Fall means two things in Vidin: One, the sidewalk-cafe regulars (aka everyone) begin to mount their fervent resistance to the indoors, bundling up and switching from frappes to hot chocolates but refusing to budge from their chilled outdoor seats. I was taken captive weeks ago by the indoors, and now I can’t even stand it when the cafe owner insists on keeping the door open. Two, the plastic tomatoes invade the markets. Judging by the number of exasperated remarks I hear, I would rank that the greatest national tragedies in the Bulgarian consciousness to be, first, 500 years of slavery to the Turks; second, the past 23 years of economic devastation following the collapse of communism; and third, importation of inferior produce. In particular, I have been warned numerous times of the garlic from China.
Never one to skimp on a good meal, however, the Bulgarian does not resign himself to these offerings but prepares months in advance for the barrenness of winter. He spends the summer growing tomatoes, peppers, and carrots in his village garden and then preserves enough to keep himself content until next spring. Recently one of my colleagues invited me to see the canning process firsthand.
I learned a lot that day. Perhaps most immediately, be careful not to get a finger caught in the meat grinder. Also, with time and determination, humans can throw off the chains of nature, at least partially. Months after they have been forced to surrender in the outside seating battle, Bulgarians will continue to champion the cause of the domestically grown vegetable. Yes we can!