How and why did I end up surrounded by all this food in my life, I started to think frequently for myself. Cooking, writing about food, workshops about bread, lectures about culinary journeys, forming and producing wooden chopping boards, like I don’t do anything else in my life and the kitchen seem like my one and only space for expressing myself, if not a true sanctuary. Wouldn’t I want to write short and funny stories for little children, advice modern companies about creative relationships in everyday workspaces, design something else as a piece of wood and just like a normal person, go into a restaurant and order something for dinner?
Well, I guess not everything is smoothly running in my life, sometimes a swift and powerful reaction of the inner ego and body reminds me of this, when people pull on my sleeve and ask me how to cook this and that. Ugh! Don’t you see that I am not a cook and that pasta recipes are not the most important thing for what is it worth living for?
It’s true, but what is that important thig to live for? I have to take a pause here. In the last 20 years I have spent so much time around pots and pans and keyboards, that I forgot the most basic of movements. Really, why food?
Smiljan Sosič from Kozina – if the harvest is good, Smiljan picks more than a ton of wine grapes, growing on the Čičarija lands, and makes excellent “brinovec” gin..
If you are willing to dive into my story, I invite you to join me on a journey in my neglected office with a big window facing the main Šmartinska cesta road, and we write the year 2003 and at the desk sits a bored and young graduate of a Faculty of economics. He is writing a speech for his 70 –year old director, who is running for another 4-year mandate. Just a few moments before, the young apprentice was writing a report about the influence of advertising campaigns displayed in supermarkets; the new director of marketing set a very ambitious plan, because she was a freshly graduated magister in the field of purchasing routes.
The boy is full of ambitions and knowledge – the old company needs to be modernized and the product program and efficiency has to target younger buyers. He is writing marketing plans, making surveys, planning advertising campaigns, writing, drawing and designing. He is successful, he also pushes a lot of numbers up and down and so he fought out his little space – he declares himself leader of marketing communications.
And why does he look so bored sitting at his desk? Because nothing ever changed in that company of his; a prehistoric culture unwilling to move forward. And he decides to loosen up a bit and starts to write a book on his company’s computer. He writes about his heritage, about the history of the place he lives in, and about food. 40 family stories, stories about Uskoki, Germans from Kočevje, Vlach Sheepherders from Čičarija, neatly rounded up with tasty recipes, which have the same content as the stories. The book never got released, but it helped the boy to live out 1 year and a half in his boring job, before he found another one.
Mrs. Silvana from the village Barka in Brkini – Silvana is one of the oldest inhabitants of the northern hamlet of the western part of Brkini. She described to me the exact way of fermenting cabbage and turnips, a subject of which I am gathering information for my new book about yota.
Scene two. A somewhat older office, with the same-sized window. A new job in a new environment; a family business, a father and 3 of his children. A settled-in business without any need for innovation. Boredom. The boy is an office assistant of the director this time, he works steadily as supposed to, and in his free-time he studies Freud and is searching for interesting bicycle roads in the countryside. He finds comfort in cooking in the late afternoons, when he returns from work.
Someday, he decides to resign. A steady job just isn’t what he wants. He would like to cycle around and write the book he wants. A free year, a freely lived year after 6 years of work. He meets Dario Cortes in front of the shop “Maksi market” in Ljubljana and after a beer he gets an offer to write for the newspaper “Delo” in the newspapers supplement about food. Of course, with pleasure! And 3 years passed, filled with active terrain work, photographing and writing as an honorary member, writing over 100 portraits, interviews and subject-themed essays. But when he received 180€ for a reportage in Korčula in Pelješ, the work didn’t fascinate him anymore.
Mr. Mate from Korčula Mr. Mate carefully guards the ripped “pršut-thighs”, which will end up on the table of prestige guests of Korčulan restaurants.
He writes and publishes in first cookbook, more like a booklet; and in the next year a new one. In 5 years he releases 5 books and in the meantime eagerly cooks, so he can write about it. From time to time, he makes a wooden chopping board, so he doesn’t forget his crafting skills. In the sixth year he is preparing another book, but something started to bother him. Why cooking? Again, for the sixth time!
He then remembered a gift he received years ago from his ex-girlfriend. A psychological test of interests. 2 fields of interest stepped out in that test – arts and communication. An epiphany lights up all of a sudden in his head, he likes to talk with other people. Yes, history is what interests him, ethnology, humans.
You start to easily talk with people about food. A human is a medium, in which information is easily transferred. The human interaction enables you not being alone. Conversations are truly magic. And writing is making notes of that magic. Cooking is creating, a dish is a creation. Cooking is like a metaphor for the libido, the will to live. Short pause.
Dečko s koromači iz Apulije – se rad nastavi objektivu. Še preden sem dobro izrekel tisti vljudni, ali lahko, se je dečko že postavil v pozo, trenutek za tem pa že odkorakal naprej proti stojnici.
If I learned anything about myself, it is that I learned to recognize the yearning of expressing oneself; which is general means, that if I do not want to be alone, I need a counterpart to my being. A person to converse, a reader, a spectator…
I am not a cook. And I am not only an eater. I am a human, who explores and writes. I like to cook mostly for myself, but what, if I can easier sell a loaf of bread than a good idea. Cooking is a terrific hobby and a difficult career. I wish I could give Ana Roš one year of holidays for herself.
Buying books is not such a common occurrence in Slovenia and the whole book market is one big question mark, so how much more books must I write and publish. I will definitely make at least 1 more, for the others I’m not so sure anymore.
But the wish for closeness stayed and the human, as the centerpiece of my work, also. That is why I wrote about people in my personal lyrical article, people who I met on my journeys, talked with and wrote about their memories and habits in my booklet. Food is the red thread of it all, but in reality – the reason to meet is.
Raid al Dagistani – an Iraqi doctor escaped his country Iraq under death threats and made himself a nice life in Slovenia. I portrayed him in my kitchen, when we made biryani, a rich dish made of rice, pasta, meat and vegetables.
I am a star-eyed observer; I watch the world unfold before me and I am amazed at everything I see. The human person is always my main focus, even when I chop up carrots or write down my recipes. I like to talk to people that work with their own hands and with the earths soil itself. At home I crouch down before my computer and type down every impression and every note form the last 5 years and I publish this at the very end in a book for everybody to read. Throughout this whole process I always stay a father, sometimes a little grumpy, other times cheerful and high in spirit.