Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt, amazing woman met on line. Grown up as a Third Culture Kid, by the time she was 14 she had been enrolled in 8 different schools and lived on three different continents. She’s the author of the superb blog SilvanaMondo – Traveling with Anima.
I was very struck by her creativity, the spirit of adaptation and great love for her daughter, Anima Chiara, third generation expat to whom she dedicated a secton of her blog.
A 3 nations coffee … Bosnia, Italy and USA.
Why do you choose this type of coffee, among all the coffees in the world? What does this place inspire in you and what stayed in your heart about this country?Oh, for me that is an easy question! I love Bosnian Coffee and would be drinking it in the BASCARSIJA, in Sarajevo, right now if I could. So much about that city is fascinating on every level, especially its multi-cultural history, though much of that feeling is gone today. For one thing, drinking coffee is so ingrained in the culture of Bosnia, that there are even names for the appropriate times to drink coffee during the day. Obviously you can drink coffee anytime but mostly it is when meeting others. As a greeting, as a getting to know someone, as a confirmation that you appreciate the relationship you have with the person you are drinking with. It is a ritual and this ritual insists on leisure, respect, peace – at least for the time you are drinking coffee together. It is what I call ‘Slow Coffee’. Long before I visited Bosnia for the first time I learned about this culture from my family since I lived with my grandparents as a little girl. They came from Bosnia to Germany. Friends and family would come to visit on weekends and the first thing they are served is coffee with sweets and some pleasant conversation. Always. This phase would be the prelude to the rest of the visit. Out of the kitchen would come many other dishes: meats, cheeses, small shots of Slivovitz (Plum Brandy) and of course even more coffee! Often my grandfather or one of the uncles would strum a guitar, sing a few folk songs. If it was a real party, the women would sing too and dance the circle dance of Bosnia.
Bosnian coffee is like Turkish coffee of course. The Ottomans introduced coffee drinking to Bosnia and its other vassal countries in the 1600’s. It is an eccentricity of nationalism that today those countries never call it “Turkish coffee” but instead ‘Bosnian Coffee’, ‘Serbian Coffee’, ‘Bulgarian Coffee’. I assume it is a matter of national pride. Bosnia has its own particular coffee culture which I find fascinating.
You have lived in many places and you have roots in different countries. What nationality would you say represents you the best?I will answer this question through coffee representation. As you know I lived all over the world and was lucky enough to live in Italy most of my teen years and into my twenties. If I were asked what nationality I am, at any time I would probably say I feel closer to the idea of being an Italian more than any other nationality. I mean, these formative years were crucial for my education about life, certainly my ideas about love, without a doubt I learned the appreciation of art and beauty. The charms of Italy are delicious in every way and I feel like I was born to always return to its beauty. However, as much as I love the richness of Italian espresso, you will never find me without my Bosnian coffee. I treasure it because if Italy is my heart then Bosnia is like my soul. I have a deep connection to it because my mother’s family and lineage is rooted there. There is a melancholia and intense interest in Bosnia that I have had since youth regarding culture, weltanschauung, personal destiny. Most definitely America is big, free and in many respects comfortable. We pay a price for comfort here though, and it is everyone’s personal decision what that cost should be. My idea of who I am is not necessary hooked into being American, Italian or Bosnian. I am all of it. I produce my work and dream my dreams by culling from the cultural mélange that is the sum of all places I have lived.
Your daughter Anima travels with you, how does she relate to traveling and what are her ideas about it?Anima is her mother’s daughter. When she was little she was always asking ‘when will we go to New York City, to California, to Washington? She told me when she was 6 she intended to study University either in London or at the Sorbonne. This made me very happy, of course because I never shut up about traveling and wanting to travel. She probably assumed it was better to get with my program. When we took our long trip to Italy however, it was difficult for her to adjust. I think being in Florence or a larger city would have had different results but we were in a very tiny village and the chances for communicating with other children her age was rare. She withdrew for a while and was very homesick. Only the incredible Italian food saved her and made her happy. Her zio made special steaks and fabulous plates of prosciutto to keep her spirits up and that helped.
Since we are back in America she is very happy but she admitted that she misses Italy and she will eventually like to go back. I think as parents we have to be very sensitive to our children. Traveling for a few weeks is usually no problem. Actually moving to a different culture presents more difficulty in adjustment, especially in the teen ages it is not as easy as it seems. I wrote about this in my blog ‘Traveling with Anima’ while in Italy. Every culture and place can be fantastic for an adolescent but there are considerations that need to be respected and understood so that they have a good time too. They are not adults but still have a right to have a say how they live. Having said that, as soon as she is ready for a move, I am ready too.
In your opinion is there something that ties together the idea of coffee traditions in the world? A cup of coffee in Bosnia or in the United States?Of course, coffee culture is expressly different in every country. America has a very fast moving culture. We are the gods of the fast pace. Everything is to go: food, coffee, even church. It is extreme. People kill themselves working many hours, no vacation for a long time, they have to eat and drink on the run. Italian coffee is appreciated for a ‘time out’ even if it is a relatively quick one at the corner bar. Then there is Bosnian coffee, which is tailor made to sit in leisure. Talk, breathe, lounge.
Coffee traditions are deep rooted because it is a beautiful elixir with a long history and all manner of purported healing and life enhancement properties. For me the American way is the least attractive because it’s so fast. They drink it while jogging, while driving. I don’t understand this barbarism. Also, even if the coffee is good, they are so fanatic about the process it becomes an exaggeration, like a satire. I still love Italian espresso, so perfect and rich and the friendly culture that goes along with taking a cup of coffee together. The Bosnian kafa, like Turkish, Greek, Armenian and Bulgarian coffee that is really where you can still find antique culture shining through a small cup of thick, black, sweet brew. What coffee represents in every country is at least for a particular community of coffee lovers an enjoyment in gathering and slowing life down for a little bit each day whether at the café bar in Italy or kafana in Bosnia or Starbucks in America. I like that.
The Espresso represents Italy best. How do you think Italians traveling abroad relate to foreign coffee and food?Yes, Espresso is Italy at its best. And so Italian food and craftsmanship although I have to say there are many places that are unfortunately following the American model of ‘fast food’ even in Italy. I was surprised and shocked and very disappointed. Maybe a younger generation is not as inspired by purity and craft; I am not sure what it is. At any rate it is clear to me that Italians abroad are very disappointed when they realize that you cannot get a simple café espresso or a plate of good pasta everywhere. Italians take their food and drink seriously and will not eat just anything that comes before them. Especially in America, unless you only travel to the bigger cities on the East or West Coast and then Denver, Dallas, Las Vegas, they will just not find the excellence that they have in Italy. So, I think that they relate to food abroad out of curiosity but since they are so spoiled they are very happy to be back at home.
The next cup of coffee you drink in the …?
Well, I sincerely hope that Ani and I will travel across the Ocean again soon, even this year. The plan is to bring a group from Denver to Italy and then go on to Sarajevo, Malta and finally to Istanbul. I have friends and family in all those places and so much to show and also to learn. I will have coffee in all those places and of course write about it. I can’t wait!