Well we'll tell you something very significant—we are famous for the best yogurt produced in the world. It's actually the Lactobacterium Bulgaricum which makes us popular all over the world. And if you can buy Bulgarian yogurt in your country, you can't possibly taste a Bulgarian meal. So, our purpose is to show you the variety of Bulgarian cuisine and culture. You probably enjoy Indian, Italian and Chinese cuisine but don't even know what you miss. Actually, the methods used in Bulgarian cooking are not all that different from those used world-wide. Be that as it may—you still should try Bulgarian cuisine for there are characteristic features which lend a specific taste and flavour to the dishes, namely, those features which have helped to make it popular far beyond the country's borders. And if you still know nothing about it or just a bit—here it is—the Bulgarian cuisine.
The variety in Bulgarian cuisine is based on the long history of the country, as well as on the long-lasting migrations of the tribes that founded Bulgaria more than 1300 years ago. The close contact with Turkey and Greece have helped us form very attractive and to some extent exotic national cuisine, including some dishes which cannot be called national but which are typical of Bulgaria only. And that's one of the things that Bulgarians miss most when are abroad and one of the things that make them come back. They can't imagine a world without bozha, banitsa, kebabcheta, Shopska salata, sarmi or any of the things that they won't be able to eat in any other country.
So, what's actually the secret? Above all, the concurrent heating of products on a low fire. Make sure that the food simmers—boil, roast or stew gently. That is the only way to retain the nutritive qualities, achieving SUPERB FLAVOUR AND TASTE at the same time. The same effect is reached with the variety of products which agree well with the seasoning and fats. Seasoning is usually subtle and unobtrusive. As to methods of preparation, from time immemorial Bulgarians have favoured stewing, roasting, boiling and... the earthenware dish (of course this doesn't mean that we all eat in earthenware plates using wooden cutlery—that’s just the spirit of national traditions and customs). The roasting of food on charcoal embers is also widespread, leaving the meat delicious, tender and succulent. There are specialities that can only be sampled in the country itself. Cheverme, kebab, baked cheese, loukanka, soudjouk, babek, different salads and pickles have long since gained fame and popularity.
If you actually go to the country, good food will be just a part of what you'll be impressed by. Because, above all, Bulgaria is a state of traditions. And whatever you eat, you'll be told that it is a part of a particular custom, i.e. if the meal is on the menu, it's just because it is on the custom.
Imagine then, that you are in Bulgaria at Christmas time. As the old Bulgarian custom says, at Christmas Eve you'll have the choice of more-than-seven lenten meals. A needed addition to the cozy atmosphere is a piece of wood in the fireplace. If it keeps burning up to the following morning, this means that there will be happiness in the family throughout the year. In the morning boys and men, led by a chief—the Stanenik—go through the houses of the neighbourhood, singing koledarski songs wishing health to the host, as well as luck.
A couple days later comes the New Year's Eve. That's the time when people look back over all that has happened during the year. That is the time to believe that everything bad is already behind and the new year will only bring happiness. That's why people say: 'New year, new luck'. Still the new-year's table is not less attractive than the one at Christmas Eve. You'll find ritual loaves of bread made by the oldest housewife—the field, the vineyard, the garden and the sheep-pen depicted on them, expressing the common hope that the new year will bring fertility to the land. A new year banitsa is rolled out in a baking dish and if you crunch up something while eating it, be sure that this is your piece of luck. That is actually a cornel twig which symbolizes your success throughout the coming year.
Hem, what's missing? The pork, of course. According to an old Slavic custom, pork is present on the new year's table as chops or any other kind of meal. And last but not least—the new year's table is rich in dried fruit such as plums and apricots, raisins, walnuts and grape clusters. A pleasant addition to the mentioned above is wine. Wine is actually a pleasant addition every time Bulgarians celebrate. One may not happen to know that Bulgaria is famous for the wine produced. It's also the only country to celebrate Wine-growers' Day. February, 3rd is in fact the day which we call Trifon Zarezan. What is the secret this custom conceals? The cult of Dionysus was adopted by Bulgarians and remained alive for centuries as a part of Bulgarian traditions.
When spring begins and zephyr blows, it is time for spring sowing. This is the time of the kukeri—sturdy men dressed in marvellous clothes and calling the others to the fields. The Bulgarian people treasures this old tradition of the Thracians and expects with hope and eagerness the kukeri at home. They dance in the last days of the winter, just before the nature comes back to life. As you may have found Bulgaria is not only famous for its specific cuisine, but also for the rites and traditions celebrated. It's spring now here and we guess we'll have to say a few words about Bulgarian spring—the Bulgarian people associates spring with a new beginning and the customs are closely related with that hope—on the first day of March we celebrate Baba Marta's Day, Enyovden. Of course all these are only small pieces of the variety of customs, rites and traditions on the Bulgarian calendar.