This popular non-fiction book presents a lively, in-depth account of how the communist regime determined the Bulgarian people’s everyday food experience between 1944 and 1989. It examines the daily routines of acquiring food supplies, cooking, and eating out at restaurants through the memories of Bulgarians and of people from the other side of the Iron Curtain, who visited the country during communism.
How did Richard Nixon inspire Eastern European ham production? Why were the communist shops always empty and their long shelves occupied with endless rows of the same product? How come, while Dalia Smith and Betty Crock were flooding British and American media, nobody in Bulgaria knew what the country’s most prolific culinary authority even looked like? How did French aristocrats’ cuisine end up on every communist restaurant’s menu? Was the communist food industry actually concerned with consumers’ health? Why did Sofia in 1975—at least on paper —have more restaurant seats per capita than New York in 2014? Why were architects designing tiny kitchens even when building large apartments? Why did the country, which became the greatest industrial producer of canned vegetables in the Balkans, nevertheless encourage city folk to make and subsist largely on home preserves? In what ways did a communist leader’s humble culinary tastes affect restaurant cooking?
The Bulgarian edition of Communist Gourmet (Oct 2014) was announced to be N6 best selling book for 2014&2015.
Dimiter Kenarov, journalist, poet, and literary critic
“‘You are what you eat,’ as the famous saying goes, and there is much truth to it. Yet, food creates not only individuals but whole societies, cultures, and political systems. In her well-researched and incisive study of food and eating practices in Communist-era Bulgaria, Albena Shkodrova has managed to give us a new and unconventional kind of history of that period, a history from below, or should we say, a history straight from the gut. This is an important contribution to food studies which tells us that in fact what we eat is politics.”
Jukka Gronow, University of Helsinki, Finland
“Albena Shkodrova’s Communist Gourmet is both a fascinating story of the culinary history of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and an important contribution to the history of consumption and production of food in the East European Communist countries. Rich in historical detail, it highlights the inner tensions between the official goals and ideological declarations of the Communist Party and people’s everyday life.”
Peter Scholliers, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels
“Albena Shkodrova explores the everyday foodways of Bulgarians from 1944 to 1989 in a superb, challenging, witty, critical, ingenious, and personal way. The book is not only thoroughly informative but also absolutely enjoyable to read. The many stories, the instructive pictures, the fluent language, the unexpected topics, the humor, the clever usage of various source materials, and, above all, the very broad coverage (producers, managers, political leaders, workers, shoppers, cooks, diners, drinkers, tourists…) make it an essential contribution to food studies.”