Second Bulgarian Kingdom

FOOD OF THE PEOPLE FROM THE SECOND BULGARIAN KINGDOM

From the XIIth to the XIVth centuries, the Bulgarian fields were sown with wheat, rye, millet, barley, oats and so on. Cabbage, lettuce, turnips, fava beans, lentils, peas, legumes (except beans), beets, carrots and cucumbers were some of the popular vegetables. Orchards and gardens were rich with cherries, apples, plums, pears, quinces, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peaches and strawberries. Melons and watermelons were also widely cultivated. Numerous herds of fine wool sheep and fertile cows were grazing in the rural pastures while goat herds were often found in the Balkan meadows. Pigs, ducks, geese, chickens, pigeons, etc. were bred in rural and urban yards.

An important source of food was fishing – it is no accident that the royal charters refer constantly to "fisheries" that were always heavily guarded. The "big and fat Danube fish" was especially famous which, according to the Byzantine authors, rarely reached Constantinople, and this is why they were highly valued. Connoisseurs preferred the fish caught in the clear waters of Lake Ohrid.

Fishing rods, as well as landing and hoop nets were used to capture the fish. Even in smaller rivers, such as the Yantra, large fish were found.

In spite of the strict regulations that heavily punished poaching, people managed to get their hands on game meat in one way or another. Hunting was a recurrent source of food for ordinary people.

In the Bulgarian lands, the culture of grapes was widespread and our ancestors remained famous for the production of honey: it was stored in leather flasks and was among the most famous goods exported by the Bulgarians. There was even a special position of "royal beekeeper" at the court.

The variety of food and drink rarely appeared on the table of the common people. During the Middle Ages, small quantities of food were consumed : once, at most twice a day. The poor Bulgarians ate only once, their main food being bread. They made it so large that one loaf was enough for ten strong men to feed to satiety.  White wheat bread was not a frequent meal at the poor table. In most cases, ordinary people prepare their daily bread with rye and millet, by mixing it with bran and sometimes acorns. Usually, each housewife prepared the bread for the family herself, ten days in advance. 

The poor people's menu was sometimes varied with bulgur and stews, and in the evening they usually ate fruits and vegetables. If they had meat, which was rare, they preferred it "grilled", "roasted" and "fried." One of the most popular dishes was "fish baked in bread", but usually the fish was consumed "freshly salted".

Sometimes the hostess cooked "some kind of soup" or "stew", and in years of scarcity, the poor survived with "a few ears of rye", which they boiled in water. They made cheese from milk that they consumed "fresh or not hardened". Goat cheese was also a popular product.

During this era, poor Bulgarians consumed almost exclusively plant-based food. Great amounts of garlic were also consumed. What was not allowed to the poor people, the king and the aristocracy had in abundance.  For the boyars and the upper class, the morning breakfast was the largest meal : it consisted of several dishes, always served hot. Spices were widely used. It was considered of bad taste to eat on an uncovered table and drinking wine in small glasses. 

The rich man was recognised first and foremost "by his gold and silver vessels" and cutlery, typical of the aristocracy. Some of them were often engraved with inscriptions indicating who owned them. Despite this, in boyar castles, just as in poor households, food was mostly eaten with hands.

The most exquisite dishes were served, of course, at the royal table, where "everything shone with a festive splendour." Gold and silver vessels were taken out on feast days. These vessels were used only in exceptional cases and rather as a display of wealth. The bread served on the royal table was made with white wheat and the wine poured in tall glasses, was "aromatic and sparkling, pleasant in appearance and taste."

The guests and visitors of the Historical Park can taste delicious dishes, crafted with natural, organic products and have the pleasure to eat in dishes and cutlery recreated on the model of those used by the noble Bulgarian class from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. In addition to its sophisticated craftsmanship, which helps the spirit of the era to come to life, these vessels are also functional and up-to-date. It is suitable for everyday use, combining the ancient splendour of manufactured vessels with their modern functionality.

5/25/2020