Interview


Marina Bogdanovic


Belgrade - 8 April 2016

Marina Bogdanovic was born in Belgrade, has been living in Rome for more than 20 years and is organizing cooking classes in the Italian “Cordon Bleu” school as well as private courses, preparing incredible lunches/dinners and banquets. She likes her “double life” somewhere between Rome and Belgrade. She grew up reading aphorisms of the famous Belgrade writer Momo Kapor with whom she shared a nostalgic love towards her hometown. He often used to say: “Not all of Belgrade is in Belgrade, a much bigger part of it lies in longing for it!

 

Marina wanted to become an archaeologist but she ended up as a cook! She started cooking at the age of 14 when she fell into a trap that her mother set, by accident, or more likely deliberately.
To me seems like I’ve known her forever. We hung out back in high school, and I’ll never forget the evenings at her parents’ apartment, inventing amazing things to eat! Wherever she went, she never came back without bringing goodies from various countries, which were unknown to us then in former Yugoslavia. It was so exotic and inventive! That’s why I’m not surprised that she devotes herself to cooking with so much enthusiasm and creativity!

Tell us something about your beginnings in Italy. Was it difficult to adapt to a new country and change your vocation because after all, you are an archaeologist!

After almost 26 years of living in Italy, I could say that it wasn’t too difficult to fit into a new environment, but then it would be only half true. I think that everybody reacts to changes in their own way, depending on their character. I’m convinced that profession has nothing to do with it. I was first trying to “catch-up” with political history of Italy after World War II, trends in society, language … , which was initially very stressful to me, but after so many years it turned out to be a really good investment .

Could you point out similarities and differences between Belgrade and Rome?

Most of all, the climate, which influences the way of living and mood of people. I must admit that I do not miss the famous sentence in the morning radio program of the Belgrade Meteorological Institute: “Today, 19 January, the lowest forecast temperature in the capital city will be -11°C and will reach the maximum of -8° C”! Every city is beautiful in its own way, even though Belgrade cannot be compared with the beauty of Roman Baroque or sunsets behind the Arch of Constantine. However, Belgrade is my hometown and that fact has for me a special meaning. I see the beauty of Belgrade in a very particular way. For me, Rome and Belgrade are two sides of the coin. People living in Rome possess that ironic attitude and even sarcasm that existed in Belgrade before I left.

What inspired you to become involved in cooking?

I think this idea came to me by accident. Before I gave birth to my daughter, I was working as a tourist guide, a difficult job, if not impossible, to deal with as a mother of a small baby and daughter with parents in Belgrade. I was looking for a job, which is not linked to long working hours during the week. So, I started to organize parties and receptions for a few friends and their friends, as well as cooking classes. All this was, of course, possible thanks to my husband who had a permanent job. He gave me the opportunity to dedicate myself to something I really like.

Did you have an interest for cooking in your youth?

Since I can remember! My mother at one point set a trap for me when she started leaving me a full fridge without anything cooked to eat! I accepted that little game with pleasure. I actually come from a family dominated by women who were all excellent cooks. They all wanted to do it in a professional way but none of them realized that dream.

What are the best parts of your job?

It would definately be the direct contact with people, creativity and autonomy.

And difficulties?

Advantages of my job are also its greatest weaknesses. Being in direct contact with clients is interesting but demanding and tedious at the same time. The problem is that autonomy gives me the possibility to organize myself as I please, but does not provide any security. I work even in the middle of the night if it suits me better, but I am never sure about the offers I will get. Everything has its price…

Have you been following any particular cooking classes and have they been beneficial to your job?

I could say that I’m self-made, but much later I completed all courses in the famous French “Cordon Bleu” school in Rome. I also attended several courses of the same school in Paris which was very interesting and enriching. I felt like in a temple and that experience has been extremely helpful in my own cooking courses when I realized that my approach was the same as the one in Paris. In any case the first time you get there you feel like Audrey Hepburn in the movie “Sabrina”!

