Between the Balkans and Central Europe: Celebrity Chefs, National Culinary Identity and the post-Socialist Elite in Slovenia
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Tominc, A. (2023) ‘Between the Balkans and Central Europe: Celebrity chefs, national culinary identity and the post-socialist elite in Slovenia’, Food and Foodways, 31(2), pp. 67–89. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/07409710.2023.2194049.
This article explores the construction of a national and supra-national culinary identity in Slovenia in the decades since its independence from Yugoslavia through the TV chefs Valentina and Luka Novak’s celebrity cookbooks. As they cook for the nation, they establish the idea of what is to be “Slovene” in post-socialism. Based on an analysis of the spin-off cookbooks from their popular TV series Love through the Stomach broadcast on Slovene television from 2009 to 2014, the paper discusses their complex navigation between various aspects of Slovenia’s history, as the chefs distance the cuisine from its Yugoslav past and explicitly reorient its food culture towards Central Europe. In doing this, they reflect and reinforce larger discourse shifts that have been taking place in Slovenia since the 1980s and through which its political and media elites prepared the ground for Slovenia’s entry to the EU in 2004, distancing themselves from its ‘Balkan’ neighbors and embracing its European essence. This paper shows how such shifts can be reflected in culinary texts, such as cookbooks, contributing to the understanding of everyday food texts as political texts. The paper also demonstrates the role of the Slovene middle-class elite as culinary trendsetters in the post-socialist period.