In the fall, my husband and I had the pleasure of being Bulgarian — or at least eating like one — for a night. We were invited by some friends to learn about Bulgarian food in the very best way possible: a Bulgarian feast!
Although we do love trying new foods from around the world, the real reason for our fascination with Bulgaria (and that evening, Bulgarian food) is that we’re in the process of adopting from there. I’m happy to say that now, with over a year and a half of paperwork, training, and waiting behind us, we’ve accepted a match with a little girl and will be making our first of two trips to Bulgaria this month! (The first trip is to meet her, the second is to bring her home.)
For anyone who has adopted, you probably understand the woodwork effect: how you meet all kinds of people or are connected in a different way to someone you already knew because of adoption. Meeting Nick and Milena Koshar was like that — a friend’s husband works with Milena and we were introduced that way — and we couldn’t be happier about being connected with them.
In the photos below, I’ll give you a glimpse of the traditional Bulgarian food (a feast, really!) that Milena generously prepared for us that evening, along with a few mementos reflective of their culture:
Nick and Milena have tons of magnets, trinkets and postcards from Bulgaria throughout their home. I loved how many of the magnets and postcards were shaped like Bulgaria.
Most Bulgarians are Christian Orthodox, similar to the Greek Orthodox faith tradition. There were many icons like this throughout the Koshars’ home.
Feta, my favorite cheese, is a Bulgarian food staple. Here, it’s sprinkled with paprika. Bulgarian feta is different from Greek in that it’s not as dry, but it’s still deliciously salty, and just a tiny bit sour.
We began by trying the feta, olives, and various smoked meats, including lukanka, which is a popular dried, smoked pork (the slices on the left of the plate).
This work of culinary art is a traditional appetizer called banitsa (banitsa recipe here). It’s often served for breakfast too. The best way to describe it — besides heavenly — is a cross between a quiche and spinach pie (minus the spinach). Main ingredients, besides the dough: eggs, lots of butter, Bulgarian homemade yogurt and feta. How can it not be delicious?
This was the main dish, a Bulgarian food favorite (kyopolou recipe here), although it was hard to make room for it after all the glorious appetizers. Baked eggplant, peppers, onions, olive oil, tomatoes with a crusted layer of mozzarella.
Milena made a delightful lentil soup with plenty of garlic. She also served us a cold tarator (tarator recipe here), a tangy, fresh-tasting soup with olive oil, yogurt, celery and cucumbers.
There’s some homemade Bulgarian yogurt in this picture…and a cross-section view of the stunning and savory banitsa.
We went home with lots of leftovers, including an entire jar of homemade yogurt. The jar originally held lutenitsa, which is a little like salsa.
Translated, this banner (below) in the Koshars’ living room reads, “PRESERVE THE BULGARIAN HERITAGE!” which is something this transplanted family is certainly doing on a daily basis. We were glad to be a small part of that, and we’re excited to preserve our child’s Bulgarian heritage by bringing some of these traditional foods and customs into our home.
From what I can tell, Bulgarian food is a perfect blend of Mediterranean cuisine and the country’s own traditional style (which has lasted for more than 13 centuries) — which makes sense given the country’s location, history and heritage. I look forward to enjoying and reporting on the tastes, sights, smells, textures and sounds of Bulgaria when we visit there!
Thank you so much Michelle for sharing a bit about Bulgarian food! The meal looks delicious. I can’t wait to hear more about your journey to Bulgaria, and to your new daughter!