Let me show you an ancient sugar jar I found in my Wallachian village of Bregovo, located in the north-westernmost corner of Bulgaria:
I took it not because I intend to actually use it – its lid does not fit tightly, and I do not use much sugar anyway. But I liked it for being old and mysterious and appreciated it as a decorative item too.
Since it is late and I am in a reckless mood, I might just as well tell you that I consider sugar the top alimentary scourge of the present day, responsible for many of the so-called “lifestyle diseases,” affecting populations in developed and emerging economies alike.
In Bulgaria at least, sugar gained popularity and mass availability after WWII, when it became synonymous with healthy, modern and nutritious food, necessary for repleting one’s energy needs.
My mom, who was born in 1962, tells me that when she was a small girl, sugar was sold in packets on which the following inscription was printed: “Sugar Gives You Health! Sugar Gives You Strength!”. A typical communist propaganda-style slogan, by the way…Plus, the communists used to publish books and brochures boasting how they had increased the per capita caloric availability and intake of the population after the war-time starvation imposed by the “fascists”… Sugar is energy-dense, so perfect for such kind of statistics…:).
The widening availability of sugar as well as its palatability and diversity in application, have somehow managed to convince people that it is healthy or at least innocuous. Not so, in addition to its being highly addictive, but I am not going to lecture on health here.
Instead, I thought to show you the shop window of the traditional candy shop of open-air 19th-century crafts museum Etara (Етъра), accent on the first E, near the central Bulgarian town of Gabrovo in the Balkans, which I visited at the end of May.
An occasional treat from a place like that won’t kill you, I am not as extremist as that…:) Still, when you habitually don’t eat sugar, you don’t crave it and if you bring yourself to actually taste one of these treats, you find out that they look much better than they taste. Meaning that by just looking at them you have already got the better part of the experience. 🙂
Etara was designed as an open-air museum in the 1960s, to showcase the crafts Bulgarians engaged in during the 19th century. The original idea was for each hut to showcase a craft and have an actual craftsman working in it according to the technology of the times for the tourists to see. Nowadays, however, actual work is done only in textile spinning and weaving, bread baking, candy making, icon painting and copperware production.
There were craftsmen making wooden bowls too but the items for sale also included IKEA-style bamboo bowls, which are as light as a feather, don’t smell of wood and are somehow plastic-y to the touch. It is obvious they had not been produced in Etara and I found it offensive that they were on sale there. Anyway.
Speaking of halva, in that candy shop which claimed it was a replica of one that existed in 1860, I bought something which was not locally produced (the candy shop guys, similarly to the woodenware ones, have obviously been outsourcing :)).
It was a concoction titled A Healthy Halva, which wasn’t bad actually. It was still sweet, so do not indulge too much if you decide to try it – I’ll list the ingredients in a second. If not you, your children might benefit from that, they are growing and need their energy. We, who are midway upon the journey of our life, as poet Dante Alighieri puts it, are a different story. 🙂
The ingredients are: rolled oats, oat bran, olive oil, whole-grain breadcrumbs, honey, sunflower seeds, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, wheat bran, pumpkin tahini, sunflower tahini, sesame tahini, flax seed oil, unrefined sunflower oil, cornmeal. It had a crumbly structure and had to be eaten with a spoon. It is eatable, I promise. 🙂
The prices at this shop were exorbitant by the way…And the coffee – way too thin for my taste, which was a surprise, as Turkish coffee in a cezve is supposed to be thick… The coffee shop owners, like many of their colleagues across Etara, were cutting corners too! Except for the prices. I’ve never seen anyone cut corners about the prices.
So the menu included: Coffee boiled on hot sand; White jam (I wrote what that is here); Fruit juice; Mineral water; Soft drinks; Fruit liquor of an unspecified variety; Nut-and-eggwhite cookies; Shortbread cookies; Merengues; Turkish delight on a stick; Small assorted cookies and Pestil, which is the very thick prune jam shaped as a cuboid (a rectangular prism) and cut with a knife.
Finally, something posher and more hipster-style:
As a musical complement to this post, please accept Metallica’s cover of traditional Irish song Whiskey in a Jar – a great piece for driving and cooking.
Despite my love of classical guitar and music, deep down I am a heavy-metal gal, you know? 🙂
Just please disregard the video – it is horrible and I do not approve of it :).
Really, play at top volume but only listen…I love James Hetfield’s voice by the way. He mostly shouts, but is so macho 😛 And I like his power stance and large white teeth too 😛
And since we talked so much of roses of late, let me show you what a rosy damsel I once was…