18 months ago my husband, kids and I packed up and moved from Astoria, New York to Kyustendil, Bulgaria. Since Kyustendil is my husband’s hometown, it is less arbitrary then throwing a dart at the map. We had been living in New York for 6 years. I was working in television production and he was an iron worker. We knew that we were going to move closer to his family, so he could help with the family business, we just didn’t know when.
I had visited Bulgaria many times since we had been together, so I was somewhat prepared for the change. Although who can really prepare for such a move. I was however looking forward to a more natural and fresh approach to life. Tomatoes and cucumbers from your own garden, picking cherries, apricots and plums from the trees that grow on your street, fresh herbs… Yum!!
Come the spring of 2007, I was happy to see fresh lettuce at the markets, albeit one type. I am a salad fan. I will take what I can get, but come mid-June there was no lettuce to be found. I went to all the markets and stores in Kyustendil searching for lettuce to no avail. I was bitching to my husband about the lettuce shortage and he informed me that once it is gone, it is gone. People here only grow it and eat it in the spring. I was angry and astounded.
Coming from the New York City area, there is never a shortage of anything. I was familiar with the concept of seasonal eating and I agree it makes sense, but when you live for so long, in a place where you can find what you are looking for 24/7, you forget that fresh food doesn’t grow in New York in December!
At dinner, a few days later, I was trying to converse in Bulgarian with my father-in-law about not only the lack of lettuce and greens, but also the lack of variety. I suggested that someone should expose Bulgarians to tender baby spinach, Belgian endive, red oak leaf, watercress, escarole, romaine, OK even iceberg. He just laughed and looked at me as if I was crazy to make such a suggestion. He told me that no one would buy it. Here are the two main reasons: 1. People don’t have the money and 2. This isn’t America, people don’t need more than one or two types of lettuce.
So, that started it. I was going to buy seed from the States and grow my own lettuce. The only problem, I have a black thumb. I’ve tried growing things when we were in Astoria and I just kept forgetting to water them and other tenants of basic plant care. My goal is to grow all the food and herbs that are not available in Bulgaria, so I can continue my love for cooking and eating!