Feature Friday: Meet Michal from Bratislava!
Michał, how did you learn to cook?
As a kid I enjoyed helping my grandmothers with their cooking and baking, that's where I picked up the basics. My parents later taught me many of their recipes.
Was cooking always a part of your life?
I have been cooking for a long time, at least since I was 18 years old and started to live on my own. I didn't really get into it until I started experimenting with vegan recipes though.
What does food mean to you?
You are what you eat. Literally - what your body is made of it acquired through eating. In this sense food is one of the most important things in life. For me food also means enjoyment, adventure and the possibility to connect with people. Unlike with religion or politics, people don't argue over food, we just share and talk and I like that!
What is so special in Slovak cuisine?
It is the cuisine of humble farmers and people of the mountains. As such it takes basic local ingredients and forms them into meals which are simple, but fun and filling. They have to give you energy to work the field for the whole day!
What is something interesting about your country's food culture?
Bryndza! This fermented sheep cheese gets used a lot and very diverse people all agree that it is healthy. How there is no bryndza anywhere else in the world remains a mystery to me!
How would you recommend the Slovak cuisine....
Find a Slovak person willing to cook for you. Unfortunately the "Slovak restaurants" tend to be gigantic tourist traps with bad food and worse service. You can usually find good food for low prices in central and eastern Slovakia when you go to a "salaš" - a place where people keep sheep and produce dairy products out of their milk. This is why my first meal on offer on Eataway is a traditional Slovak menu!
What is one ingredient you always have in your house?
Onions! I don't want the ghost of Meliško to haunt me...Slovak people will understand :) Besides, there is no Slovak cooking without onions. Maybe pancakes. Maybe.
What is your family's favorite thing you cook for them?
Bryndzové halušky, of course!
Do you have your favorite meal, if yes what dish it is ?
Because I love adventure and variety so much, my preferred meal has lots and lots of different little things and flavors which I can taste and combine. I simply can't decide on a single one.
What is the most unforgettable meal you have ever had?
Many meals with the right company. Mostly culinary experiments when visiting people in their homes via Couchsurfing.
What is your favorite food?
Lately I seem to be addicted to hummus and salty nuts. It tends to change - I binge on a certain type of food and then leave it be for a while.
Funniest cooking story or failure?
So many! As a 10 year old kid alone at home I tried to melt some butter for my pancakes but overdid it with the heat. The butter started to fly all around the room and I was unable to get near the stove until it the butter was all burned into the pot. We had to throw away the pot and repaint the wall.
What is your cooking style like? Do you listen to music, plan ahead, make a mess, etc…
I like to experiment. I rarely use recipes and almost never measurements. Sometimes I listen to music or podcasts. I like to keep the kitchen clean while I am cooking though so I am cleaning up while I am cooking. Most of my cooking is vegan and I have developed a style which I call "Vegan fast food". Goes well with beer.
The funniest or most interesting thing that has happened while you have been hosting an Eataway meal?
I only started out hosting meals and my first meal was wonderful in every regard. I met wonderful new people and they seemed to enjoy their time as well.
Your table is full of travelers, what 3 things do you suggest they do in Bratislava....
First go check out the castle and the Slavín war memorial. They are interesting cultural artifacts and provide the best views of the city. Second get lost in the night life. Bratislava has a thriving scene full of interesting craft beer pubs, clubs and international people. For example there is not just one, but two beer pubs built in the space where public toilets used to be, a dance club right below the castle in a bomb shelter and another club on the top floor of an abandoned communist era shopping mall. Third - nature! The castle of Bratislava sits atop of the very first hill of the Carpathian mountain range. A 10 minute bus ride will bring you to the edge of the forest which is full of marked hiking paths, places to build a fire and yes there are even some pubs in the forest!
What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
All of my spare money goes towards traveling. Other than that I love endurance sports like running and cycling, meeting interesting people and of course cooking!
What do you do other than cook for Eataway? (Occupation, family, etc..)
I am a professional poker player. I would like to switch to something involving less sitting, though.
How did you learn about Eataway?
My girlfriend (who loves food!) found it and showed me.
What does Eataway mean to you?
I see it as a part of a larger cultural movement which seeks to replace the impersonal culture of consumerism with a more direct connection between individuals. It's all thanks to the internet - we don't need middlemen anymore, we can interact with each other directly. And this goes for all aspects of life and of course food is such a social thing. Eataway truly is an idea whose time has come!
If you could invite 3 people in the universe to one of your meals, who would you choose?
Well, my table has space enough for 4 people so I'd invite Alan Watts, George Carlin, Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna.
What would you tell a potential cook that is nervous about hosting a meal?
Don't worry! Food makes people happy and the people at your table have come to experience not just your cooking, but to get to know you and your culture. There is not much you can do wrong here - just relax and be yourself!
What do you like the most about hosting?
Getting to know new people, talking about different cultures of cooking and eating and of course their happy faces if they liked the food! It's really one of the best feelings I know if someone sincerely compliments my cooking!
A favorite memory from hosting an Eataway meal?
During my first hosted meal I had to be the cook, waiter and host all at once. It was a lot of work, but after I fetched the last course I could sit down and have a nice, relaxed chat with my guests and it was wonderful!
If you feel like joining one of Michal's meals, feel welcome to check what he's about at his Eataway profile. Enjoy!