Heartbeat of Zagreb

Cooking Croatia: A Lady from Zagreb Who Will Teach You a Thing or Two About Cooking

"The most important thing, for me, is to know what tourists like the most. They are thrilled about Zagrebian dishes and recipes, especially the ones they make themselves."

Shcupfnoodles, Schellnokle, Eingemachtes, Kaisersmchmarn, and similar dishes that are hard to pronounce can all be counted as the famous Zagrebian and Croatian dishes our grannies used to make. Although the stores today offer all kinds of ingredients and spices which you can use to make any dish you want, I feel like our older generations were so much more imaginative with the ingredients they had on disposal. Besides being imaginative, their cooking was brought to perfection because of two reasons. One of them is making those dishes hundreds of times, and the other was the secret ingredient - love. 

Photo credit: Željka Stošić/Cooking Croatia

I Had to See for Myself

In my opinion, local food is an essential part of any culture. And, in addition to that, I think we have come to forget some dishes that make our culture. So if you want to discover how your grandma used to make those unforgettable dishes or you want to discover our culture, we finally have an answer to that need. I, for instance, wanted to learn for myself.

Photo credit: Željka Stošić/Cooking Croatia

Mrs. Žaljka Herself

I went to meet Mrs. Željka, the originator of the project Cooking Croatia. Naturally, one of the first things I wanted to know was where did she get the idea for the project. "After a couple of years of working in tourism, and with my great love towards cooking, I've come up with a project which combines the two. Tourism and cooking.", she answered. My next logical question was about the tourists and her experiences with them. "The tourists, and everybody else who comes to a cooking class, want to experience Zagreb with all their senses, which is also our motto. One thing that astonishes everybody is a walk-through of Dolac. Tasting the famous Zagrebian combination of cream and cheese, picking fruit and vegetables, and all the scents and sounds spreading across the most famous farmer's market in Zagreb. Maybe even in Croatia." She replied readily and added: "Tourists are most interested in learning how to make a traditional and typical Zagrebian lunch which they can replicate at home. They are interested in transferring the feeling they had here to the people back home who didn't come with them.", she added. 

Photo credit: Željka Stošić/Cooking Croatia

Cooking Classes

I wanted to know even more about the classes, and Mrs. Željka's experiences while organizing them. To be more precise, I wanted to know what is the dish they like eating the most. "They like to eat everything. We're cooking with seasonal ingredients, available across the globe, because of the main purpose of the class it that they can replicate the dish by themselves, at home." While cooking is great fun, we must confess, some skills are needed. But Mrs. Željka proved me wrong: "The cooking class is suitable for everyone, even complete cooking amateurs can learn if they want to." 

Photo credit: Željka Stošić/Cooking Croatia

If you take a walk around Zagreb and put your ear out there, you can hear all kinds of different languages. This means people from all parts of the globe are coming to Zagreb. That's why I wanted to know who was the most, so to say, exotic visitor. Mrs. Željka revealed it was a group of Chinese women in the workshop for making štrukli. But she also added that she gets visitors from just about everywhere. I guessed that Mrs. Željka meets all kinds of people. But I also wanted to know if a cooking class was the opportunity for her to learn something from her visitors: "Sure, I'm traveling a lot, and wherever I go, I spare a day to visit a cooking class. This year, I was in Cambodia, and in a couple of weeks, I'm going to visit Novi Sad to cook a Cambodian dinner because, after all, cooking is connecting people." She concluded.  

Photo credit: Željka Stošić/Cooking Croatia

So Much More Than Cooking

Mrs. Željka is organizing cooking classes with the help of her son, Anton. They like to say that they're not just mother and son, but also best friends and business partners. Anton is a great host and a piano player, and he likes to play for cooking class attendees while they're tasting the best homemade dishes. Ivo Robić is the tourists' favorite to listen to. While there is a lot to learn during her cooking classes, Željka likes to point out that she is not a professional cook. The most important thing for her about Cooking Croatia is spending time, and enjoying it with people. "The most important thing, for me, is to know what tourists like the most. They are thrilled about Zagrebian dishes and recipes, especially the ones they make themselves. The gastronomic and tourist offer is often following the newest trends, but I feel that those traditional dishes are what makes Zagreb special and memorable".

All in all, Cooking Croatia is an unforgettable experience which you shouldn't miss if you're in Zagreb or anywhere near it. I know I certainly enjoyed it. 

Header Image Credit: Željka Stošić/Cooking Croatia

Author: Tibor Trupec