Saturday 12 October saw the Croatia Deakin Soccer Club in Canberra filled with food lovers, eagerly clutching their copy – or copies – of the beautiful cookbook, In My Mother’s Kitchen. The book is the culmination of over eight years’ hard work from the Croatian Cultural Association of Geelong (CCA), putting together recipes from all over the community and having them turned into stunning photographs and text for publication. A keepsake for all of our Croatian culinary memories.
While the book has been on sale for some months now, an invitation to present at the Windows to the World event, held at the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Canberra, gave Cultural Association President, Mrs Ivanka Baric, a fantastic idea: to host an official launch party. A way for her and her dedicated team to create some additional hype around this wonderful book.
And, when a truck full of props and decorations arrived in Deakin all the way from Victoria, we knew we were in for a treat. To say the atmosphere was buzzing would be an understatement!
Through the hard work of the CCA team, the staff at the Croatia Deakin Soccer Club and the Croatian Women’s Association of Canberra and Queanbeyan, the upstairs function space at the Club was transformed into a thing of beauty.
Huge cherry blossoms, cascades of orchids, homemade cakes on tall tiered stands and all manner of meats, cheeses and treats filled huge tables. Cakes festooned with red hearts – the CCA logo – and Croatian donuts made by local business Krofne added to the abundance of offerings for excited guests. Plus, what party would be complete without champagne?
Guests were greeted by warm smiles from children dressed in national costume from Croatia Deakin’s own Hrvatska Folklorna Skupina Croatia (HFS Croatia).
Adding to the excitement and colour in the room, we were delighted to host acclaimed Croatian artist Mr Charles Billich and his wife Christa. Mr Billich actually painted the image which graces the cover of the book and donated it to this worthwhile project. We were also fortunate enough to host Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia, Ms Betty Pavelich, and her family.
Chatter among guests was brought to silence by the soulful melody of crowd favourites, Klapa Samoana, who opened up the official program for the afternoon.
Mr Tony Vidovic welcomed everyone to the event on behalf of the Club Board noting how much Croatian food had featured in his own life with friends at school desperate to come visit and sample his mother’s home cooking. Mrs Marica Belavic, President of the Croatian Women’s Association of Canberra and Queanbeyan, was delighted to introduce another leader in the community, Mrs Ivanka Baric.
Ivanka spoke about how honoured she was to be in the nation’s capital, celebrating this book.
“8 years, 495 pages and 165 recipes later, I am immensely proud to present to you ‘Kuhinja Moje Majke” she said.
She spoke of the inception of the CCA in 2004 as a way of keeping Croatian traditions alive. An integral part of its success was the hosting of regular cooking classes, from which emerged In My Mother’s Kitchen as a way of preserving all of this shared learning.
“Many of us associate food from our childhood with warm feelings and good memories. It ties us to our families and cultures, holding a special and personal value for us.”
She then paid tribute to all the original migrants who had come over from Croatia many years ago and built the communities we now call home here in Australia – especially the work of all those strong women who kept the recipes and traditions alive in such foreign conditions.
Mrs Baric closed by saying: “We have worked extremely hard to ensure that this cookbook pays homage to our homeland and the cuisine, which has sustained generations, and that it serves as a lasting reminder of the story of the Croatian people.”
A cookbook launch would not be much chop without a cooking demonstration so Mrs Katica took to the stage to demonstrate the making of apple and cheese strudel. Along with a taste of this sweetly scented, freshed baked dessert, guests were also treated to a gift bag put together by the CCA. Each one included traditional, homemade Croatian Paprenjaci cookies and seeds to plant in the garden, continuing the tradition of growing fresh vegetables for use in these recipes.
The event was a great opportunity to bring together the communities of Geelong and Canberra, working together for the common goal of promoting our precious culture and heritage. Both communities wish to pay special thanks to the huge team of volunteers without whom this could not have happened.