the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


Leave a comment

Twins and time

Rather than my own middling quality photographic attempts, (as a good thrifter I am still using the camera on the old and battered iphone 4 that was given me second hand when a kind friend upgraded, and I was sat up at night feeding Tiddler and kept falling asleep and needed something portable to help keep me awake), I’ve been rootling about learning more about Digger’s side of the family.

IMG_5724
Pictured here in this wonderful image is Digger’s mother, now Tiddler’s Baba (grandmother). She takes centre stage, with her twin brother to the left, their older sister (now the Sofia Auntie D) on the right, and their cousin on the far left. Behind them, both so proudly smiling, are their grandparents, that is Tiddler’s great-great-grandparents. Digger does a spot of maths and estimates the picture was taken circa 1952.
The story goes that the Uncle P, the first born of the twins arrived in the night at home in the rural village. A local ‘midwife’ (i.e. somebody else’s baba) attended, delivered Uncle P but was concerned, and great-grandmother was put on the back of a karuca (каруца), and taken off on a bumpy road to get to the hospital in the town, some distance away. Without prenatal care and scans, they were unaware of a second baby, and our Baba was only born later, unexpectedly, and fortunately with more complex medical care and not on the back of the karuca. This is why the twins have ended up with different dates of birth, one day apart.

I wish this picture was in colour. The twins are wearing terlitsi (knitted slipper socks), and all of the children sport knitted socks and leggings. Great-great-grandmother’s heavy apron and skirt and headscarf can be seen, and the cousin’s skirt and cardigan look to be knitted or woven in a traditional design too. Great-great-grandfather wears a tall kaplak bear fur (or black lamb wool) hat, and what looks like an ex-military coat.
A photo below (iphone 4!) from a modern but traditional style fabric in use today may gives you a hint of the possible colour combinations, or take a look at some of the ornate embroidery and vintage clothing on this webpage. 

IMG_5663

The heavy duty wools are clearly to keep out the cold continental winter air. I’ve also discovered these children’s knickers/shorts tucked away, perhaps sentimentally,  with moth balls in the back of a cupboard in the apartment we are borrowing for our stay in Bulgaria. I ask Digger if they were his when he was little, but he admits to nothing.

IMG_5880IMG_5881IMG_5882

I don’t know about the level of insulation gained, but I imagine an individual wrapped in a pair of these bad boys, plus all the other layers on top, would not be moving anywhere very fast, and you would certainly need plenty of warning for a toddler toilet stop.

It was definitely a different world, nearly three quarters of a century ago, and makes me sit and think a little on Tiddler’s relationship with her grandparents, both the Bulgarian side and those in the Westcountry, and whether she will be looking at pictures of us all in decades to come, and what she will think of us, and what she will remember, and what stories she will have heard. Hopefully she won’t be thinking about our underwear.


Leave a comment

Cooking up a winter storm

Following the last blog post about how we were blessed with a seemingly limitless larder thanks to Tiddler’s Bulgarian grandparents being a dab hand at gardening, gathering, and preservation of food, which is having a significant saving on our food budget while we try and eke out our time without working, I thought it was about time I shared a little bit about what we were getting up to in our Bulgarian kitchen.

NB: None of the below is anything amazingly gastronomical, but in the last few years since the arrival of Tiddler we have become more reliant on quickly cooked food, all served in separate portions ( none of which can touch the others on the plate) so Tiddler would eat it. Anything remotely ‘mixed’ such as a stew or soup was was in line for for the five stages of Toddler mealtimes: 1. Disbelief, what is that! 2. Ridicule, ýou actually think I’m going to eat that? 3. Denial, er no way is that happening. 4. Anger, Waaaaaaahhhhhh! 5. Grief, How can you make me do this? We are now reaching the burgeoning stage 6, Bargaining, I might eat it if I feel like it and if there is something I want for pudding. As a result we have a few more options, a few different ingredients, and certainly a lot more time. I’m reasonable proud our cooking attempts so far. Digger slightly less enchanted with the clean up operation required after Tiddler has been let loose.

Firstly we needed the right attire, so thanks Baba for what we turned up after a quick rummage in the tea towel drawer.
IMG_4969
Next chop and scrape and bang and clatter and voila, or rather more accurately as the Bulgarians would say, заповядайте (pronounced zapovyadaite).

Beetroot soup preparation, hot beetroot salad, cold beetroot salad with pomegranate and sirene (the Bulgarian equivalent of feta, very similar but softer and stickier).

 


Baked carp, and then flaked leftover carp into paprika spiced rissoles.

 

 

Butternut squash tagliatelle with leek and kidney bean, halfway through a layered roasted pepper pie, and sirene and beef tomato crustless quiche. I can’t claim I had any hand in the making of the lovely heart shaped kashkarval cheese bread though I’m afraid, that was bought from a little shop across the street.

 


Tiddler then demanded some sweet things, so we tried honey (also made by Diado from his own hives) and cinnamon biscuits, and windfall pear flan.

 

One of our breakfast staples has become pancakes, including on occasion the randomly generated odd shaped one. Those of you who know Tiddler will know that the snail one below almost didn’t get eaten as she wanted to keep it as her new friend!
IMG_4958

But without doubt, the go to recipe to keep Digger happy is the Bulgarian dish, banitsa.
This is a layered filo pastry, cooked with egg, yoghurt, sirene, milk and butter that can be eaten by itself as a breakfast, or as a side serving to another meal, or just plain hey whenever you feel like it. There are to be fair probably as many banitsa recipes as there are Bulgarian grandmothers. I cook Baba’s version, not quite up to her standard, but I think I’m paying reasonable homage. Digger blames not carrying out physical work anymore for his waistline expanding somewhat, but I know it is his banitsa consumption. I’ll have to look into a local Banitsa Eaters Anonymous group.

IMG_5251

 

Next blog post: Just what exactly are Bulgarian christmas traditions, and what happens when you try to explain the weird British ones. Thrifty toddler craft for a frugal christmas also has been keeping us busy over the last few weeks, we’ve not been stuck in the kitchen all the time!