Thracian Guvetche (Pot) Cooking Style

November 22, 2014

A few weeks ago, we were invited to dinner to celebrate a friend’s name day, St. Michael’s (Archangel Michael). The evening was pleasant and helped us leave technology behind and have an engaging conversation while sitting around a table covered with a traditional Bulgarian meal: fresh baked bread (pitka), salads and a pie called “Rhodope Mountain Klin.” It’s like a banitsa, but with different ingredients. One of the tastiest things I tried was some baked beans called “Smilanksi Beans.” Perhaps you’ll say, “What’s so special about baked beans?” Well they were prepared in a clay pot called a “Thracian Guvetche.” People cook beans, meat, feta cheese and vegetables in them. It’s a clever way to make a delicious meal.

Bulgarian ceramics are colorful and the designs are full of imagination. A classic type of Bulgarian pottery is called Troyan. Here’s a link to website where you can see some examples: http://www.gyuvecheta.com/

guvetcheIn this post I won’t go any deeper into the beauty of Bulgarian ceramics, but I will tell you how tasty it is to cook a meal in this type of cooking pot. After the above-mentioned dinner, I wanted to try to cook something like that myself. When I got home, I searched for recipes online and through my old recipes. I finally found an interesting recipe online about how to bake “Smilainski Beans” in a Thracian Guvetche.

The problem was that I had broken the baking dish a few years ago. I looked through my cookware to find something similar. I found one, but it didn’t have a cover. Using my imagination, I made a cover from dough to create a meal in a pot, complete with fresh baked bread. The bread was delicious and the beans were cooked to perfection.

Pour yourself a glass of red wine, sit back, and enjoy a warm meal on a cold winter day.

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Bulgaria To Exhibit Thracian Treasures In Paris’ Louvre

November 22, 2014

Bulgaria To Exhibit Thracian Treasures In Paris’ Louvre – The exhibition “Antique Thrace – The Odrysian Kingdom” will feature the Panagyurishte golden treasure and 325 exhibits – mostly golden and silver items from various treasures. – The items in the exhibition were evaluated by insurers at EUR 165 M

Read more at: http://www.novinite.com/articles/164888/Bulgaria+To+Exhibit+Thracian+Treasures+In+Paris%27+Louvre

Kukeri – Masked Men

November 16, 2014

If you’re in Bulgaria on New Year’s or on Sirni Zagovezni, the first Sunday before Lent, you will be in for a fascinating parade and series of skits as the kukeri make their appearance. kukerThese are men who dress in furry costumes that cover most of their bodies, and they wear colorful wooden masks with scary faces of rams, goats, or bulls. The hand-carved masks display snapping jaws, twisted horns, and frightening eyes. Some masks even portray two faces—one evil and one good—to symbolize the duality of nature.

The men often attach to the masks shiny objects, such as mirrors, ivy (sacred to Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, and rebirth), basil (for love), and multi-colored threads and fabrics. Red symbolizes the sun’s fire. Black is the embodiment of the earth itself. And white signifies water and light. All three elements were essential for restoring the fertility of the land after a long winter. (photo credit: kafene.bg)

Like many of the Bulgarian traditions, this one also has Thracian origins. During the time of the winter solstice, ancient people believed that the heavens and earth were at their closest points and became one, allowing evil spirits to enter the realm of mankind. These spirits sought to bring chaos to the world by preventing the return of light, that is, the rebirth of the Sun God. Without the Sun’s return, the earth could not be fertilized. Therefore, Thracian warriors would don animal skins, which allowed them to contact the spirit world, enabling them to battle against the evil spirits. The celebrations that began with the Sun’s rebirth continued into ancient Dionysian rites symbolizing life, death, and rebirth, performed in the spring before the sowing of the harvest.

Stopping at houses along the route, the men perform various skits pantomiming plowing and sowing of seeds, rocking back and forth indicating heavy ears of corn weighing them down, jumping into the air to portray tall crops, rolling on the ground to draw on its strength, fighting evil spirits, as well as the conception and birth of infants. In return, they are given food (bread and wine, symbolic of the flesh and blood of pagan sacrifices) and money, which will later be sold and the money given to charities or to help offset the cost of the celebration.

While the kukeri dance and jump along the streets, large copper or bronze bells surrounding their waists clang loudly. (A single bell can be as large as a foot in diameter and weighing twenty pounds.) The noise from the bells, the frightful masks, and the mirrors on the masks are meant to chase away evil spirits. It is also done to ensure a plentiful harvest, good health, and happiness.

Cultural Diversity

November 4, 2014

Today, we’d like to explore more about one reason why we wrote Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey. It’s more than a tale about eternal love. As mentioned in the introductory blog, it’s also a story about the modern Bulgarian people and their culture.

This isn’t a discussion about religion. It’s about the activities people perform that are unique to their culture. Granted, the activities may take place during religious holidays, but they don’t necessarily have a religious significance, although often they do.

Why is understanding culture important? One reason is it defines who people are. The common experiences that people share influences their perception of the world and consequently how they behave with each other and those outside their community. bulgarian_voices1People who believe in evil spirits may be more cautious around others. In Mystical Emona, Maria is constantly giving Stefan charms to ward off the evil she believes intends to harm him. As an outsider, Stefan reacts differently to her actions than those who have lived with her in the village.

Is either of them right or wrong? No. Different cultures shaped their view of what evil spirits are, or if they even exist. Will living in a place that is vastly different from your own change your perception? Quite possibly, yes.

Then the question arises: Should people who move to another country forget about their heritage and immerse themselves in their new culture? Or should they retain the purity of their traditions, ignoring all else? Or perhaps a bit of both – creating new traditions from each culture?

There is no set answer. Everyone is different, so what works for one person or family may not be appropriate for another. Some beliefs may be so strongly ingrained into people’s personalities that no amount of time can erase them. While other beliefs may pass by the wayside, with people openly embracing new beliefs, or incorporating them into what they believe and creating new traditions.

Consider these thoughts about what culture does.

  • Provide comfort and security: Customs, traditions, and beliefs give people hope for a better life for themselves and their children.
  • Pass on cultural and religious heritage: Traditions are a great way to teach children about the family’s cultural and religious history, giving them personal identity.
  • Connect generations: Spending time with older generations is a great way to build memories and enables people to learn about beliefs, traditions, and heritage.

We’ll leave you with a quote from Mystical Emona where Peter is telling Stefan about Sultana, a znahar, a woman who heals with herbs. Many people considered her a witch. “When people don’t understand things, they call them bad. Miracles still happen, but you need to believe deep in your heart before you can experience them.” So, culture is about believing.

Modern Style Baklava

November 1, 2014

We love adorable ‪#‎Halloween‬ treats, but here is a simple and easy, modern style baklava. This is very popular dessert in Bulgaria. Baklava or baklawa is a rich, sweet pastry featured in many cuisines of the former Ottoman countries. It is made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, or pistachios, and sweetened with syrup or honey. To

Don’t like sugar? Explore more recipes on Maria’s Kitchen. We have a few dishes that are made with yogurt. Delicious and healthy. Explore and enjoy!

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