A few months ago, as part of our Croatian course, we went on an excursion to Varaždin, a pretty city in northern Croatia. The tour also included a visit to the Podravka factory which is nearby in Koprivnica.
Anyone with even the remotest connection to Croatia will have at least one Podravka item in their cupboard. Whether it be instant pudding, powdered soup or, that old Croatian favourite, Vegeta. Yes, we went to the Vegeta factory!
Vegeta is the primary ingredient used by all Croatians in all cooking. It’s basically vegetable stock with MSG and it’s delicious, but it can become a bit too ubiquitous. After a while, everything tastes like Vegeta, because Vegeta is in everything.
Technically speaking, we didn’t go to the factory where Vegeta is made. The factory that we visited was the fruit processing plant, where they make jams, tinned fruits, etc. There was a lot of sugar there. We weren’t actually supposed to take photos, but I accidentally took a few anyway…
A highlight for me, but probably dismally boring for everybody else, was seeing the way the old factory worked back in 18 oh something. (probably more like 19 oh something, I can’t remember)
The stock cubes moved along a conveyer belt and young women would bundle them up into the aluminium pouches, which were then sealed:
And a photo of the workers taken probably some time in the 60s:
I love, love, love this photo. These women look so much like my mum and her sisters. Had they been born in this part of the country, they may have wound up working in the Podravka factory – probably a great job to have. Instead, there wasn’t that much available to them around Karlovac and they wound up in Australia. Probably for the best, really…
How to visit Podravka?
I have no idea. Helpful, right? I had a squiz at the Podravka page, but there’s no information there. I suggest that if you’re interested, contact the PR people – it looks like they arrange frequent visitors for chambers of business, chemical engineering students, and folks like that.