Sweet, Sweet Slatko

By Jenn Sichel
University of Chicago PhD student and Smart curatorial intern

During a normal day at the museum, we all work diligently behind computer monitors and occasionally go to meetings in conference rooms. During a not-so-normal day at the museum, we might all drop what we're doing to help with a big installation. But one Friday in August, we all dropped what we were doing to head to the community kitchen at the Experimental Station to make and can 60 jars (well, 59 after I dropped one) of a traditional sweet strawberry jam called "slatko." And by sweet, I mean VERY sweet--1 1/2 kilograms of sugar for every 1 kilogram of strawberries! All of us chopped, cooked, and sealed jars together--interns, registrars, event planners, educators, curators, and even one mother-of-the-curator--it was a real family affair. The slatko we produced will be used for the Greeting Committee, an interactive, site-specific installation by Feast artist Ana Prvacki. Come February, you'll all be able to sample the sweet fruits of our labor. Literally.

Last week Ana explained to us the very personal roots of her installation that brings a new hospitality ritual to the often sterile museum environment:

I grew up with a possibly semi fictional story about multicultural manners and misunderstanding. My Romanian mother married my Serbian father and moved to Yugoslavia in 1975. There was a lot of curiosity about her arrival, family and neighbors were all dying to meet her, a young foreigner from the land of gypsies, vampires and Ceausescu, what could be more fun over coffee! Apparently they knew she was pretty but also possibly a thief, or at least very hungry and wild. And when she finally arrives she is tiny, does not speak a word of Serbian and is understandably confused by her welcoming committee standing expectantly in the doorway. Someone is holding a tray to her. She has not been informed that it contains a jar of jam like substance called "slatko", literally translated as "sweet", and it is indeed sweet, a kind of honey jam with sugar that makes the roof of your mouth vibrate. Next to it is a glass with teaspoons and a few glasses of water, the protocol being to have a spoon (or less) of the jam followed by a glass of water and then enter the household, with sweetness and welcome in ones mouth. My mother, unfamiliar with the custom and eager to make a good impression proceeds to consume the entire jar, one spoon after the other, with mmmmm's trying to sound and look delighted like any good guest should. Half way though the jar her hosts are in awe, amazed, worried, nodding to each other, she really must be hungry, they have it hard in Romania, what good sweet we make...It is unclear what happened next and I wonder if anyone tried to stop her, or if they brought out another jar. I will ask her, but I doubt she remembers clearly in her sweet delirium.

Enjoy the pictures of our adventures in slatko-making. More to follow, including a recipe!



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kelley Heider published on September 8, 2011 9:07 AM.

Images from Lunch with Laura Letinsky was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweetness and Welcome is the next entry in this blog.

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Blog Description

This is an informal curatorial research blog for Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, an exhibition about the meal as a medium for contemporary artists. The exhibition opens at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in February 2012.