Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Town

It’s difficult to believe, but we have been at our permanent sites for three months. During that time, we were essentially under “house arrest,” inasmuch as we were only permitted one overnight per month away from site. I’ve been itching to get out and explore Bulgaria, and I won’t take my newfound freedom for granted. But for now, I wanted to share some photos from my town (Peace Corps’ regulations prevent me from disclosing the name of my town, hence the reason I call it as such).

As you may recall, I’m living in a small town located less than 30 kilometers from Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia. The town has a rich and proud history – among other things, it was the site of a crucial battle in the Serbo-Bulgarian War ultimately won by Bulgaria – but is generally the type of place that people don’t go out of their way to visit. It’s a place where people live and work, not a place which draws tourists. It’s neither an aesthetically pleasing nor hideously ugly town, but it’s a pleasant enough place to live.

Unlike in Boychinovtsi, few people here get around via horse cart or donkey cart, but there are some who do. We also have a nightly parade of goats and sheep. This is a shot of a local man riding in a horse cart next to the town church.

A few shots of the town center.

Some shots of the town from a nearby hill on the outskirts of town.

A recent shot of the Sunday market.

Many Bulgarians live in old communist block apartments. This one, farm implements and hanging laundry included, is fairly typical.

Almost every Bulgarian town I have visited has several abandoned buildings. This is part of a large complex of abandoned buildings in my town.

I'm not entirely sure what this building is, but it's not unusual to find abandoned buildings such as this.

Nor is this an atypical scene.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Recipe #5: Мусака (Moussaka)

Given Bulgaria borders Greece and Turkey, perhaps it should come as no surprise that мусака (moussaka) is both a traditional and popular Bulgarian dish. The Bulgarian recipe differs significantly from the Greek one, and is one of my favorite Bulgarian meals. Consisting largely of meat and potatoes, what’s not to love?

½ kilogram кайма (mincemeat half pork and half beef)
1 onion – finely diced
1 kilogram potatoes – peeled and diced
2 tomatoes – diced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley – chopped
3 eggs
1 cup кисело мляко (yogurt)
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown meat and onions in a frying pan. Combine meat and onions with potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, and salt and pepper (try substituting Old Bay seasoning for even more flavor) in large bowl and stir together. Transfer contents from bowl to large baking dish. Bake uncovered 60 minutes or until potatoes begin to soften. Whisk together eggs, yogurt, and flour, and pour evenly over casserole after potatoes have started to soften. Continue baking until top browns and potatoes are soft.

A pan of Bulgarian moussaka.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe #4: Кюфтета (Kyuftetta)

Кюфтета (Kyuftetta) is a traditional Bulgarian dish served year round. Кюфтета are basically small, flattened meatballs which can be either grilled or fried. I’ve taken some liberties with this recipe but, in all honesty, I’ve eaten my share of кюфтета since I’ve been here and, when it comes to fried кюфтета, I like mine the best.

½ kilogram of кайма (mincemeat - pork and beef)
1 bell pepper – seeded and finely diced
1 onion – finely diced
2 cloves garlic – finely diced
½ cup crushed Corn Flakes
1 egg
1 tablespoon fresh parsley – chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and form into small patties. Fry, in a small amount of sunflower oil, or grill until done.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting Cultured

This evening I did something which I rarely do, but which I always enjoy. I went to listen to some classical music. More specifically, I went to hear the Armenian General Benevolent Union Sofia Chamber Orchestra perform with the Vasil Spasov Jazz Trio. Of course, I don’t have a musical bone in my body. Moreover, it’s difficult for me to pretend being cultured, and I find the pretentiousness that inevitably accompanies any performance of classical music rather amusing. But as I was sitting and enjoying the show, two thoughts jumped into my mind which I couldn’t shake. First and foremost, I thought how pleasing to the ear well played classical music is. I dare say it is the best of all music, and it will be a real shame if we ever lose it. Second, I couldn’t help but thinking about New Orleans and how much I love its smoke-filled jazz bars. A smirk filled my face as I lost myself in thoughts of fresh seafood, beignets, and hurricanes (the drink not the weather system). All thanks to the Armenian General Benevolent Union Sofia Chamber Orchestra.

Here’s a short clip from one of the songs.