Across Continents

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Taste of home

Whenever I’m asked what I’m eating in a given country, my stock answer is that it’s always whatever the locals are having. I really try not to sound too flippant, too rude. There is, after all, a really great place for fine traditional English cuisine. That’d be England. However, nothing wrong with the odd reminder of home. I’d Yorkshire tea bags from my parents, there’d even been a Christmas pudding.

I’d heard the nearby town of Elhovo, high up in the hills of eastern Bulgaria, was popular with English ex-pats. Seen a few about, but not many. So I was a little surprised when I’d joined Julie, my guide and mentor, and Mitko for lunch in a cafe in the centre. Presented with a menu in English. Very comprehensive. Not exactly British, but chicken pieces fried in corn flakes sounded good.

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We headed out to a mini-market, run by Nicky and Nanette, a little outside of the centre. She’s Scottish, he’s Bulgarian, and their son Michael is bilingual. Outside, smart. Inside, ordered, the shelves neatly stacked with provisions. And stocked with a few luxuries from home. Like custard powder. After Eight mints. Pork and leek sausages. Aberdeenshire bacon. With a little notice, there probably wasn’t much they couldn’t get hold of.

A few days later I’d joined Julie and her partner George for Toad in the Hole. Always went down a treat with the locals, although I did wonder what they made of the name. There was even proper gravy, creamy mash and home made garlic bread. Reckoned Nicky and Nanette had probably had a hand in sourcing the ingredients.

Then there was the tempting offer of Julie’s other specialities, flapjack and bread pudding, before I returned to the road. Evoked strong memories of home. I’d often made flapjack, and my good friend and neighbour Jon could bake a bread pudding to die for. Of course, he’d deny he could cook. Always did, despite a compelling body of evidence to the contrary. Award winning bread in the local fete, first prize in the village pudding competition. Probably have a Michelin Star by the time I got back.

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