Vojka Cijan she lives in Vrtojba, cook by heart, not by profession, and each recipe she offers must be for the whole family. Does she buy flour and oil in stock?
Dear old friend. We visited Vojka just under five years ago, on a tour with readers, who provided us with some great recipes. What a happy and warm home this is. A family that knows how to live happily and have fun, without particular wealth, which is sometimes understood as a necessary condition for living well.
Vojka – with a modest salary for many, but, as she points out, regular – a few months ago, beaming and smiling, she reached retirement. Books have been her life for more than forty years: she went to bookstore school in Ljubljana at the age of fifteen, then worked in a bookstore until recently.
Now she is happy about the new kitchen she ordered. She hopes the Camino will finally be a success for her, maybe for the second year, and she has started writing a cooking blog (Sugar and Salt). A big wish now that he is retired: to write his own cookbook. She has countless recipes, her own, and adaptations of the approximately three hundred cookbooks she has collected and the Italian cooking magazines she is addicted to.
There will never be just one recipe: a universal recipe for a happy and contented life that would serve everyone. But a simple conversation, it could be a twenty-minute coffee, reveals over the lines a lot of clues on how to manage a household so that it “passes”.
And what is perhaps even more important: the listener gets the optimistic feeling that we have already been through a lot and that it is human nature to always find our way.
Simple meals that feed the whole family
“I’m always looking for something new when I cook, but always thinking of my family. My husband Darje and I have two daughters, one has a job that also requires night shifts, the other comes home after four or five in the afternoon She cooks with her husband, puts it in the trunk and gives it to them – so we reserve lunch for young people at least a few times a week. interesting: when asked what to cook, they usually say: some kind of soup, minestrone or goulash. They make their own steaks, potatoes… but they miss it. Last time I asked my eldest granddaughter what to cook, I got a similar response: this minestra with corn. You would call it a roar, but here we call it a jespranka, I add young corn. I think people maybe don’t even realize that this kind of homemade food means ie a lot for young people – they often don’t have time to deal with dishes that take a long time to cook,” says Vojka.
Isn’t that the very first great optimistic thought? Simple, homemade and inexpensive dishes that are cooked in a common pot for the whole family, no matter how many – this is the most economical way, which is not only the healthiest, but also the most enjoyable. “When we cook soup at home, we take a very large pot, then my husband and I divide it into portions and distribute them: for the families of our two daughters, and sometimes I also cook something for my mother. is 86 years old.”
Savings and savings: no flour and oil, but…
Now that she’s retired, she has time to watch ads and buy where she thinks a promotion is really good, says Vojka Cijan. He also has time to go to different stores; when she was still going to work, she always stopped at the nearest one because she was in a hurry. When he sees a promotion for chicken in a flyer, he calls his daughter to ask if she would like to eat it, with basil and sun-dried tomatoes – and whoever is closest will buy it. According to Vojka Cijan, food is where you can save the most if you need money for something else. “You can’t turn off the lights enough to save more than a few dollars at the end of the month. But with a good, thoughtful food purchase, you can…
“The war affected everyone: the Ukrainians, as well as those of us who are here at peace… Of course, people are worried. I read that in Ukraine they drank water from radiators because there was no other – I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had to give such water to my two-year-old granddaughter, for example. flour and other staples will come. But I’m not a fan of buying from stock – too often you throw it away. If I were to make broth, it would be completely different: no flour and oil, but mostly ingredients, including meat, like tünka. If there was no electricity, you couldn’t help yourself with the trunk either. But it doesn’t go bad in jars for years and years.”
Again, we are interested in what the earth gives us
“Here in Vrtojba, we used to be known for growing vegetables. But fifteen, twenty years ago many, maybe even most, of the fields were abandoned, I saw when I was walking around here. Now it starts to turn: can hardly find a patch that we haven’t worked on. Maybe my husband and I will go back to kindergarten. We have a plot higher in the village, we used to cultivate it, but then this bothered me more and more because there is no water on the land. It was a time when we were fixing the house, and our two daughters were small, and it was tiring for me to bring every day fifty liters of water to the garden by car to water the salads and the tomatoes. But now, who knows, we are watching how things will evolve with the war… Chickens can also come into play”, he thinks -he.
She’s not the only one to think so. “The daughter and son-in-law made a beautiful olive grove in the Karst, planted seventy olive trees, fenced it off with a real Karst stone wall. They also planted walnuts, persimmons, berries, figs , native vines, a beautiful herb garden, I ordered capers, seedlings. In a year or two there will be a real harvest of domestic olives,” he says. Even young people see the need to take care of themselves, both young families have high standards.
Vojka Cijan mentions something else in this regard: neighborhood cooperation. “My husband and I both come from a working-class family, but we used to have vegetables even without a garden – we went to help our neighbors when they picked potatoes, and they gladly gave us a bag In the village where I spent my childhood, we helped in a chicken farm, hunted chickens, and they gave us some to take home, where we then slaughtered them some more and had some meat. We all had rabbits at the time, because they sold well in the market in Italy. At that time, women were generally very successful and sold whatever was available at home: brandy that ‘had to be smuggled, hops, mushrooms – my late mother-in-law went to sell bells. A bouquet, a hundred liras.’ The interlocutor also mentions an important truth: that it is easier to orient oneself in a village in times of crisis than in the city…
… and a wood-burning stove
So what would this skilled housewife cook if it really was about nails, if the basic ingredients were lacking or if they were terribly expensive? “Certainly polenta with a seasonal side dish. Mushrooms, mushrooms in goulash with polenta. Vegetables, eggs, minestrone, potatoes, potato goulash. If there is flour and egg, there is pasta, you make cottage cheese with milk, and young cheese, you use all that for sauces…” She brought some of its recipes, economical and practical for the family, and they are there.
At the very end, she came up with something else, as she’s in blissful excitement about the new kitchen: “The two girls convinced me to put the wood-fired spaghetti, kipperbush, out of the kitchen, because we did not use this for many years. It was this war that convinced me and I did not remove it. You never know; what if we were without electricity: the stove would not work, the central heating would not work… Well, I can cook spaghetti, cook a minestra and it will still be warm.”
We also recommend Vojka’s recipe: Thrifty Cooking: Hot Bread Soup
Photos: Uros Hocevar, Vojka Cijan