There we were: a biologist, an environmental geographer, a law professor and a writer, in my Ljubljana kitchen, each of us decked out with significant others and/or children. Most of us had met in Washington D.C. last summer at a Fulbright conference and bonded over photographs of the albino cave salamander–the proteus–and glasses of cold white wine. It seemed likely to me then, that this configuration of us here in my Slovenian kitchen, eight months later, would feel like family. I think we all felt a special kind of bond even then.
It’s a funny bond. We don’t do much together here in Ljubljana. The environmental geographer, a woman my age, here with husband and three children in tow, including a teenager, is in my own teenager’s phone as an emergency contact person. We don’t connect the way I do with my other female friends, talking about relationships and the ascent through our forties into middle age, but we rely on each other in a way that’s unique to the experience of being a stranger in a strange land and seeing something slightly familiar in each other.
The six children in my Ljubljana apartment last weekend ranged in age from 1-17, almost the entire spectrum of childhood. Each child has been having his/her own unique experience of living abroad, with the most joyfully vocal of the bunch being a ten-year-old boy who just won a prize in Slovenian cooking and brought several dishes of his newly formed interest to our potluck. We were very lucky to try his baked apple slices wrapped in prosciutto and his ocvirkove pogačice–cookies sprinkled with meat.
I bought the ingredients for a vegetarian version of the Slovenian stew, Jota, at the open air market in town. The recipe called for sauteed onions and garlic, kidney beans, potatoes, sauerkraut and a teaspoon of tomato paste, simmered for a couple of hours and served with a hot crusty baguette. Someone brought so much apple strudel, we were able to eat it for days following the gathering. The agreed upon favorite bottle of wine was a cabernet franc from the Goriska Brda region, an area sometimes referred to as the “Tuscany of Slovenia.” No one seemed to be a wine expert. It was just what we liked. Collectively.
We were gathered in the kitchen, some of us sitting on the floor, on the recycling bin, on each other’s laps, so that we could all fit. We’re not really colleagues and not really friends, but there’s something about the ten-year-old chef’s joy that we all seem feel when we’re together. It’s the feeling of an out-breath. Easy.
Čarga | since 1767
THE PLACE WHERE THE SUN KISSES THE VINEYARDS.
WHERE THE EARTH IS AT ONE WITH THE SKY.
WHERE THE POWER OF KNOWLEDGE OF GENERATIONS IS AT ONE WITH LOVE.
WHERE TRADITION MEANS RESPONSIBILITY AND WORK MEANS FREEDOM.