Perhaps the most special thing about Slovenian cuisine is its diversity. Slovenia offers no single, distinct type of cooking. There are great differences in style and ingredients throughout the country. The reason must lie in great diversity of Slovenia’s countryside and climate. Also, as a border country Slovenia borrowed recipes from its neighbours who have superb cuisines.
Slovenian traditional cuisine is “heavy”, caloric. Many dishes are hard to digest. It is based on the use of animal fat, pork, flour-based dishes, potatoes, beans, butter, cream and eggs. Vegetables are only few with the exception of cabbage and turnip. This can be said of city and country cooking. Farmers burnt calories through heavy work, while city people tended to be overweight. Many of these dishes are now regarded as unhealthy and have been adapted and changed into tastier and healthier variants. If you walk the streets of Ljubljana, you won’t see many overweight people and also in the countryside, people tend to eat less fatty food nowadays.
Meat used to be only served on Sundays and feast holidays. Old people will tell you that country people only had three good meals a year: breakfast at Easter, lunch on a patron saint’s day and dinner on a Shrove Tuesday.
Traditional Slovenian cuisine almost exclusively used food products grown in Slovenia. Imported food was the exception. Still today, Slovenians are proud of their home grown vegetables, fruits and other food. In the countryside almost every house has a vegetable garden. If there was an international competition in sustainable development, Slovenia would surely win the first prize. If they don’t grow food at home, they go and pick it in the woods, meadows…Slovenes seem to pick and collect food most of the year: wild lettuce in spring, all kinds of berries in summer, mushrooms and chestnuts in autumn – world champions again! Enjoying home-grown fruits, vegetables and other local farm produce is an important part of the way of life in Slovenia.
There’s something else very interesting and unique about Slovenian eating habits – our Sunday lunch: each Sunday at about 12.30 at least 80% of Slovene people do the same – eat beef soup with home made noodles, then hashed-brown potatoes, beef meat with horseradish and lettuce, in the end apple pie … and of course wine to go with. It’s really true. The whole Slovenia eats the same on Sunday at noon.
There’s another truth: there are as many different apple strudels in Slovenia as there are housewives. And all of them are good!
The old Slovenian proverb says ‘love comes through the stomach’. Husbands are proud of their wives’ cooking skills, children enjoy mothers’ home cooking, guests will never sit at an ‘empty’ table and at the end of a family celebration, the table is still full of food and the host is saying: ‘Please, do take something to eat.’
(C) Andreja Vavpetič & Zdenka Wicher