Our first Christmas in Bulgaria was lovely. Quiet, gentle and non-commercial. No expensive presents given or received.
While the sounds of pigs meeting their end continued on the run up to the day, it was distant enough that we could escape the sound by just shutting the door. Hopefully the part of living in rural BG which does not appeal to vegetarians is over for the year. It does mean our neighbours have been working very long hours trying to process their meat, with Dave helping to move the cauldron when Venka was alone. The irony is I spent ages making pork pies for Dave while all this was going on.
Other non-essential makes were a huge batch of puff pastry for veggie and ordinary sausage rolls, some are in the freezer, a batch of shortcrust which I have been having trouble with as it has been coming out tough, but this time was perfect. A trifle which I made with cherries donated by our English pals when they needed space in the freezer.
On 23rd I made a couple of batches of shortbread biscuits in plain and chocolate while Dave went to try to get some timber to finish the kitchen units. He didn't get the wood as they were closed but managed a swim in the river on the way home!!! Crazy. He took a couple of photos while he was out and managed to get a pic of a black squirrel, though given the fog it wasn't a very good one! He also saw a great white egret but had run out of juice in the camera.
When he got home we set about decorating the biscuits to give to the neighbours. We had a few visitors during the day so it took longer than we thought it would (and we were a few light when they went!) but received marmalade and strawberry jam so happy indeed. We were pleased with the results of our handiwork and packed boxes of seven to give away.
The first to get biscuits were the old couple we get the milk from. Dave says the lady was transformed by the gesture from a very bent and tired looking woman to someone wreathed with smiles. They are lovely and chatter away to him even though he can't chatter back. Next the old fellow from behind us struggled down the lane with his stick, carrying a bag of three large pumpkins, so he collected a card and biscuits. Then the lady from across the lane, who sends me flowers, had hers. She came back later with five bread rolls and a bottle of home made wine.
The 24th is the last day of fasting for Advent and food is traditionally vegetarian with rolls and such offered in odd numbers, also bread rolls are baked in a round tin and if offered you break a piece off and hope to find a coin inside, a synbol of good luck. Walnuts are also important at Christmas, and each person will crack a nut and their luck will coincide with the condition of the nut inside.We have so much to learn!
We went round to visit Venka and Jordan on the 24th to find them with their hands full as their chickens had been attacking a couple of their mates and had made a real mess. We handed them their biscuits and a token present each, and some biscuits for the daughter and her family. We lent them a dog crate and some purple spray so they could either isolate them or spray them as the others will attack the red bits constantly. Then Dave spoke to the grandson on the phone as Venka wanted us to go round in the evening. Unfortunately she always leaves it to the last minute to invite us and we were going out already, I felt really bad about it. We would have enjoyed seeing how the family celebrate Christmas eve. As it happens we had a nice evening at an ex-pat house and had a good laugh. I had been busy making bread sticks and pastries to take along, and used the last of the mincemeat to make a tray bake with almond macaroon topping. It was so scrummy that I had to keep half of it! They also had biscuits.
Christmas day was the day for Skypeing mostly Dave's family, including his niece who is travelling around New Zealand, though a couple of them tried to Skype us just as we sat down to eat, forgetting that we are two hours in front. The menu had changed a bit and Dave had chicken, shared with the dogs, and all the usual trimmings. My nut roast turned out great, and we had some of my spiced quince and pear jelly with it. The only down were the sprouts, and no amount of tarting up with chestnuts and onion helped the fact they were frozen, we couldn't get fresh. We will do without next year if we can't grow them ourselves. Apart from them everything was either home made, local or home grown. Even the very expensive but woody parsnips from the market turned out nice smothered in local honey. Dave also made crackers which we pulled while shouting 'bang' just as the Goods did in 'The Good Life' We don't have newspapers for hats but a large brown envelope did the job!
Venka came round later with a goody bag consisting of a 2ltr pop bottle of home made wine, some minced beef, a slab of pork belly fat (so Dave can have some crackling after all) a couple of long home made sausages nd a plate of stuffed cabbage leaves and peppers for me. We have enough meat to last months now. She came back later with a plate of tiramisu inspired cake sent by the daughter (they love Italy and spend time there grape picking every year)
Later on we went round to the English neighbours for a chin wag and catch up. Altogether a lovely day.
So our next social occasion is the village 'do' on the 30th, day time. For a small sum you get a burger and some pop and if very lucky all the locals will be wanting you to try their rakia and wine! Watch this space.
The little straw decorations from the Post Office ladies.