At every breakfast I had as a child in Koprivshtitsa, my grandparents insisted that I had my cup full of milk. The milk came directly from the barn of one of my grandmother’s close acquaintances. It was unpasteurized and non-homogenized, and my grandparents boiled it twice to minimize the risk of getting sick. No communist factory had messed this milk up. It had not been watered down or processed to kill contamination. Neither had it been forced through tubes, poured into dull-looking plastic packaging and sealed shut, so that a grumpy seller could slam down this product of the communist economy in front of a customer, addressing him or her as “comrade.” A comrade who might as well have been number 57 in line. Five more customers served and the rest of the comrades waiting would be turned away to head home empty-handed.
One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather taking me to pick wild strawberries in the surroundings of Koprivshtitsa, a town of some 2,000 inhabitants in the Sredna Gora mountains. We would set out in the morning before the sun had a chance to turn hot, cross the stream on the outskirts of town, from which our household fetched its daily supply of water, and head through the open fields in the direction of the forest. Leaving pastures with grazing cows behind, we soon disappeared under the shady trees, looking for a spot that other strawberry pickers had not discovered yet.