Please pardon me for this somewhat risque title. 🙂
And before you jump to any hasty conclusions, let me clarify – I am referring to meat as in food that we bake, boil and broil. 🙂
Also as in food that has been alleged to have an interesting effect on our psyche.
I have encountered the interesting choice of words that I’ve put as post title in the food documentary I have already recommended to you here.
The context was a conversation, between the documentary author and host and an English priest, who was explaining the reasons behind the restrictions on meat consumption the Catholic Church used to impose in the Middle Ages in the country.
So roughly speaking, one of the reasons was this – the Catholic Church believed certain foods and drinks had certain effects on the body and soul of those who consume them. True enough. Think of alcohol or sugar. Or the meaning behind “comfort food” for that matter.
Meat, being an obvious product of reproduction – to quote the documentary host verbatim – reportedly made people think about the act of reproduction itself, thus distracting them from prayer and repentance.
…This actually isn’t such a revolutionary thought, but I had never thought of it, at least not consciously. I believed restricting meat had to do with its palatability and overuse in the colder seasons.
I may, however, have unwittingly come to the same conclusion, as evidenced by this post – one of my favourite – which somehow managed to link Bulgarian mincemeat fingers, known as kebapcheta, to a suggestive flesh-related poem by Charles Baudelaire, who was also very much interested in spleen as a state of mind and carcasses as an embodiment of the eternal strife between life and death lurking out in everything. He must have been an interesting fellow to talk to. 🙂
My way of thinking and style of writing – to the extent that I have them – are highly associative – so I have probably also somehow intuitively connected the dots between consumption of meat and carnality. So typical and discouraging by the way – the Church knows everything before you’ve managed to think of it yourself. 🙂
So being true to associativity, and also to my alter ago – that of a Victorian or early 20th century bourgeoise lady obsessed with her food and digestion – I associated that reproduction quip with a favourite Bulgarian meat dish – the beef kebap with rice on the side. 🙂
Before I share with you the technicalities of its preparation, let me tell of you of somethingelse about the food documentary that struck me. It was this – both the documentary host and the priest talked of the Lents as something truly pertaining to times gone by forever. However, before the 11th-century Schism, officially establishing the Catholic church as a separate Christian denomination, and the 16th-century Reformation, which did away with the Lents and other Catholic restrictions in England – the Church was one and its ways, as I have already commented here, have been preserved in the worship practices of the Orthodox. At least in theory.
I am not the most Lent-observing person, but I certainly do not have the notion that Lents belong to the Middle Ages. There’s cultural diversity for you. 🙂
Also in line with cultural diversity, the kebap is an Oriental dish that has gained strong foothold, alongside many others, in the Bulgarian (or Balkan) cuisine as a result of its half-a-millennial exposure to Ottoman influences.
It resembles a stew and is cooked with lean meat of young animals – veal or lamb. Stews, another great Ottoman thing, on the other hand, are cooked very much like kebaps, but the fatter meat of older animals is used.
The beef kebap I am about to bring to your attention has once again originated in communist times with lean pork or beef as its meat component. Veal was for some reason unavailable and lamb was typically consumed in May only.
So pork and beef came to the rescue, turning this dish into an year-round home dinner staple and a regular at canteens catering to the working masses. The kebap is usually referred to as винен кебап (vinen kebap, or a wine kebap), although it may or may not contain actual wine.
According to old-time cookbooks, whose covers I have pasted around the blog, to prepare a kebap, you cut the raw meat it morsel-size pieces, fry it briefly in the pot where you’ll cook the kebap, take it out and in the same oil fry onions and possibly garlic. Then you add red pepper, flour, tomatoes and dilute with water, meat stock or vegetable bouillon.
You add some wine, spices such as allspice, black pepper and bay leaf and return the meat to the pot. You reduce the fire, cover and let simmer to readiness, while stirring occasionally. Given that we are cooking with lean meat of not so young animals, we will be boiling it in a pressure cooker. Otherwise it will take forever to prepare. 🙂
Kebaps in Bulgaria are served with a vegetable salad, preferably green in colour, and rice pilaf as a side dish. Actually, this is not referred to as a pilaf in Bulgarian, it is simply as a “rice side dish.” But still, a pilaf it is. 🙂
After this preparatory lecture, let’s put the theory to practice! 🙂
500 g or more of lean beef or pork (pictured below is beef)
Onions, garlic, celery root and carrots
Tomatoes, fresh or paste like whole canned, diced canned, puree or double concentrate
Possibly a litte red wine for the sauce, but I didn’t have and didn’t use
Bay leaf, allspice, black pepper, salt
There now, you know how to make a kebap! 🙂
If you want a light first course to complement, you can opt for something like this:
After so much cooking, I am leaving you to the restorative influence of something very Bulgarian that makes me proud and makes my heart a dancer too. It is the Dunavsko horo, a line dance named to the Danube, composed by Diko Iliev (1898-1984), who single-handedly created the musical genre horo music for brass orchestra in Bulgaria. This Danube horo is played at town squares every New Year’s Eve, after the speech of the President.
The video I have linked is not much in terms of quality, but features my favourite national guards orchestra. I may have a thing for men in uniforms. 😛 Speaking of which, while I searched the youtube for a video, I came across a Dunavsko horo performance of a Polish military orchestra.
It may be provincial of me, but I am always moved when someone knows something about Bulgaria, so – my utmost respect to the Polish. Still, I regret saying it, but they do seem to lack that Balkan je-ne-sais-quoi that makes the horo click, don’t they…?