Tanja's Table

Tanja Dedovic, Labour and Human Development Coordinator at IOM, the UN Migration Agency’s Regional Office in Vienna, recently created a cookbook centring on food as cultural exchange. The cookbook, The Migration of Culinary Traditions in the Region, is now available for free download.

Tanja sat down with Joe Lowry, IOM's Senior Media and Communications Officer and Spokesperson in Vienna, to talk about the book.

How did you dream up the idea?

The idea was conceived in a training workshop  - we wanted to work on something which would allow all Labour and Human Development (LHD) focal points to work together on  one project – sort of like a teambuilding exercise. Normally we only do project for one of our sub-regions, such as for Southeast and Eastern Europe, or for South Caucasus or Central Asia, but in this truly regional project all LHD focal points could connect and contribute to its development.

Did the idea catch on quickly?

In the end, it was not only the LHD focal points who invested themselves in looking and researching about the origins of the recipes, but whole teams from all the country missions across a range of thematic areas. Thus with this project not only all missions in SEEECA region came together but within each mission many colleagues working in different thematic areas came together as well and I think this is also an important contribution that this book made – to allow all IOM staff to work together on a product with which they can all identify, of which they can be proud – no matter which thematic area they come from.

What was the most important part of the project for you?

For me personally the teamworking aspect is at least as important as the message of the book itself: migration builds connections and promotes exchange, which is also reflected in the national cuisines which we all appreciate so much today – when we travel, but also at home where we can go out and choose from as many different cuisines as immigrants to arrive and settle down.

Lastly, we all love food but what do you love so much about its preparation?

I enjoy cooking most with and for a large crowd or group of people. I invite people for birthdays, thanksgiving, Christmas cooking baking, fall dinners, summer grills, spring festival (nauroz) or New year’s brunch – fortunately there are so many occasions one can come up with  - we always get together first in our kitchen. There is a lot of cooking, baking, talking, laughing, chatting and sharing while vegetables are being cut, meat is broiled, fish is cooked, cakes and cookies are baking and then we sit down together to celebrate good food and friendship. This is what I love about cooking with and for friends!  And the food we prepare is as international as our friends and guests are – we always go for something new, something we have not had before and the recipes to choose from the world over are infinite.