About food that isn’t just for eating. About the senses, colors, herbs, flour, and simplicity of life on the island. Barbora told us all about it.
Barbora, can we call you a baker? If it was up to you, without any unnecessary labels, who are you?
I don’t mind the word baker, but I don’t think it fully describes me. My process of making is lengthy and baking or cooking is at the very end of it. Whether it’s ingredients or decorations, I have to collect them first. I use various seasonal fruits, vegetables, or edible herbs. I either decorate or season with them, or I make dye, jams, and marmalades out of them. It’s all about experimentation. I always wonder what can be eaten and how.
I want to perceive the food differently, as a whole. I look at it as a raw material that I process. I thoroughly think through the use of each element, so it is not harmed during the process and that all the nutrients remain.
My grandmothers cultivated a love for food in me. From an early age, I practiced “alchemy” – mixing herbal potions. At first, I baked for the family, friends, and gradually also for the strangers. Today I am lucky to have very good clients to work with. The food feeds me.
What does food mean to you? Where does our human need to eat meet the art?
Food is an important element without which we do not know and do not want to live. It makes us happy and manifests itself both on the physical and emotional sides. I first eat with my eyes, then I smell the food and only then I taste it. I’ve been decorating my food since I was a child – I remember always carving pictures of fish or plants with my knife on buttered bread.
As in life, so in the food I prefer simplicity. For me, even flour is a form of art – a gift of nature that I do not need to make more beautiful if I handle it carefully and with respect. I always start with the ingredients. I try to keep nature in the food – through natural colors, collected flowers, and herbs. I’m not trying to make food into something that it isn’t. I shape the dough based on what I see around. Mostly I work with symbols of nature and the faces of people.
Do you prefer to move around or stay in one place? How do your surroundings inspire you?
I’m more of a nomad. For the last year and a half, I have been switching between Prague and Fuertaventura. My family and I have an eco-farm on the Canary Islands, with animals and tepees which we rent out.
On the island, I learned to be free. Fuerteventura is very much a dry moonscape. There are many mountains and little greenery, only a few cacti, all in earthy colors. One feels free there, nothing disturbs him. It offers a space to connect with yourself, to think, and maybe to think more. That’s why my need to create is much stronger on the island.
Do you see meaning in art that vanishes?
I don’t like waste. Perfectly fine food a little behind expiration date in supermarket bins makes me furious. I’m only so small to fight it. And that’s why my practice is a personal revolution. I never cook or bake just for a photo and it doesn’t bother me that the food is eaten right away. Quite the opposite, if it’s gone quickly, it means it was tasty. I want to make both people and their bellies happy.
My gingerbread is a bit more lasting than the cakes, so few people keep them around. Because the cookies are durable I can also send them around the world. Like last time, they traveled all the way to the US.
Is it important for you to research the history of ingredients and the techniques? Do you follow tradition or do you create your own?
I love traditions and try to learn as much as possible about them so that I can later pass them on. I also create my own traditions – I combine them together with the stories my grandmothers told me. For example, my gingerbread is an old family recipe, but the decoration technique is my own. Often it may appear like it’s been painted by a child, but then I also want that child to stay within me.
My work is based not only on the Czech tradition but also on my experience abroad. For me tradition is not only what you can find in the books, but what you find in other cultures, families, or in their table manners. I prefer to learn from people and seasons.
Do you consider craft to be still alive today? Why does it need to survive?
I think craft is still alive, but it doesn’t know how to keep up with today’s world, where everyone wants everything now and cheap. It’s starting to change with our generation, I think we’re already looking at where the things we use came from. Everyone will probably agree with me that coffee or tea taste so much better from a mug engraved with the name of its creator.
Time on the Canary Islands has taught me that one does not need so much to survive. Maybe two mugs, two sweaters, and some shoes. Modern life has always been stressful for me, I’m not that friendly with technology either. Even when baking, I prefer to do everything manually.