How do you get inspiration for new recipees?

I’ve spent a lot of time consulting magazines with recipes and books about cooking. I must say that I prefer books to magazines, especially now. They are more reliable, we know who is behind them. I’m a great book lover; they are a starting point for my inspiration, while travel experiences upgrade it. Travels are very inspiring to me, but of course, only those of which I have very fond memories or remained deeply embedded. I am also inspired by people for whom I am cooking for: it is not the same whether you enter the kitchen with the intention of cooking for a stranger or a friend or someone who is more than a friend. Cooking for me is a gift for those you love, but most of all an exclusive relationship to what comes or does not come between me and the dish that I cook. Something like love at first sight!

What type of cooking do you especially like?

I admire the codex of French cuisine and I think that’s the basis of every cuisine, but I’m fascinated by the harmony of sweet spices in the Moroccan specialties and its lively colors. I’m in love with “citron confit” and appreciate Lebanese cuisine a lot. I love the simplicity of Greek cuisine which is the real essence of the Mediterranean region. I don’t have to explain anything about the Italian one, because this is something so natural to me and linked to my daily life. Basically it is a variety of Mediterranean cuisines that are obviously part of my being, while Japanese cuisine leaves me completely indifferent. Probably because I do not know it well enough.

Tell us something about your blog which you have been working on for several years?

The name of the blog is Mademoiselle Marina.

I was just curious about what it’s like to create a blog and I didn’t really think about the name. Also, I didn’t want to create just a collection of recipes, but a series of stories and events of my life related to food, a kind of a documentary from the cities and countries that I visited and all this together should’ve resulted in the network that connects all these experiences. Very soon, food and everything about it became a basis for reflection on society, emotions, human relations… In the end, one way reflections evolved into rich communication, the exchange of ideas between the readers of the blog! I am an idealist and I strongly believe that the world might be a better place if everyone could stop for a moment and listen to each other … It’s been 3 years since my blog and I are one of the 10 founders of the Association of Italian food bloggers (AIFB), whose mission is to study gastronomy as part of the cultural, historical and social heritage of Italy as well as improvement in writing and photography.

How did the general economic crisis influence your work and how did you cope with the new situation?

The economic crisis, of course, was not so recent and in the beginning I didn’t feel any consequences. However, stepping into the crisis more and more, my business suffered because for me cooking activities are like a cherry on the cake but something that people can live without. A crisis hits such activities because people are scared and try not to spend their money on things which are not essential. I don’t know how I managed, but I turned to other plans.

Do you like the new fusion tendency in cooking?

I don’t like the word “tendency”, it sounds fake, and above all superficial, although “fusion” is a constant element in my cuisine. Fusion cuisine is a way of seeing that something is not severe, that there is no boundary and that there is no wall, rather a door that is kept open. It’s about upgrading your experience by studying, thinking, respecting and understanding others. Fusion is a process that connects culinary identities and shouldn’t be a performance, which unfortunately it often is.

Now tell us something about your travels. What do you especially like to discover and what pleases you most in your travels?

My horoscope sign is Virgo and it’s known that Virgos don’t like surprises unless they are invented by themselves! So, I like to organize travels by myself. I simply adore traveling, and since I don’t have the patience to wait to get to my destination, I start travelling before departure: by studying history of the country for example or if I have time, I read a book of some local author or a book that is about the places I go to. I like to stroll in search of a certain types of restaurants and markets. Of course, cooking is something that I would put right after history and art. Most of all, while travelling, I like to have a lot of free time to enjoy it!

What is the first thing you want to find out about a new country to which you’ve never been before?

Which political party is in power!

What would be one singular advice that you would give someone regarding eating?

Cooking talents are of no use unless you don’t put fresh seasonal and local ingredients, and vice versa. I think this is the most important advice I can give.

Tell us something about your plans for the future.

It may sound too common, but my wish is to write a book about cooking; a book of stories coming from the kitchen. I think that’s all for the moment.