December 18, 2008

Bulgarian Banitsa Charms
Devin, Bulgaria

I wanted to share a fun little tradition that we've experience this past week in Plovdiv:

The food item is called banitsa, a traditional Bulgarian pastry prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of sirene (Bulgarian feta cheese) between pasty sheets and then baking it in an oven.

We've been exposed to banitsa several times by our CouchSurfing hosts, typically served to us warm in the morning or cold in the afternoon. In the morning it's often accompanied with a serving of boza, and with plain yogurt at midday. Some varieties include banitsa with spinach, or the sweet version, banitsa with milk or pumpkin. …All of which we've tried over the past month.

Traditionally, lucky charms are put into the pastry on certain occasions, particularly on Christmas Eve, the first day of Christmas, or New Year's Eve. These charms may be coins or small symbolic objects (e.g., a small piece of a dogwood branch with a bud, symbolizing health or longevity).

But more recently, people have started writing happy wishes on small pieces of paper and wrapping them in tin foil. Wishes may include happiness, health, or success throughout the new year. Tatiana and I each received warm statements in our pieces of banitsa at last week's Plovdiv Christmas party (of which I have no photos, as I somehow managed to forget my camera for the event).

Banitsa isn't really something you can eat in quantity (being rather flaky and oily, it's just not that type of food), but I thought the tradition of the charms was pretty cute. It sorta reminds me of the 'cake pull' I saw in Peru.

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