Come September, our family kitchen would be transformed into a small-scale facility for making Bulgarian pickled vegetables. My mother and father joined efforts to secure winter food reserves for all of us. As part of their benefit package, the employees of the electronics plantwhere my father worked could order produce directly from the state-owned socialist farms. My father consulted with my mother about the quantities to be ordered. Then, he requested as much as he saw fit.
A few weeks later, large sacks of potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and carrots crowded the hallway of our house. Eggplant, cabbage, and cauliflower were hauled from the market to join these other fresh guests. The sink in the kitchen swelled with pickling jars waiting for my mother’s scalded hands. The large, wobbly table crept into the middle of the space. Across its surface, pepper corns, garlic cloves, laurel leaves, and salt crystals swarmed around bottles full of vinegar.
My mother’s face would lose its dreamy look. She wasn’t to make any plans until the gaping jars were filled and sealed to my father’s satisfaction. Her books were to remain closed; the invitations of her friends ignored; and her concert tickets wasted. She wasn’t to answer personal letters, which my father opened well before she suspected their arrival. My grandfather and grandmother didn’t interfere. What went into a jar full of vinegar was between a husband and his wife.