Biser, Bulgaria (with a trip up the road to Harmanli)
After a pizza lunch (hardly traditional Bulgarian fare!) it seemed a good day to publish this foodie post that has been simmering on the backburner.
Way back I wrote: Over the past couple of weeks we have been processing aloud which world foods we want to take back to our kitchen.
It’s one thing to eat a good Pad Thai in Chiang Mai, quite another to replicate it at home. But we did get the recipe, so we can at least try.
It’s one thing to crunch-n-ooze your way through a wood-fired pizza in Italy…it’ll be another to build a pizza oven in our back yard.
I’ve got a sticky rice basket….but I don’t have the fire container or the conical cooking basket or the special pot-with-a-hole to rest it in.
I find myself asking if we are trying to hold on to something that should just be let go of. Should we accept the wide range of foods was part of The Pilgrimage? And go back to daily porridge?
Or can our experiences continue to enrich our lives forever? What’s wrong with adding pickled peppers, chillies in oil and the Vietnamese fire mix to our homemade jams and preserves on the pantry shelf? Couldn’t our garden grow copious quantities of mint to use as a vegetable instead of as a mere flavouring? Why not?
And then I find myself asking, “what’s kiwi cooking anyway?” A baby country of immigrants, the kiwi kitchen is a melting pot of flavours, smells and ideas. Beyond roast lamb, BBQs and pavlova, none of which we can lay sole claim to, there simply isn’t a distinctly kiwi cuisine.
On the upside, this means we can take tastes home with us and even as they remind us of distant lands, they will not be out of place. Gone could be our days of fruit and porridge breakfasts on Monday through Saturday with something special on Sundays. Now we have compiled an every-day-different-Monday-to-Saturday menu; what’s more, there’s a summer version and a winter version. And another half dozen choices available for Special Sundays.
We used to eat bread and fermented pickles with a piece of fruit for lunch. While this simple practice might still continue, we have a repertoire of a dozen different sorts of bread now. Simple sourdough could be replaced with baguettes and rye and semolina rolls and ciabatta and pita and scones and pancakes and pau and pastries and bruschetta…depending on who’s baking.
But will the variety overwhelm?
When we were in Laos we ate sticky rice every day, often twice a day. For a month, sticky rice and crushed peanuts or sticky rice dipped in soy sauce or sticky rice with chillies was breakfast each morning along with a banana.
In Cambodia we had noodles, either fried or in a soup, almost every night.
For months we ate rice and noodles or noodles and rice; there was no bread, no cheese, no salami. Bird flu meant there were no chickens or eggs either.
Then we got to Europe and the staples changed. Bread two or three times a day. Cheese and chocolate!
France saw us drowning in baguettes and camembert.
In Italy we consumed a daily dose of pasta (and stocked up on plenty for later too).
Even if we had not been making a conscious effort to eat locally, the availability of goods would have limited our selection. In some cases due to complete unavailability, in others, the simple fact that exotic goods were extraordinarily expensive.
It’s easy to eat local specialties, when that’s all there is. It’s harder when everything is available all the time. Before going away we had already made the transition to only eating produce in season or that we had preserved ourselves (plus tinned tomatoes, because we couldn’t grow enough!) We may not be able to create a kiwi food culture, but we are going to take steps towards creating a Family Food Culture. We may not be able to be completely faithful to original recipes in an effort to not import out-of-season produce from halfway round the world; the challenge will lie in sourcing ingredients locally, yet authentically. I see our garden growing. I’m not sure about keeping buffalo though.
In addition to the didactic tension of wanting to eat locally and at the same time exotically, there will be other tensions pulling for resolution too:
Of wanting fresh bread daily and conserving energy.
Of wanting choice and simplicity.
Of wanting tools for the job and a minimalist kitchen.
These questions answered will become our new kiwi family kitchen.
the green trees under which we ate pizza
and the modern supermarket where we bought Bulgarian cheese