Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Quinn Van Valer-Campbell (Bosnian Family – BOSFAM): Quinn was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She first visited the Balkans in 2007 to work with Bosnian NGOs, and studied abroad in Bosnia while an undergraduate at Fordham University. Quinn was studying for a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in California when she began her AP fellowship. After her fellowship Quinn wrote: “I am more confident in what I know I am capable of. I proved to myself that what I have learned is applicable and relevant in life and not just in class. [The fellowship] has shown me the way in which the cultivation of people to people relationships …can change lives.”

Adventures in Cooking?

25 Jul

As I sit here rotating my meals between boiled hot dogs and cabbage filled pita (a flaky phyllo dough disc of heaven), it is time that I write about my successes, failures, and comedic attempts at cooking in Bosnia.

From burek to grah to cevapi, Bosnian dishes are not easily replicated without an iron fisted Bosnian grandmother directing your every move.  There are certain things that I use in my cooking that Bosnia does not offer or even carry in the supermarkets.  Rather than complain, I enjoy each meal because I never know if my creation will be edible or not.

One of my first attempts at "cooking"

One of my first attempts at "cooking"

Last time I lived in the Balkans I had the luxury of living with a family.  I had a host-mother who would make delicious meals every single day for a family of eight.  Back home in California, I cook weekly Sunday night dinners for my boyfriend.  It has been an exercise in trying new meals and techniques, but has also helped to develop a more creative side in me.  To be sure, I’m no Chef Ramsey, but I can get busy provided that I have a few key ingredients and appliances.  That’s where the problem arises for me in Bosnia.

That being said, however, Julia and I are experts in choosing interesting food items at the supermarket.  These can range from simply selecting an item based on its appearance to having heard about something and buying it for its reputation to buying it simply because there is an entire shelf full of it (the more there is of something, the better it must be… right?).  I have a fairly decent grasp of the language, but this grasp is considerably looser when food is thrown into the mix.  Ham, in a Muslim society, is not pork; it is made from chicken.  Cheese types include Travnik, pizza, and homemade.  And, to add more “creativity” into the mix, we cook with two hot plates.  One simply has an on-off switch and the other has adjustable settings, thank goodness.

Pasta with veggies and some type of cheese

Pasta with veggies and some type of cheese

Surprisingly enough, we have discovered a few things that we can cook: pasta with pizza cheese, powdered soup mix, pasta with red sauce and vegetables, and granola.  This success is further amplified by the fact that we both have very different tastes in food.  She hardly eats meat, and I hate tomatoes, peas, tuna, and beans (everything she loves).  We have managed to work around these facts of life and have yet to make something the other refuses to eat.

Another cheesy pasta - this one was delicious!

Another cheesy pasta - this one was delicious!

Over the past two months I have made some dishes that I will never eat again (the most recent of which being a strange, viscous soup with hot sauce and egg noodles) and others that I look forward to making (like our adapted mac and cheese).  Food is a very important element in every society and extremely so in the Balkans.  While I may not be the best Bosnian housewife or chef on any level, I pride myself in the fact that I trudge on, making mistakes and slowly finding out what works and what absolutely does not.

Posted By Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Posted Jul 25th, 2011


  • Megan

    July 25, 2011


    Hey Quinn!
    I’m glad you’re continuing to adventure. It’s too bad you don’t have a “real” kitchen, but I have used a hot plate a couple of times and it’s better than nothing right? Any way good for you for trying new things, even if they sometimes turn out to be “a strange, viscous soup with hot sauce and egg noodles” haha.
    Obviously I will expect an authentic Bosnian meal (I welcome the iron fisted Bosnian grandmother as head chef- if we can find one)once you get back and I visit.
    Enjoy your remaining time there and be safe.

  • Mr king

    July 26, 2011


    Hello… Quinn wow never knew you was so talented with cooking. I’m very proud to continue to hear your blogs n read these great stories you publish. you are defiently bringing us joy to the hearts of others whos unable to help.. Benefit the bosnians. But your doing great two thumbs up u learning alot n doing a good job, using survival tectniques to cook that’s the way to go. I probley be dead by now.. I hope u finished strong n please be a dear send me an emAil.. I would like to grab coffee.. Sometime if you ever in Hayward california haha.. Great adventures may peace be with you..

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