The pretty village of Dzhuliunitsa (Veliko Tarnovo district) is brimming with abundance in autumn. The village gardens are covered with fruit. Local gardeners contend that the most delicious peppers and tomatoes grow there. You only need to add some roasted eggplant, onions and parsley to them to make the perfect summer salad. The local women are very skilled chefs and cook delicious meals that can compete even with the food of the greatest chefs in Bulgaria’s big restaurants. That is why the village of Dzhuliunitsa has been hosting for the 9th consecutive year the Motley Table culinary festival. Each year the festival attracts new participants who try to impress the tasters with the best cooking recipes.
Many guests from the town of Lyaskovets, the villages of Kozarevets, Parvomaytsi, etc, also come to take part at the festival. The people living in this area are very generous and hard-working. They never wait for someone else to do their job, Katya Moskova, Chairperson of the local Probuzhdane community center says. In her words, a full pot of chicken soup and nearly 300 slices of bread covered with tasty tomato and pepper chutney (liutenitsa) are handed out to the visitors in less than a day during the festival. The culinary traditions are alive and are passed down to the young generation which keeps them zealously, Katya went on to say and added:
“The villages mainly keep the Bulgarian traditions. Our village even won the prize Guardian of Traditions. Each year we find financing and stimulus to organize that culinary festival which presents traditional local food recipes. Our efforts are successful, because many people join efforts and everyone helps with something. This year we made sure our table will abound with traditional meals. The Motley Table festival has already turned into an emblem of that village and is among the most-significant events in the whole area.”
Mihni and Marina, a young couple who live in the village of Dzhuliunitsa, are also filled with enthusiasm to make delicious food based on traditional recipes. They presented separate meals which impressed the food jury a lot. Mihni Mihnev presented a traditional fish soup recipe which has been passed down to the male members of his family for many years.
“Basically, men are better chefs. That is why we decided to present a typically male recipe. It is named Bacho Kolio’s Soup and the recipe is popular only in this village. It is made of fresh fish and spices from our garden. We also add thinly- grated tomatoes, carrots, onions and potatoes. Thus, we see mainly the fish chunks in that soup. Our fish soup goes well with homemade rakia (grape brandy). Working in the village garden does not tire me at all. On the contrary, it helps me feel useful. It is a great pleasure and an anti-stress therapy. I am grateful to the organizers of festivals such as the Motley Table, because they make at least some of the young people stay in the village and those who already live somewhere else come here more often. Unfortunately, our village does not make exception to the total trend of depopulation of Bulgaria’s villages.”
Marina Mihneva who married in Dzhuliunitsa contends that the local people are good, live in harmony and help each other a lot. Marina presented the so-called Vazrozhdenska (Revival) Moussaka at the culinary contest, a traditional meal in the town of Svishtov (North Bulgaria) .We learn more about that meal from Marina Mihneva herself:
“The meal was named Vazrozhdenska Moussaka, because the citizens of Svishtov, which was the first Bulgarian town to be liberated during the Russo-Turkish war, welcomed the Russian soldiers with it. The dish is also known as Eggplant Moussaka. We use tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant and minced meat to make that colorful meal. This recipe has been passed down from one generation to another in my family. Life in the village of Dzhuliunitsa becomes more interesting thanks to events such as the Motley Table festival. Our village is alive and children can do a lot of things here. I would stay there for good,” Marina Mihneva further says.
English version: Kostadin AtanasovPhotos: Gergana Mancheva