Sunday, 1 February 2015

Meal 36. Slovenian Jota and Štrudel

In many cases, "love" is the reason my hosts end up in the Netherlands. For Breda, from Slovenia, it took the shape of Bert. A real Groninger, he came to Slovenia as a surveyor 30 years ago (a project involving gas pipelines) and brought Breda back home with him. They now have two grown daughters who speak both Dutch and Slovenian. The long trip by car to Slovenia has been made dozens of times, and they now divide their time between a small village in Groningen and Breda's birthplace back home. I am proudly shown photos of their new "summer home" and of the house Breda grew up in.......a centuries old fort with walls almost 2 meters thick! With walls that thick, they just built the toilet in the wall.

Even so, it could be quite cold in the winter. It was Breda's father's job to get the fire started in the morning. To get warm enough for this task, a stiff drink was needed first! This practice was shared by many businessmen, who would start the day with a nice coffee and cognac at the local café.

The hearty meal Breda is serving tonight is also meant for cold winter nights. We start off with roasted chestnuts from a tree they've planted themselves in the garden. The main dish, Jota, is traditionally served in mountain huts after a long day's work. It consists of some kind of pickled turnip -Kisla Repa-, sausage (both specially brought over from Slovenia), potatoes, brown beans and lard with bacon. Breda's oldest daughter was vegetarian for a long time, but would make an exception for the bacon bits!
Breda's son-in-law, Erik, tells a story about less delicious food. When he helped out at a farm a couple of years back, the vegetables they got for lunch were from jars of preserves from the cellar. They seemed quite old, and the farmer's widow they worked for would scrape off the layer of mold on top before serving the contents. After she died, it turned out there were preserves in the cellar from before World War II!
The positive side is that you can eat 60 year old food without even becoming sick. Although Erik says he never really enjoyed those lunches...
The high point of this meal is the apple strudel for dessert. I enjoy watching the preparations almost as much as eating the hot delicacy, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Nowadays, Breda only makes this apple pastry about twice a year, so it is really a special occasion. Although it isn't difficult to make, it does require several steps and a big table, so I don't see myself doing it anytime soon in my cramped student quarters.
After strudel with cappuccino (Slovenia is close to Italy, after all), I receive a Slovenian going away present made by Breda's sister. It's a jar of plum preserves smelling very strongly of rum. I've tried it already and it's great with custard.
Although Breda loves good food, miraculously she still fits in her 30 year old wedding dress and the stylish velvet jacket she is wearing to a party after dinner. Breda and Bert drop me off at the train station on the way to the party and I am left in the cold with a warm feeling inside, contemplating how generous and hospitable people can be to previously unknown guests like me...

If you have the time, a big table and an old table cloth, you can try Breda's Štrudel recipe at home.

(The original post about this meal is from November 22, 2006)

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