People: Bosnia native and 'kitchen girl' Munevera Dulovic

December 13, 2004|HERB BROCK

BRYANT'S CAMP - It's the first entry in any Kentucky cookbook. Cooked green beans. Not just cooked. Simmered for a long, long time. Like a month, or so it would seem to Yankees.

The commonwealth is full of Kentucky green bean cooks, but word around these parts is that one of the best has absolutely no roots in the state at all. She speaks with a Southern accent, one that has no connection to hoop skirts, vapors or fanned brows. It's Southern European.

The Slavic accent, and the culinary skill belong to Munevera Dulovic, the chief cook at Cliffview Retreat Center, a facility in Garrard County owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington.

I called the center a few days ago trying to arrange an interview with the co-directors, David and Sharla Wells. Dulovic answered the phone. She said the Wellses weren't there. Intrigued by her thick but engaging accent, I asked who she was.


"I am kitchen girl," she said.

"What do you do?" I asked, never having heard of that job title.

"Cook. Kitchen girl cooks and cooks, and I am kitchen girl," she said.

The interview with the Wellses could wait. I just had to meet "kitchen girl" first.

Dulovic, 55, is a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia, in the southern part of the old Yugoslavia. She grew up relatively poor, but was able to go to college and earn a degree in finance. She landed a finance and budget job with the government, and worked in that position for 20 years. Meanwhile, her husband, Bozidor "Bo Bo" Dulovic, held several jobs, including owning and operating an Italian-style pizzeria for nine years.

In the 1990s, the Dulovics, who have two children, Dario and Diana, were becoming increasingly concerned about their country and their safety. The war was brewing, and it would tear apart Bosnia and almost ruin their beautiful home city of Sarajevo, which had been the site of a winter Olympics.

"War was close. Also very bad economic situation," said Dulovic.

Add to that the fact that the Dulovics were a mixed couple, religiously.

"I am Muslim. Bo Bo is Christian. Not good situation," she said, explaining that the war was, in part, a conflict between Christians and Muslims. "Christians didn't like me. Muslims didn't like Bo Bo. Both of them didn't like we were married."

For the sake of their children, the Dulovics made a decision.

"We decide time to move," she said.

Bosnian family in Danville helped them

Munevera Dulovic contacted a cousin, Talib Jusufovic and his wife, Bigana, who had left Bosnia a few years earlier and had found a home in Danville. The Jusufovics were one of eight Bosnian families who had come to Danville, most sponsored by churches. Jusufovic started the letter-writing and paperwork that allowed the Dulovics to leave Bosnia and move to Danville, which they did six years ago.

"We had no sponsor. We did not know English. We were scared," she said.

But with the help of her cousins and other Danville area Bosnians, the Dulovics found a house in Rolling Hills, landed jobs and started to learn English.

Bo Bo Dulovic went to work in the housekeeping department at Centre College, and Munevera Dulovic got a position at Cliffview. She started in 1999.

Thanks to Munevera Dulovic, there is more to the area's international restaurant business than Mexican and Chinese. Cliffview visitors learn to appreciate European fare and flavors.

On the long list of offerings are a variety of salads from several European countries. The dressings all have one thing in common.

"Olive oil. That is what we in my part of Europe use all the time," she said, adding that she also uses olive oil meat marinades.

Chicken is one of her favorite meats, along with pork.

"I fix Greek chicken, French chicken, Bosnian chicken and so on, and I used my marinades," she said. "I have also special marinade for pork. Rosemary, other herbs and, of course, olive oil."

In the meantime, Dulovic has become proficient in fixing native cuisine.

"I do hot brown. I do country ham. I do grits. And I do green beans," she said. "The green beans, you must cook for long time for them to be Kentucky green beans."

Dulovic gets the rosemary she uses in her pork marinade from a vegetable garden she tends at Cliffview, and the beans she cooks "for long time" from a nearby vegetable garden.

Bread accompanies her meals

Accompanying all of her meals, whether Bosnian chicken or Kentucky hot brown, are breads.

"I love baking. I bake and bake many kinds of bread," said Dulovic.

Dulovic has brought a taste of the Old World to her new Kentucky home.

She does still miss her old home in Sarajevo, but she and her husband have adjusted to life in their adopted home. So have their children. Dario, 29, is a student at Eastern Kentucky University and a member of the National Guard, while Diana, 26, is a nursing student and works at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.

"One day we may open an Bosnia-Italian-style restaurant with espresso coffee," Dulovic said. "Bo Bo has restaurant experience from pizzeria, and I am cook and baker."

And also green bean maker.

"Don't know if serve Kentucky green beans at restaurant. Might have to take order day before we can serve," she said with a laugh.

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