Penwhisk

Food with a Slice of History

Tag: oppressive state

Kozunak

Kozunak

Kozunak (image by Penwhisk)

The list of ingredients in my grandmother’s Kozunak, the sweet bread she baked on Holy Saturday before Orthodox Easter, was as follows:

First, civil disobedience.  (I will explain this one later.)

Second, raisins that had arrived in a package from my uncle, an enemy of the Bulgarian communist state, who lived in West Germany.

Third, my grandmother’s legendary skill in the kitchen.  The kneading, done in a particular way to produce the light, thread-like texture of the buttery dough, took hours on end.  My grandmother braced herself weeks in advance for this exacting baking task, like a wrestler in anticipation of a rigorous match that would consume all her stamina and will.  My mother would not even dare attempt to make Kozunak.

Finally, white flour, eggs, butter, yeast and milk.  These ingredients tested my grandmother’s ability to secure foodstuffs during the hungry years of Communism.

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Cheburashka

a crate of organges

Image courtesy of Sean Mungur on Unsplash

The mention of Cheburashka would send me running from my bedroom through our dining room straight into the living room in our house in Plovdiv.  I was certain that I must had seen the Soviet stop-motion animation series with this character at least a hundred times. Once in the living room, I would place myself in one bold leap onto the squeaky green armchair in front of our black and white television set.  I would hold my breath and cross my fingers that the set wouldn’t start flickering or all of a sudden go dark in the middle of the show.  I would jump up and down on the armchair (something strictly forbidden to me, for this piece of furniture was inherited from the father of my grandmother) and sing in Russian, loudly and very much out of tune, the crocodile Gena’s song from the series.  In the first episode, Cheburashka, a big-eared, fanciful creature covered in dark brown fur, was discovered fast asleep in a crate full of oranges at a Soviet food market.

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Sugar Cookies

Image courtesy of Austin Ban on Unsplash

The Bulgarian communist production system had its own version of the 1970s sugar cookie. The sugar cookies of my childhood came in a clear plastic bag with blue and red letters in the Cyrillic alphabet, which said something about zoo animals.  I’m certain that there was a hippopotamus and a monkey, maybe even a giraffe and a kangaroo.  The rest of the animal shapes I don’t remember.  Despite being a fan of these cookies, I have no recollection of their taste.  I enjoyed holding them in my tiny hands and running my finger over their surface to feel the texture.  The animal shape was the sole effort to appeal to the consumer that the communist centrally planned production system made.  The cookies had a neutral scent and the pale color of slightly under-cooked dough didn’t tempt me.  My goal was to get hold of as many cookies as possible so that I could arrange them and keep them away from my brother, who was known to devour anything, regardless of its taste.

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