An appetite for the new in Slovene cuisine
Like the Pole's, Slovene's have a tradition of staple dishes going back centuries. The first Slovene cookbook was written by one of the country's most important intellectuals and poets - Valentin Vodnik - over two hundred years ago. And it shows that even then the country was open to new ideas in food with influences from Holland, Italy and Austria. More recently these new ideas have included fast food chains. Ivana Pristavec takes a look at the state of the new and old in Slovene cuisine.
The Slovene people were very open to new ideas in cooking especially in towns and bigger villages. In recent years many western fast food restaurants have opened and are thriving in all towns. Despite its small size, Slovenia has 15 McDonald’s restaurants.
One of Slovenia’s most renowned cooks and publicists Janez Štrukelj complains that it’s getting harder to find traditional Slovenian food:
“I think the fast food restaurants have occupied not only Slovenia but whole of Europe".
Where would you take someone to try Slovene traditional food?
"There still isn’t much to choose from in Maribor but it is better in Ljubljana. Even there they sell too much meat like minced-meat patties or shish kebabs which are not healthy".
Many people, however, still cherish homemade meals and are keen on helping the tradition live on. Slovene traditional cuisine differs wildly from region to region. In many cases it is simple to prepare. This can be said for most of the rustic and rural cooking. So what exactly is “traditional” food?
Slavica Strelec, a member of the country women’s union of Ptuj, explained what Slovene traditional food is, while preparing a popular national walnut cake called potica:
“Slovene traditional food is considered to be the food of our grandmothers, all the recipes that have endured the changes of time and are still in use today. Potica is surely a dish prepared in all of Slovenia to this day. We also have a lot of traditional foods which are characteristic for particular regions. For the region of Ptuj, gibanica, a cottage-cheese cake, is typical but meat products are also important, for example meat in minced lard or a local kind of prosciutto. Milk products are also very important, especially in this region. The so-called dried small cheeses were a specialty. Regarding vegetables people mostly used whatever grew in their gardens and fields.”
The Slovene national food in all its regions contained a lot of animal fat like cracklings, minced lard, bacon and suet. Meat was formerly eaten only on Sundays, but all other food was prepared with lard. Potatoes, beans, cabbage and turnip, on the other hand, comprised the center of daily nutrition. Nowadays, Slovene traditional food and the keeping and sharing of recipes is very popular. Some restaurants have also found a niche by specializing in traditional foods. In fact, there are signs that Slovenes are turning to their past regardless of the influx of western ideas that have come together with globalization.
Peter Pribožič, the director of Ptuj’s festival of national food is certain the future of this part of Slovenian heritage will not be forgotten.
“Every year the exhibition shows a part of our culinary history of the Slovene countryside, as well as what today’s farms have to offer. Around 1000 homemade products are evaluated every year. The idea for the future is to keep and develop this festival and to help around 700 farms to promote their products and also to enable the visitors to cherish their past and help the tradition to live on.”