We spent many a day around the kitchen island with baba. The bread in the profile picture is called a slava kolac (ko-lach) or slavski kolac. She also made the “prosfora” every Saturday afternoon for Sunday liturgy, or sometimes during the week for services no matter which parish she belonged to. For her, it went without saying, contributing her humble part, prepping what would be the holy bread that week in church, it gave her pleasure in doing so. From our perspective, filing downstairs in the morning to the kitchen which was right below the staircase to find Baba behind the counter with a mountain of flour and yeast mid knead and the smell of baked bread was commonplace. It was part of what made us and the hundreds of parishioners feel so comforted by her. Bread is probably the most important food symbol in our culture next to wine just as Baba is a symbol of Serbian hospitality. Counting the feastdays, she probably made a couple hundred loaves of bread per year.
There are three feast days throughout the Orthodox calendar during which a special type of bread is prepared. The “slava kolac” is one of them. Slava, which means celebration, is just that, a feast day of every Serbian Orthodox family’s patron saint, a uniquely Serbian tradition. This day celebrates the family’s conversion to Orthodox Christianity many centuries ago, from paganism. Slava is a big deal in the Serbian household. It commemorates the deceased family members uniting them with us in the present. Baba Rada always prepared the kolac for Slava. Part of the reason our family was so loved within our church community and what made Baba Rada a touchstone was her understanding of both Serbian culture and of the traditions of Orthodox Christianity, which we should or desire to emulate in our homes in modern America.