“I love, love, love to feed people,” Matt Swint said. “I don’t think that there’s anything cooler in the world.”
That’s one reason Swint became a baker. The other reason has to do with the yummy Slovenian strudel-like nut roll called potica (pronounced “poe – TEE – tsuh”), which has been present at gatherings of Swint’s Slovenian family for generations.
“It’s a big part of my growing up,” said Swint, a Cleveland native and second-generation American who owns Columbus-based wholesale bakery Matija Breads. “At one point, there were more Slovenians in Cleveland than there were in the area that is now Slovenia.”
Swint recalls the sweet nutty flavor of his grandmother’s potica.
“It was the centerpiece of my grandma’s table,” Swint said.
And he remembers as a kid watching his grandmother and other family members roll out the dough for the holiday potica.
“I remember one uncle that used to use a wine bottle for a rolling pin, and I remember my grandmother’s behemoth rolling pin,” Swint said. “And I remember they used to roll it out into these huge, monster sheets that would take up this giant dining room table, and it was thin enough when you could just see the design of the sheet that they put underneath of it to keep the table clean.”
Cultural foods are often influenced by dishes from neighboring countries. Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia lend traditions to Slovenian cuisine.
Potica, Swint says, has Austrian roots and, at holidays, has always had a place in the mix of Slovenian and American foods on his family’s table.
“Thanksgiving for us would be American – turkey, stuffing, that kind of stuff – and then there would be sausage and kraut, and there would be potica and big crusty breads and focaccia and pizza and all the things that you don’t necessarily equate with a Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “But they all made appearances on this table.”
After working in construction and a yearlong stint running a food truck, Swint turned his hand to baking potica and other family bread recipes professionally as a way to keep traditions alive for his daughters, and as a way to extend the good feelings of his Slovenian family to others.
“I really enjoy the idea of feeding people,” Swint said. “And it kind of ties me back to where I come from and the idea of: When you’re here, you come and you sit down. We feed you very well – you’ll be very full and happy. You’re in a safe, safe, comfortable, happy place.”
On Thanksgiving Day, hear family bread stories from cultures around the world, along with beautiful American music during Thanksgiving with The American Sound – Let Us Break Bread Together at 2 p.m. on Classical 101. Then keep listening at 3 p.m. to enjoy Thanksgiving with the American Sound – Pilgrim's Rest, an hour of tranquil American music to fill your Thanksgiving with peace and joy.