You Never See An Old Man Eating A Mars Bar Living Off The Bulgarian Land

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Living Off The Bulgarian Land

The food here in Bulgaria is something else. Every day there is a new experience in Bulgarian cuisine. I have to say that it helps a lot that my friend is Bulgarian and cooks like an angel but on the other hand, my Bulgarian friends and neighbors still impress my taste buds every time I cook at their home.

Since I started here there has never been a time when the cry of supermarket food has been heard. None of the Twiglets, Mars Bars, Baked Beans or Sherbet Fountains with beer on tap felt necessary or desirable. In fact, the only thing I can remember about this dish is the horrible aftertaste! Those who have been here eating natural Bulgarian food for a long time will know exactly what this means!

Every few weeks someone asks, ‘I’m coming, what do you want me to bring?’ It’s hard to think of anything, even after thinking it through. So kind people often bring some English teabags, Cadbury’s egg cream or a bottle of whiskey, thank you very much guys and I mean this sincerely, but this is really the work of English tourists who come around, so much anyway. This is not to be angry but to speak the truth about the current situation.

In Bulgaria, most of the food comes from village houses, many of which are not just houses, but small farms. Food from different places, especially the land, but also chickens, cows and cows, goats and sheep. Sometimes food is bought at the supermarket but usually not at the local supermarket. This mainly consists of bread and flour, (all produced and milled in my village), sunflower oil, (produced locally), salt and sugar (although local honey is used more often to sweeten than sugar), filo pastry for Skalitsa banitsas, The recipe that is also given in this book is a variation of the cakes on this. And of course beer! I can’t say that there is much else that matters. Most of the wine, rakia and liqueurs I like are homemade.

Sunflower seeds are collected from a field next to my fields and as long as you are a self-eater there is no problem with this, in fact the field mice eat more than the villagers. They are semi-dried and stored in airtight, reusable plastic boxes. Chickens are grown and kept in the same way, sweet corn is planted or taken from the fields and dried but not used for animal feed, (it would not be good if taken from cooperative farms) dried and fried in oil make popcorn, which is fun in the garden decorated with honey or salt before going out. Then there’s your variety of snacks and drinks to choose from.

All cheese and yogurt are made in house. All of these are based on natural ingredients. Walnuts are collected and stored for one year and used for cooking and preservation. Peanuts cooked in honey are another Bulgarian legend in a delicious dish or simply used as an accompaniment to a drink. Almonds are collected with shells that you can remove without nutcrackers, where have you tried almonds from the store?

Fresh and preserved figs, watermelons are filled with honey and water color, the latter being a wonderful jam to be eaten all year round. Strawberry jam used in making cakes and milk cakes is a second summer flavor or year round. Apples, pears, sliva, can be stored in boxes or bottles in water and keep for 6 months. My last apple was eaten in April this year as it was picked in October last year! And it was sweet and tasted like an apple!

Sometimes non-Bulgarian tourists visit and sometimes they ‘turn up their noses’ at some of the food that is served in an informal way. You’d be surprised how many people say that! This is just another reason why supermarkets visit more often, to meet the needs of these events. Nothing wrong has been done at this point, it’s not their fault it’s the system they grow to rely on.

The out-of-season produce has been frozen or bottled and it took us through the winter and spring. This is not a tedious task because the garlic and onions are crushed and the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and pumpkins are boiled from the bottles outside the wood. Everything is done slowly and very systematically. When it comes to doing anything like this in the village life there is no fear or rush with the long day ahead. Why do we on the other hand keep trying and speeding things up and trying to get things done as quickly as possible all the time?

With all this food at hand, including many meats, different poultry and dairy products you can make anything you want from the ingredients. Even cattle can be farmed, bought or traded within the village. Everything and other things are grown here more than in the UK so what’s the problem there? There is, it seems, no problem in the UK for many with the culture of buying healthy food instead of growing it yourself. How many have a garden where produce can be grown, many people. The climate here helps a lot but what makes it work here is not the way of life and the culture of home cooking that left the UK 40-50 years ago. You come to Bulgaria and take a big step back.

It hit me again last night how simple ingredients can turn into another memorable meal. Small pieces cut from the garden are dipped in flour and fried until brown and then topped with homemade yogurt. It was simple but the results were very special.

Every day another flavor or recipe is added and enjoying it is like going back to the original ingredients and enjoying it for what it is. How often do you find yourself falling prey to commercialized foods that are made for you from a place of convenience and laziness? Simply put, this process squeezes the taste of natural foods into a chemical substitute and this becomes the ‘regular taste’ for consumers every week.

Food laws don’t help and in fairness the argument will always be, health first I have to agree with. But I must add to the summary of the current situation by saying that it is probably the most lethal in the law. Perhaps this is a word of misfortune considering the digging of preservatives and enhancers to be eaten unusual approved food prepared for health reasons to overcome the thing.

It is surprising that many rural people do not have the choice to buy food by growing their own food, they cannot afford it. If they were able to choose the right food available, they are waiting in the wings ready to reap the benefits, which is the name of the game. A new generation of Bulgarians are moving there to be part of the American and Euro farming operations that have taken place in all the villages in Bulgaria can be as commercial as they were in the UK maybe even years ago. It is a feeling of gratitude and luck that at this time the opportunity is here now to find Bulgaria as it is now.

Just one point I have to mention as I keep hearing stories about this and that is the ‘Old Wives’ myth. Eggs! The chickens that I keep are completely free-range with access to all natural food in the large yard and green from organic plants, which have natural grain to call home in the evening. Nothing could be more free than these chickens. So, when someone says, ‘Oh, I tried free-range eggs and the color of the yolk was very deep, almost orange!’

What are you thinking right now? Do you have this image of a fluffy egg now revealing its bright orange yolk just waiting to melt in your mouth after being lightly fried in a little oil and laid on a bed of the softest buttered bread you can imagine? Does it look good? Good taste? You doubt it! These are not true free range eggs and are very pale yellow and very good yellow!

Instead My Dear Watson – Battery and commercial egg producers (besides the chickens themselves) add color additives to the food to produce a deeper colored yolk, which is what consumers want and find – supply and demand. Market research has found that the soft grayish yellow yolk does not sell well so they change its color. The next time you go to the supermarket and buy the cheapest eggs, look at how orange the yolk is – you know why now.

Finally, and this does not apply to many people coming here but some, it is very rare that I hear complaints about Bulgarian food from non-Bulgarians. Comments include, ‘it’s tasteless’ or ‘nonsense’ or it’s boring,’ these comments come back to the idea that it’s not food but that people who complain about it being tasteless, are stupid and boring. . Most of the time they didn’t even try Bulgarian food! I just remember someone saying about Bulgarian food, ‘I hate Bulgarian sausage, I’ve never tasted it and I never will!’ No names are mentioned here, but this comment speaks for itself.

Back to the Bulgarian earth chaps – I still have a long life to get my productivity up to the level of my Bulgarian neighbors as learning is always going on. It’s an old life in the UK weaned on simple meals built with no time to eat due to work pressures, it’s like a rebirth here in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria I have found one thing true, food grows faster than life.

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