Glasilo Magazine Excerpt:
by Anne Urbancic: Canadian Slovenian
This article was published in the November / December 2004 issue
Magazine. Our magazine helps build community. We
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Can you smell all the tempting and delicious aromas wafting
through the houses where Slovenian Canadian ladies are baking
up a Christmas whirlwind? Imagine nutmeg, vanilla, baking apples,
walnuts. Donít think of the calories, donít think of the diets;
just think of those wonderful cakes and cookies. And donít forget
Potica was first and foremost on our mind when the Canadian
Slovenian Historical Society opened its archive at Dom Lipa
on the occasion of the Dom Lipa Christmas Bazaar. Many heartfelt
thanks to the volunteers at the Elderly Personsí Center who
organized the event and allowed us to put up a display. So many
members of the Slovenian community, from the youngest to the
not so young stopped by to ask about us, to wish us success
and to inquire about how to contribute documents or artifacts
telling their own family history. But it would be a misrepresentation
if I were to write that our display was the destination of most
Most Dom Lipa visitors headed to the Ornament and Bake Sale
Room. Who could resist the strudels and the cookies and the
potice? Oh the delicious, delectable potice, all patiently baked
with care and love by the ladies of the Canadian Slovenian community.
The ladies should be warned, however. They have some competition
in the potica-making arena. It has recently been brought to
my attention, on excellent authority, that the very best Slovenian
Canadian potica maker is not a lady from Slovenia at all but
a Slovenian Canadian man.
Potica has been around as a delicious pastry of Slovenia for
some 200 years. The word has no certain etymology but it seems
to have derived from a corruption of povitica, meaning, rolled-up
dough. There are as many recipes as there are bakers. I would
wager that most of the best potica makers have been women. Until
Ed Lenarcic is the writer of a much complimented travel guide
to Slovenia ( you can read more about his work at http://
www.interlog.com/~ed/. He and his wife Barbara, who
is not Slovenian, took early retirement to be able to travel,
a pastime they are both passionate about. They divide their
time between Toronto and Florida, and it is from there that
we exchanged a delightful and informative email interview.
Ed recalls that when he was a young boy growing up in the west
end of Toronto, there always seemed to be a delicious potica
or two around. He often watched his mother as she mixed, ground
nuts and kneaded dough, but never helped her as she baked. On
the other hand, he was always available and ready to eat potica.
Ed admits that he and his brothers and sister never tired of
it. He recalls that his mother, Francka, worked from memory
without a recipe. He adds: ďItís been said that every Slovenian
housewife has her own unique recipe. Based on my experience
when I traveled throughout Slovenia researching my guidebook,
I think thatís true. Every one I tasted seemed a little different.
The most unusual one was made with tarragon. Pretty good, but
I couldnít get over the green colour.Ē
As an adult, Ed discovered how entertaining and satisfying
cooking could be. He decided to bake potica just because it
seemed like fun. He was also aware that no one else in his family
knew how to make it, and felt that by doing it himself he would
continue a family tradition. Ed worked from his motherís recipe,
occasionally asking her advice and using the best ingredients
he could buy. He was also lucky to find a large table where
he patiently rolled out the dough. According to Ed, a large
working surface is a must. Like his mother, he mixed, he ground
and he kneaded. Then somewhat dubious and diffident, he baked.
He was surprised and pleased by the appearance of his first
potica, so delighted, in fact, that he decided to serve it at
the celebration honouring his mother on her 80th birthday. This
was the moment of truth: the family all tasted it; mama tasted
it, guests tasted it. Everyone was more than enthusiastic and
appreciative. Soon his potica had completely disappeared. Then
came the compliments and the reputation, which was soon spread.
Even mom was pleasantly surprised. She felt flattered and honoured
that her tradition would be carried on by someone in the family.
Ed considers himself an amateur potica maker. But he encourages
everyone to try baking it. He has even provided some advice
for other novices:
1. They say potica must be made with love. In practical terms,
this means ďtimeĒ. Set aside the whole day. Youíll need most
of it, and youíll be too tired afterward to do anything else.
Is it worth the trouble? Yes!!
2. Use pecans rather than the traditional walnuts. They seem
to be more moist and have better flavour.
3. Donít overgrind the nuts into a paste. Pulse them to leave
texture. This gives a much more interesting mouth feel.
4. Soak the raisins in rum. When rum or extract is added, it
just gives a general mild flavour. Itís much more interesting
to bite into a raisin and have this surprising little squirt
5. Ensure that there is an even balance between filling and
pastry. Too little filling is cake. Too much is nut spread.
Even amounts of each is potica.
6. Get help when itís time to roll the potica and put it in
the baking pan. Itís a lot easier with four hands than two.
7. Have faith. Youíll be sure you screwed up, but the dough
is very forgiving and things work out in the end.
8. Forget about diet potica. Cutting back on butter, sugar
or any of the other tasty ingredients in order to save calories
pretty much ruins the product. Eat good potica, less often.
This shouldnít be too much of an imposition, considering that
the effort required will keep you from making it too often anyway.
Ed learned another lesson from his potica making attempts.
He gratefully says to all those Slovenian women who have been
making potica for decades, simultaneously looking after small
children, doing the laundry, preparing supper and watching a
soap opera: ďyou have my greatest admiration.Ē
Unfortunately, the Canadian
Slovenian Historical Society cannot accept samples
of potica for our archives. I suspect it would disappear within
hours of its arrival. But potica recipes, written down, or as
a video while you, your mother or your grandmother make potica,
are a valid addition. Edís fear that his family recipes might
be lost in time is shared by Slovenian archivists all over the
world, as I discovered during the Archivistsí Course I took
in Ljubljana last spring. As the wonderful baking smells tease
your taste buds this Christmas, think about contributing your
recipes, documents, or artifacts of Canadian Slovenian life
to the Canadian Slovenian Historical Society. You do not have
to be famous to be important to us.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.