Sunday, January 15, 2006

Food, food everywhere!!

Okay, so in one of my recent posts, I knocked bulgarian cookies. Now, before you go thinking that there is no good food to eat around here, i have to take a little time today and fill you in on how I find food here in the BG-

Remember being in elementary school? Middle school? high school? do you remember days when the lunch hall food was so appalling that you opted to go hungry instead? do you remember days when you ate the food anyway, only to find yourself hungry a few hours later? Well write to your congress(wo)men folks, because right here in the BG is the very solution you were searching for as a child!! Instead of having cafeterias in the schools that serve meals, snack stands exist within the school itself, and directly surrounding the school grounds. These snack stands are awesome, and feature a full range of breakfast foods, warm lunchy-type foods, to juice, water, pretzels, chocolate candies, "little debbie" style snacks, etc. Whatever kind of snack food exists here in bulgaria, it can be found right here! Think of this as a reved up version of a consession stand, but with selection beyond your imagination, and competative prices!!! So for a mere 50 stotinki, or about 35-37 cents, I can happily munch on a 50 gram bag of pretzels, drink a bottle of mineral water, or delight in a FRESH chocolate croissant! its pretty amazing- between the affordablity of these 1 portion-sized snacks, the selection, and the availablity- i'm definately sold!!

Okay Toni, so we know that you are getting adaquet snacking time in your life, but what about food that provides nutrients? you know, nourishing foods like fruits and vegetables? Enter the bulgarian market-place. Every town has "market day," called a пазар, or in bigger towns like mine, the markets run every day. If you have ever visited chinatown in new york, this is what the bulgarian market looks like. Up and down several street blocks, venders set up tables filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, homemade wine and rakia (brandy), clothing, housewares, tools, and almost anything that a person could possibly need! (note the almost... :) ) These venders have spaces that are about 5 ft X 5 ft on which they display their products. There are always tons of venders selling the exact same product (wheither it be pair of mittens or a piece of fruit), so competition results in outstanding product display (the best venders will cut an orange in half so you can see the quality of the fruit), encouraging kindness (I in fact, only buy from the venders who try to entice my attention), and the guarentee that if you wander through the entire pazar, you can find exactly what you are looking for, at exactly the right price. A typical trip to the pazar in my case usually results in 1/2 kilo of tangerines, a few apples and bananas, some potatoes or tomatoes, and the occasional article of winter-weather clothing-ie, gloves, hat, etc.

But sometimes the marketplace isn't a viable option after dark, so I have to get food somehow, right? After work, I have two options for securing food- what i'd like to call "american" style stores, and "point" stores. The "american" style stores are what we are used to (hence the name, right?), where you grab a shopping cart or a basket, and wander around the aisles, making decisions between brand x and brand y, and at your leisure, shop and check out. Then there are the "point" stores. If, as volunteers, our "foreignness" is more noticable anywhere else than in these "point" stores, I'd very much like to see this place! Stores are much smaller here, and have limited space, so things are often squeezed right next to the next item, and the shop keeper has an excellent knowledge of each product's location. In these stores, you go to the counter and list off everything that you want- so if you don't know the name of the product you think looks tasty, this is where the "pointing" comes in!!! This can be either frustrating or comical experience for both the volunteer and/or the shopkeeper, and hopefully more of the latter!

so next time you are wondering around a grocery store trying to decide wheither to buy store brand frootloops or the real kind, think about how much tougher the decision would be if you didn't know the name for either!!!!!

happy shopping!


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