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Rebellious Cooks and Recipe Writing

in Communist Bulgaria

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How did people exist and resist in their daily lives under Soviet control in the Cold War period? Shkodrova shows how in communist Bulgaria many women passionately exchanged recipes with friends and strangers, to build substantial and impressive private collections of recipes. This activity was borderline contraband in going against the general disapproval of home cooking that formed part of the ideology of communism, in which home cooking was considered household slavery and an agent of patriarchalism.

Private recipe collections were by far the preferred written source of culinary information, more popular than the state-approved commercial cookbooks. Shkodrova shows how these recipe collections held many different meanings for the women who collected them, from helping to navigate the communist economy, to enabling new friendships to be developed while engaging safely in power relations, and cultivating a sense of individual identity in a society where collective existence was prioritised and exalted.


Drawing on primary sources including scrapbook cookbooks and working from the establishment of cookery classes before communism and their obliteration thereafter, Shkodrova presents a structured outline of the meanings of recipes exchange and home cooking for Bulgarian women under communism.

‘This is a valuable book of cultural history. It smells like literature and it tastes like Bulgarian socialism.’

IVAN KRASTEV, Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, Bulgaria

‘All handwritten recipes passing from woman to woman and generation to generation are pages of a hidden and, as it turns out, subversive history of communist Bulgaria. Without them our knowledge for that time would be tasteless and spiceless. While reading Shkodrova’s book, you enter again the kitchen of that past, get invited to its table, and forget

to leave.’

GEORGI GOSPODINOV, author of The Physics of Sorrow and Time Shelter

‘Rebellious Cooks and Recipe Writing in Communist Bulgaria is a wonderfully unexpected and engaging insight into the way we struggle to stay human in the face of an oppression.’
EDWARD STOURTON, Writer and Broadcaster at the BBC

Published: 11-02-2021

Format: Hardback

Edition: 1st

Extent: 200


Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic


Food in Modern History: Traditions and Innovations

Eds. Peter Scholliers, Amy Bentley

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