When I talk about my childhood, I always tell people:
“Thank God I grew up poor, and my mother grew up poorer still, or we would have starved.”
To some, that’s an oxymoron. But the hardship and poverty that my mother endured in Post WW2 Europe taught her survival.
We emigrated from Croatia to Toronto when I was a child. When poverty found us some years later in a rich country, it was the lessons borne of poverty from my homeland that bore us through to the other side. I grew up in-between places: one of plenty where I would create my own destiny; one that had its heart and soul ripped apart through wars and ever-changing powers.
There are vivid images in my mind, carried over from childhood, ones that I’ve never been able to forget: the old women in the villages of my home country. The way they were constantly and forever cooking. The way that food was an intrinsic part of daily life. Our food was grown on our land; our animals slaughtered in the open. It was a food system of glass walls, of appreciation and respect. Forever looming was the threat of want, of hunger. There are stories I grew up listening to of that great want. Stories that have remained with me.
Through all this is the ever-present tradition of my ancestors, of all our ancestors really. The peasant cuisines of those ingenious people who made do with what little they had is our shared history as a people. And this is what fascinates me now as an adult; now that the shame of a youth spent in poverty has faded alongside the dietary trends that seemed so important at the time.
Like I said, I grew up in between places. And sometimes children don’t understand. But that’s a different, and much longer story for another day.
I am not very interested in trends regarding food. What I’m passionate about is venturing into the murky past of culinary history and cooking and rediscovering those things for myself. Most of the recipes here will be grain and legume free because I simply do not tolerate those foods in large quantities, but you really don’t need my permission to add a slice of bread on the side, really. I’ll even teach you how to make a sourdough loaf with the ancient einkorn wheat we first domesticated thousands of years ago.
I guess you could say the bulk of recipes here will be Mediterranean, and lucky for me, the Mediterranean is a large place encompassing many amazing culinary traditions.
I will also be getting into gardening topics, both from a community garden in the city perspective, and from my desire to see how much food I can grow in my tiny condo proper, especially through the long Canadian winters.
Some more things about me
- My name, Jana, is pronounced like Ya-nah. The J in the Croatian language is always pronounced like a Y.
- I think eating from nose-to-tail is delicious and important.
- I love recreating old, forgotten recipes from different time periods and cultures.
- I (attempt) to grow things to eat myself on my Toronto balcony and my new community garden plot.
- My favourite meat is pork — from pastured, heritage breeds — every single part from the crispy skin to the fatty belly.
- I love raw milk and raw-milk cheese-making which I’m still learning about.
- My favourite cuisine? I love classical (and authentic) Mediterranean cooking, Ethiopian, Japanese, and of course, all things French.
- I have way, way too many cookbooks.
- I love thrift stores and vintage fashion. I collect dresses. In 2018 I only bought vintage, thrift, and second-hand clothing. In 2019 I’m mostly continuing that practice.
- I love Victorian literature.
Follow me on social media for more. Instagram is where my latest food creations and travels are posted. My Instagram Stories is where I go behind-the-scenes on my life, travels, cooking, food entrepreneurship.
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