Meet writer Miodrag Kojadinovic

Miodrag at the French embassy.

Miodrag Kojadinović is a Serbian-Canadian writer who has lived in China (Mainland and Macau), Norway, the Netherlands and Hungary, in addition to the two countries of his citizenship. Meanwhile, he’s dreaming of relocating to Portugal.

He’s taught at a dozen universities and worked as a market researcher, was employed by three embassies, and did volunteer work for financially struggling NGOs (nongovernment organizations).

“My first publication was a term paper in dialectology about a town in Eastern Serbia where my great-grandfather had been the mayor,” Miodrag says. “Then followed two sets of poems, as it usually happens with young people, in a prestigious literary journal of Belgrade.”

“When I returned to Canada for a longer period, I wrote art reviews (literature, theatre, movie, and visual art), before switching to erotica,” Miodrag says.

His language repertoire expanded beyond English and Serbian, and he now writes in seven languages. “I edited two books (one alone, one with a co-editor) and in 2015 had two collections of short stories published within three months in the US and Hong Kong,” Miodrag says. “The US one went on to win a Lambda Literature Award as the best LGBTQ book in its genre the following year, while the other was included in 550 mostly university libraries worldwide.”

Do you ever travel specifically for food?

Not sure if it qualifies as “travel for food,” but in 2012 I returned to China to work and live after a 3-year break in Europe primarily because I missed durian (quite unusual among expats in Asia).

Do you have any special dietary needs?

I’ve been lacto-pescatarian for decades now (I guess you could say an ovo-lacto-pescatarian, because even though I had shunned eggs for years, since a few years ago I’ve started eating half a dozen quail eggs for Orthodox Easter and Easter Monday).

When I travel, I occasionally—perhaps once every four to five years—break my rule and try meat of various vaguely untypical, if not outright exotic animals, like whale and reindeer meat during my year in Norway in 2002, or donkey and water buffalo meat in China in 2008 and 2010.

Do you try to stick to a food budget?

I tend to like pasta almost as if I were Italian, and that is filling and fairly cheap, though not too friendly to the body, which has over the years turned from athletic to “solid” not to say “beefy”.

Of course, my pasta is only with seafood and vegetables, not with meat and gravy/heavy sauce and such, and no, or minimal, dairy. Don’t get me wrong: I love all sorts of cheese. One has to have one’s fill of umami taste when one does not eat meat, but not so much in combination with pasta.

Do you ever write about food?

There is one piece in my collection about China, Under Thunderous Skies, that discusses food of Nanning and Guangxi, and I have occasionally sent in a recipe for a meal to a website, but I have not written nearly enough about food as I could have, and probably should have.

Miodrag with durian fruit, one of his favorites (photo courtesy Miodrag).

Do you focus on healthy food?

Absolutely. And that is something I have to thank my mother for. She was into every health food, dieting, health and lifestyle fad there ever was in print media and TV since the 1950s (to wit: before I was born in the 1960s). And as I grew older, I didn’t grow away from that. I internalized mom’s insistence on healthy food and it became second nature.

Do you seek out local food?

In principle yes, when it is a matter of locally grown (nowadays that I’m back to Serbia--Serbian) potato, paprika, cherries, figs or blueberries versus imported ones. Primarily because of freshness and knowing people in the local market. But not in terms of depriving myself of mangoes, avocados, prawns or shark meat (these items are not local).

Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?

I doubt it’s related. Yes, there is a fellow writer I used to hang out with a few years ago, who during the Wars for Ex-Yugoslavia Succession was forced to enter an embassy catering business and cooking at diplomatic parties, and only thereafter started regularly cooking for her family. But, I also have a writer friend who mostly orders fast food delivery or picks take out and can maybe just fry eggs by himself.

Do you have any favorite cookbooks?

When I was a kid, before I moved to Canada, my British great-grandfather died (I never met him). Granduncle (my grandfather had died before his own father) dealt with the cremation, closing down bank accounts, dealing with real estate under mortgage and such, plus picking some items to take along to Serbia.

Since I had just started learning English at the time (we spoke Serbian regularly, occasionally French and Macedonian in the family at the time), I got, among other things, great-grandfather’s glossy cookbook.

Classy and with gorgeous color illustrations and words for all the exotic fruit, some of which I had not seen before. We are talking of the mid-1970s. That cookbook made a huge impact on me.

Nowadays when I visit my parental home, I sometimes watch 24 Kitchen (I have no TV set in my own flat), one of 500 programs they have, and listen to various cooks speaking in two dozen languages, most of which I speak, or at least understand to some degree.

That seems light years away from the cookbook of my great-grandfather, and oh, my, how more precious the memory becomes through it all!

Do you have any favorite food travel destinations?

I love Italian food best. Italy is the perfect place to eat and for the most part drink, too (except for Limoncello, the one liquor I abhor, but I love Amaretto di Sarono, some grappas, and most Italian wine and coffee). So, Italy would be my first choice for travel for food: seafood, cheese, fruit, pasta—I could live on just that for a year.

I had taken Japanese as a minor for three years at university in the 1980s and I like most of Japanese cuisine too. I could also see myself in Scandinavia for food. But definitely not in Germany or the UK, and not even in France and China, even though these two are famous for their cuisine.

Eventually, South America is high on my travel destination list. Even though some people there may be lactose intolerant like most people in Asia, it should be better for travel than totally cheeseless China where in Nanning, a city of 3 million, there was a single cheese shop in the basement of a provincial museum, intended for us, the 50 or so foreigners who lived there in the early 2000s, where they brought cheese in styrofoam boxes for insulation all the way from Hanoi (a minimum 8-hour trip, that is if you could bribe your way at the border, if not possibly much longer).

Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?

I am a great improviser in general, so I look inside myself. If it does not work (if, say, I am too tired or too distracted) I take stimuli from anywhere really, a line in a cartoon on TV or people walking by on the street can start a stream of thought that leads to cooking something I decide I want to experiment with at that moment.

What do you snack on when on deadline?

Hard cheeses and fruit. Loads and loads. Sometimes crackers or sugar free chocolate, but mostly cheese and fruit.

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