A tasty trip across Sliven region

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A community center of 80-years’ history, in one of Bulgaria’s still “living” villages, decided to collect in a volume the culinary history of the place. The idea is to pass onto younger generations the culinary treasures, for them to keep and tell on their turn.


“Tasty trips across Sliven region” – that is how the people from community center “Probuda – 1938” (meaning Awakening), in the village of Panaretovtsi have called their project. Their aim is to preserve and popularize the traditional dishes from their region. They will not only collect recipes from the vicinity, but will search for old authentic dishes. Dora Kurshumova, chair of the Public Donation Fund – Sliven, sponsor to the project, brings us more:

“Authenticity will be protected by the elderly women, who continue cooking like in the past. 90-years old Penka Slavova, 80-years old Donka Petrova and Radka Peycheva from Panaretovtsi know old recipes and have grandchildren to pass them onto. The idea is for young people to know the authentic taste of food prepared through old technology, free of preservatives and chemicals; and have the chance to compare it to modern days “artificial” fast food.”

The village of Panaretovtsi differs from many Bulgarian settlements that have been deserted by their inhabitants. It has as many as 350 people living there, with 30 children in the primary and another 15 in the secondary school.

Milina

“This village’s cuisine is characteristic for the cheese pastries, sweet-and-salty Milina – a banitsa cheese pastry in sugar syrup or sweet milk; the Katmi, which are large pancakes baked wit whey and yeast on a ceramic plate”, Dora Kurshumova further explains. “We prepare here also Gyuzlemi – breakfast pastry from the past, as well as ritual food dishes made of sweetened bulgur for what we call Ponudy. This is a gathering of friends and kin, after birth of a baby in the family. People are also making many different kinds of fruit in syrup jam jars, as the region is abundant in orchards. We have the Rachel (pumpkin in syrup), “drunken” peaches, plums with walnut or almond filling, Oshav (dried fruits dipped in fruit syrup and then left to dry).”

Rachel

In order to gather as large a number of recipes as possible, the people from the community centers will meet the connoisseurs of traditions and will launch culinary polls. They are using the methods of ethnographic questionnaires for depicting the methods of production of the food, what cereals their bread is made of and how is food preserved. Besides these generalized characteristics, the recipes in the volume will be divided into every-day food and food prepared on festive occasions and rituals.

Gyuzlemi

“The recipes will be described together with the technology for preparing the respective dish”, Dora Kurshumova says. “For example, in the village of Byala, a woman explains in details how she prepared the Gyuzlemi. She first sprinkles hot salty water over the baked dough and cheese pastry, and then she wraps them to keep them softer. So there are details, which are very important – it is not enough to just introduce the right proportion of ingredients. There are such things that are left from the past and they should be passed over to the younger, so that the story of a recipe may continue in a family.”

Besides the volume of recipes, the organizers intend to launch culinary expositions and events to popularize the typical food of the region. For example, in Krushare, a large village between Sliven and Yambol, kids from the 4th to the 7th grade can take part in the kneading of dough for ritual bread. They will also make the decorations for the loaves and will then bake them in a special clay oven. The booklet is expected to come out before the end of the year, so that by Christmas people can try some of the tasty dishes of the Sliven region.

English version: Iva Letnikova

Photos: private library

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