Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf Day

Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayWell World Blog Surf Day has arrived and the theme is food. This is something that is a passion for many bloggers and I’m sure we’ll get some tasty post surfing around the word today.


I have written many post on food and would have found myself rewriting what I have already covered. With this in mind I have decided to take and extract out of my book that was published recently and use that at the material that basically covers my finding of food in Bulgaria.

(A big thank you to Sher @ http://sheroffthebeatenpath.blogspot.com/ for all her work organising this world blog surf day)


- Living Off the Bulgarian Land -

Food here in Bulgaria is something else — every day a new experience is to be had in Bulgarian cuisine. I must say that it helps tremendously that my partner is Bulgarian and cooks like an angel, but that aside, the Bulgarian friends and neighbours still tickle my taste buds at every opportunity with their own cooking. Since coming here there hasn’t really been any moment where a pang for supermarket branded food has called out. No Twiglets, Mars Bars, baked beans or even sherbet fountains with the liquorice sticking out felt needed or wanted. In fact nowadays the only thing I can remember about these foods is the horrible aftertaste! Those who have been here eating natural Bulgarian food for long enough will know exactly what I mean.

Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayEvery few weeks someone asks, ‘I’m coming over, what would you like me to bring for you?’ It is very difficult to think of anything, even after really thinking hard. So these kind people usually bring over some English teabags, Cadbury’s creme eggs or a bottle of whisky; many thanks guys, and I mean this most sincerely, but these are then actually used for English guests that come round, so very useful anyway. This is not being ungracious, but just speaking truthfully about how things are now.

Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayHere in Bulgaria, most produce comes straight out of the village homes, most of which are not just homes but smallholdings. Food comes from a variety of sources, mainly grown from the rich, dark, fertile land. This produce also feeds chickens, cows and calves, goats and sheep, ducks and geese, rabbits and peafowl, to name a few. Back in the village of Skalitsa where I live, there is no need for supermarket shopping. Occasionally food is bought from the supermarket, more out of habit if I happen to be in town, but usually from my local village shop that provides everything I need: bread and flour (both made and milled in my village), sunflower oil (locally produced), salt and sugar. Local honey is more often used for sweetening than sugar. Filo pastry is also sometimes bought for the homemade banitsas — the recipe for the unique Skalitsa banitsa is further on in the book, but there are other pastry variations of the banitsa throughout Bulgaria. Last but not least, beer: making your own beer is not entertained, as it would never touch the quality that the Belgian brewery owners achieve here. You just can’t improve on perfect beer.

Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayI can’t say there is much else needed. As much wine, rakia and liqueur as I could ever wish for is all locally produced in the village or on my own farm. Sunflower seeds are gathered from the field adjoining my land, and as long as it is for personal consumption there is no problem with this; in fact, the mice in the field eat more than any villager. They are dried (some salted) and stored in airtight, recycled plastic food boxes. Chickpeas are grown and stored in the same way; sweetcorn is grown or again taken in from fields and dried (but not used for animal feed — that wouldn’t be right if taken from the co-operative fields) and fried in oil to make popcorn: another treat from the garden, flavoured either with honey or salt before popping. So there’s your little variety of snacks to accompany your drinks.

Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayAll the cheeses and yoghurts are homemade. All from natural ingredients. Walnuts are gathered and keep for up to a year for use in cooking. Walnuts baked in honey are another Bulgarian food legend, and also used as another accompaniment to drinks. Almonds are harvested, with shells you can remove without nutcrackers; ever tried that with a supermarket almond? Fresh figs are preserved in syrup. There are melons galore, both the honeydew and water type; the latter makes a marvellous jam to be eaten all year round. Strawberry jam used for cakes and for milkshakes is a summer taste second to none. Apples, pears and sliva can all be stored in boxes or bottled in syrup and kept for up to six months. My last apple, eaten in April this year, was almost as good as it would have been picked in October the year before. And it was sweet and tasted like an apple!

On occasion non-Bulgarian guests visit and sometimes turn their nose up at some of the food offered because it’s not like the food they’re used to buying in shops. You may well be surprised at how many say that! This is the only other reason that supermarkets are frequented, to cater for the need of these occasions. No offence is taken at this point; it’s not their fault, it’s the system they have grown to rely on. All the produce that is not in season has been either frozen or bottled, and supplies take us through the winter and spring. This is not a chore — the garlic and onions are plaited and the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and pumpkins boiled for bottling on the outside wood-burning contraption. Everything is done slowly and very systematically. When it comes to doing anything like this in village life there is never any panic or rush with the long day ahead. Why do we, on the other hand, still try and hurry things to get them done as quickly as possible all the time?


Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayWith all this food to hand, including most meats and a range of poultry and dairy products, you can make anything you want from the ingredients. Even beef can be grown, bought or bartered for in the village. Everything and more is grown here compared to the UK. So what’s the problem there? Nothing, it would seem — the problem in the UK for many is the culture of buying convenience food rather than growing your own. How many have a garden where produce can be grown? Most people. The climate here helps a lot, but what makes it work here is the way of life and the homegrown food culture, which left the UK some 40-50 years ago. You come to Bulgaria and take a big step back in time. I’m always amazed at how the simplest ingredients can turn out to be another memorable meal. Just a sliced young marrow fresh from the garden, dipped in flour and fried until brown, then served hot topped with homemade yoghurt. It was that simple, but the result was something very special. Everyday another taste or recipe is laid out and enjoyed; it really is going back to basic ingredients and enjoying them for what they are. How often is this forgotten, bowing to commercially processed foods made for you from a point of ease and laziness? For convenience, the process squeezes out the taste of natural foods with chemically enhanced products as the replacement, and this becomes the ‘taste of the norm’ for the weekly consumers. Food regulations introduced is understandable to protect health, but it has gone to extremes and the very chemicals that are meant to protect such as preservatives, flavour enhancements and added colouring, etc. is just as bad if not worse for our long term health.

It is quite strange that most village folk don’t have a choice of shopping for food over growing their own food; they simply can’t afford it. If they could afford to and had a choice the convenience foods are there, waiting in the wings, ready to pounce for profits, which is the name of the game. The new generation of Bulgarians is making its way to becoming part of the American and Euro fast food brigade. The traditional horticultural activities carried out in villages throughout Bulgaria may end up being restricted to commercial dimensions, as they were in the UK so many years ago. I am grateful and privileged to have the opportunity to experience Bulgaria as it is now.

There’s one old wives tale that I continually hear, concerning eggs. The chickens I keep are totally free range, with access to all-natural food in the big yard and greenery from the waste organic vegetation, and a supplement of natural wheat to call them home in the evening. Nothing could be more free range than these chickens. So when someone says, ‘Oh, I tried some free range eggs and the colour of the yolk was so deep in colour, it was orange,’ I’m a little dubious. Do you have a picture of this apparently fresh free-range egg now revealing its sensuous lush orange yolk, just waiting to melt in the mouth after being lightly fried in a little oil and laid on a bed of the softest white buttered bread you could imagine? Looks good? Tastes good? Doubt it! This is not true; the colour of free-range eggs is usually just plain yellow at best. Battery and commercial egg producers (other than the chickens themselves, of course) use colour additives in the feed to produce a more deeply-coloured yolk, which is what the consumer wants and gets — supply and demand. So the chicken may be described as free-range but what are they given to eat? Market research has found that the yellow yolk doesn’t sell as well as the darker orange-tinted colour. Next time you go to a town supermarket and buy eggs, even so-called free-range ones, see how orange the yolk is; you know why now.

Food In Bulgaria - World Blog Surf DayI am still a lifetime away from getting my produce up to the standard of my Bulgarian neighbours: the learning goes on all the time. It is clear that the attitude to food in the UK is that convenience food rules. This is not from the point of choice, many just don’t get the choice with their hectic work related lifestyle and a bygone age of daily family table meals. Even if home cooking does happen, ingredients that are used are sourced from supermarkets and also grown in a rush, furthermore hardly ever locally produced and only remains fresh from preservative processes. The difference here in Bulgaria is the food is local, fresh. Along with the culture, the climate, the slow pace of life that been inbred over many generations, you will find that the food grows faster than the pace of life.

Sourced from "Simple Treasures In Bulgaria"
Copyright © Martin Miller-Yianni
ISBN 978-0-9559849-0-7
www.amazon.co.uk



Your next port of call is now at http://vedatc.blogspot.com/ Vedat has been living in Turkey from birth (1988). Now, he is living in Poland studying at Lazarski University as an exchange student. In his own words he, "Loves writing in blogs!" It should be an eye opener to many who read it.

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Anastasia Ashman is an American cultural producer based in Istanbul, and is a creator of Expat Harem, the anthology by foregin women about modern Turkey. Her Tweetstream focuses on women, travel and history and she shares resources for writers/travelers, expats, Turkophiles & culturati of all stripes. There is an open invite to follow her on twitter. Her account is: Thandelike
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