Vodnik’s Kuharske bukve (Cookbooks) from 1799, the first cookbook written in Slovenian, also explains the influences of French and German cuisine and later even Balkan influences. The variety that has grown from all of this is the reason why Slovenian cuisine can be compared to any other world cuisine. Slovenian cuisine enthuses both Slovenians and foreigners by keeping in step with the times and maintaining tradition.
The most important aspect of maintaining tradition, which many Slovenian chefs are big advocates of, is coming back to nature: more and more ingredients are homegrown and homemade, not bought in supermarkets. Restaurant owners and people in general nowadays want to be in close contact with farmers and producers, which is how they can track their ingredients and make sure they are of the highest quality. This, of course, influences the quality of the food we prepare, too - the ingredients we use are seasonal just like they were in the days when not many people had fridges in their homes.
A commendable act is also going back and paying attention to traditional dishes that have almost vanished from menus because they were usually heavy, high in calories and sometimes even unhealthy. Slovenian classic cuisine included a lot of pork fat, cream, beans, butter, eggs, mushrooms … Today, such a heavy meal will confine you to your bed for a few hours, so it is high time to start making these dishes in a more modern way. This presents a special challenge to young Slovenian chefs: how to prepare traditional dishes in a more healthy way, not losing their pristine flavours but giving them even more value. One of the reasons why we do not cook traditionally more often is also the fact that Slovenian cuisine is not a fast one; classic dishes are made slowly, sometimes they even take days to make and this needs some smart adjustment in the age of fast food.
The biggest challenge, though, is making traditional dishes that are not imprinted into our culinary memories like močnik, prosena kaša, bujta repa and other classics that are slowly fading away, cool again and adding them onto plates in every household and restaurant.
The next step connected to tradition is limiting meat intake. Slovenians only used to eat meat on Sundays or in the time of koline. People who want to eat sustainably have already reduced the quantity of meat on their menus so that their food is more healthy and does not exhaust the environment like livestock breeding does.
Slovenian cuisine has a lot of tradition, recognisability and identity. It is time to start appreciating, respecting, encouraging and re-imagining it so that our grandmothers’ traditional recipes will live on in new forms.
Foto : Dean Dubokovic