of sugar beet, while in Australia sugar is made out of sugarcane. The tastes will slightly differ. The flour is made of wheat of grain grown on Australian soil which has a slightly different composition of minerals than the soil in Slovenia thus there will be differences in taste. Same holds for meat as cattle graze on fields with different grass strains. Tea from my garden’s elderflower for example, has a different flavour to the tea of elderflower in Slovenia.
I believe we can also enrich Slovenian culinary in Australia by using specific ingredients which are traditionally not available in Slovenia. For example, instead of using a plum or apricot jam for ‘krofe’, we could use rosella or quandong jam. I think such slight adjustment would not take away from the heritage but would give it somewhat an Australian character.
We could build Slovenian Australian cuisine, a merger between Slovenian tradition and Australian peculiarity. No doubt digital media could play an important role in sharing this development.
Hon. Consul for Slovenia in Queensland
Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia
– Dr Elizabeth Tomažič, author of the book From Hands and Hearts: Slovenian Recipes in Australia. Read more.
– Father Darko Žnidaršič OFM, Head of the Slovenian Catholic Mission and Church of St. Raphael in Merrylands – Sydney. Read more.
– Ludvik Štefko, a Slovenian chef and artist with a passion for herbs and spices. Read more.
– Draga Gelt OAM, the HASA Archives and the Slovenians in Australia websites. Read more.
– Jana Jereb, Sarah Robinson, Frank Pristov and Kate Pristov, participants of the Slovenian language course with a cooking lesson. Read more.
– Sasha Kos and Alenka Caserman, the Facebook groups Slovenci v Avstraliji and Novi Avstralci. Read more.