Rousse Regional Museum of History
"All that I experienced afterwards had already been in Roustchouk". Elias Canetti
Culture of Nutrition

Desislava Tiholova, Curator at the “Ethnography” Department

Nutrition accompanies man through his lifespan. With the years, the regulations of feeding, acquiring and presenting food have become a basis, called “culture of nutrition”. We, humans, are eating not only according to our need to live, but also according to the regulations of our culture. For example, unchangeable regulations for feeding have existed in traditional culture through centuries – the food is placed over a piece of cloth on the ground or on a low table, called “table”, “sofra”, “paralia”, “yestach”. The food is placed in common vessels, out of which everyone is taking by hands or through wooden spoons. The bread is divided into pieces after a prayer by the oldest man of the family and is given to everyone in order of seniority. The central places are taken by the men in the family and the children are left at the end of the table. There is a special attitude towards the bread, related not only to a number of folklore beliefs for it, but also to the complex process of acquiring.

In traditional culture there are also a lot of prohibitions, which are training everyone for respect attitude towards the bread and food – the bread should not be smashed, it should not fall on the ground, to be smashed with feet, because it will disappear. If a piece of bread falls on the ground, it should be lifted immediately and forgiveness should be asked for it. The violators of these prohibitions are deprived of food or are suffering the respective punishments – if a child, for example, farts on the table, the punishment is deprivation of food and circling the house on one leg.

In the village, people are eating food, produced by them. The food is determined by seasons. For example, in the summer are being eaten more fruits and vegetable, which are abundant. In the winter is being eaten more fat food and meat, and the vegetables are used dried or conserved as pickles. Out of the dried food is being prepared compote, called “oshav”. This is one of the deserts in traditional culture, together with syrup of sweet sorghum, called “madzhun”. As well as the baked fruits – pumpkin, apples, quinces.

Each of the biggest calendar and family holidays has its own “nutrition code”, which is part of the obligatory ritual complex. For example, at Christmas Eve Lent is kept, but on Christmas is eaten fresh pork meat, on the Day of St. Basil – pork head or jelly, made of it, on Shrovetide – cheese or khalva, on St. George’s Day – lamb, on St. Peter’s Day – chicken, and on St. Nicholas’ Day – fish.

Parts of the traditional regulations for feeding were transferred to the culture of the Bulgarian town during the National Revival period. A number of folklore beliefs continued to live in urban culture, related to the bread and the various foods, as well as some of the traditional regulations of behaviour. But in towns like Rousse a number of changes in the lifestyle happened, caused by the strong contacts with the European countries and the impact of their culture over the Bulgarian one. People started to use high tables and chairs for feeding, separate utensils for each, as well as to keep new nutrition regimes.

The people in town, even if they are hired workers, are having a strict working time, which presents an opportunity for the feeding to be separated in a new way – time is determined for first, second and third feeding, respectively called breakfast, lunch and supper. With these names were also named the foods, given at the corresponding time of the day. One of the examples for this is the question “What do we have for supper?”. The manner of feeding changes not only its exterior shapes. The requirements for the quality and type of food were also changing. The residents of the town were free of the responsibilities to make their own food and could buy it, depending on their preferences.

The attitude towards traditionally used foods also changed. For example, in traditional cuisine the fresh milk was used as a resource for making cream, cheese, yellow cheese, curds, as well as in the shape of a meal, like milk-sop. In town milk was used in a new way, depending on the European “cuisine” influence – in most of the cases it was included in the content of complex recipes for meals or deserts, as well as an addition to tea, coffee, cocoa. The old ladies from Rousse are stating that their childhood has not passed with the “chateau” drink – whipped raw eggs with sugar and milk, which was used as an instrument to strengthen the child’s organism.

Desert was another element of the urban feeding menu, which as imposed as an “European influence” in urban culture. According to special recipes were made creams, cakes, bonbons. Popular in urban space are also the recipes for preparing chocolate, as well as of various types of “ladies” low-alcohol beverages like liqueur of cherry, of walnuts, air-cognac.