Profile: Retail Buyer Jana Formánková
Jana Formánková is a very good cook. An expansive garden lies adjacent to the house Jana’s parents built in Lidice—a small Czech town 10 miles northwest of Prague—when she was five years old. In it, they grew a variety of seasonal vegatables (potatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, peppers, onions and garlic) and fruit (red and black currants, gooseberries, rhubarb, apples and cherries) that graced their table throughout the year, making them less dependent on the sporadically stocked shops of the Communist era. Incidentally, it was all organic.
“Growing up, we pickled, preserved, bottled and juiced pretty much everything,” reflects Jana over a double espresso and věnečky—a round, vanilla butter cream-filled éclair with a rum glaze—on an overcast January afternoon at Café Savoy, her go-to restaurant for authentic Czech food in Prague.
“As a girl, I loved being my mom’s little kitchen helper,” she continues, “rolling out dough and cutting out cookies, and mixing streusel for cakes.” Her mother worked for Czech Airlines back then, allowing her to travel regularly throughout Europe—to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Russia and Greece—making her an adventurous cook at home.
When Jana was 12, her mother ended up in a hospital for six weeks, leaving her in charge of feeding her father—“He cooks about twice a year”—and her younger brother. “I attempted roasted chicken, meat loaf and bread pudding,” she remembers. “Let’s just say nobody suffered from hunger.”
Today, Jana’s busy career keeps her away from the kitchen, but she loves to cook on weekends. “I have monthly dinner parties in my apartment,” she says. “It’s usually something Czech, based on what I find at the farmers’ market in my neighborhood.”
Age 43 — Hometown Lidice, Czech Republic — Where do you live? Prague, Czech Republic — Occupation Buyer at a home improvement retail chain — Signature dish None — Who taught you how to cook? Grandma, mom, different roommates and myself — Favorite kitchen tool Fiskars chef knife — Always in your pantry Coffee, flour, Van Houten cocoa powder, green lentils — Go-to snack Apples — Favorite cuisine Many, but if I had to pick one, it would be Turkish, and ideally in Turkey — Do you diet? Nope — Food addictions Coffee and cinnamon — Food allergies Mushrooms and raw pineapple — Food fad pet peeve Hipster food places — Who’s your sous chef? Whoever is around — Drinking while cooking? Seldom — What’s for dinner tonight? Leftover meatloaf with a veggie salad — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Once I cried over a bottle of oil spilled all over my kitchen floor. Milk is easy to clean, so never! — Best meal you ever had It's not the food, it's the company.
Plump, luscious, with a glossy golden crust and freckles of marjoram, this comforting stuffing comes together super fast—just mix all the ingredients in a bowl—and it is pretty versatile. “I love making it,” says Jana. “You can eat it in summer or winter, warm or cold, on its own or as a main dish, with sliced tomatoes, balsamic and olive oil.”
- Serves 4–6
- 1 cup zucchini, peeled and grated (about 1 large zucchini)
- 1 cup Jarlsberg cheese, grated
- 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 3 eggs
- 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a medium-size baking pan.
- Place all ingredients in a bowl, and stir until incorporated and no flour is visible. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake in the oven until the surface is golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean—about 35-40 minutes.