not-Spanokopita

spanakopita

A lot of people have been asking me what I did with that tin of tin of Bulgarian not-feta that I bought a while back. Well the answer is nothing, but then I used some to make leftover sausage scrambled eggs (slice the sausage thinly, fry up in a bit of harissa and pretend it’s chorizo) with not-feta. It’s not-feta because it’s Bulgarian white brined cheese. I’d assumed this was part of the Protected Designation of Origin Laws but the hot gossip is that feta was originally made in Trakia, Bulagaria and they call it sirene. I can’t pretend to know how pissed off Greeks would be about this but according to this post at Balkanalysis.com suggests they’ve had an initially antagonistic start to their relationship in the 7th Century; a brief period of amity; complications when Greece discovered that Bulgaria was only going out with it because of a bet with Romania; and then finally “strong relations.”
Read it all because it has the best bitchy
caption about a British PM ever:

In 1912, British fixer J.D. Bourchier was honored with a Bulgarian postage stamp; today, Tony Blair warrants only a babushka in Sofia’s flea market.

It’s a shame Crass aren’t still around to write “How does it feel (to be not half the man J.D. Bourchier was)”

My own Bulgarian- Greek nexus occurred in 1989 (stop me if you’ve heard thins one before) when I visited Sofia. Fresh from eating my body weight in dishes with paprika cream sauce, politely drinking pepsi and red wine, and dodging tram fares in Budapest, I should have realised something was up when I became the only person with a backpack on the train. When I got off the train at Sofia station, someone made it their business to walk over to me and call me a “tourist” much like you’d call someone a variation of twat. I went there to catch up with the last known link with my family. I’m pretty sure the last visit to Bulgaria have been in the 1920’s by my grandfather. The evidence being a black and white photo of a somber group of locals who may have been at a funeral, or a wedding; hard to tell.

The address was 234-64 something something Sofia and 64 referred one of the randomly placed Stalin-style apartment blocks around town. I wasn’t deterred and had spent no small amount of time thinking about what it would be like to be welcomed back by my ancestors; the great-grandson of my great-grandfather who eloped with his fiance eighty years or so earlier. A kind soul, who spoke a little English and a bit of Russian and a bit of French and smoked Malborough Reds, found the apartment block for me and wished me well. I found the door and knocked. And knocked. And knocked. And then a neighbour came out, I said the person’s name and then the neighbour made a driving gesture and indicated that she wouldn’t be back for a few days.

In mandatory hotel room fees (with roof views) and compulsory currency exchange, Bulgaria was too rich for me and I decided to leave the next day. No pigs slaughtered; no young women giggling demurely while they worked how distant a relation, I really was if at all; and no lashings of yoghurt. I hung out in a bar in Sofia, actually it was more like a cafeteria selling beer, and the night life was surprisingly not good. The next day was shops are closed day except for the shops that didn’t seem to sell anything except skis so bought my ticket to Athens for the equivalent of three dollars.

I shared a compartment with some holidaying Poles who gave me food and then when the ticket inspector arrived I found out, as everyone pulled out large bits of paper to my small stub, that the ticket was remarkably cheap because it wasn’t a ticket but a seat reservation. The conductor thought it was pretty funny at least and rather than being turfed out in chains, I was able to buy a ticket to the Greek border with the money I hadn’t been able to spend with two lev to spare.

A day later I made it to Athens to find the last two thousand years hadn’t been quite as grand as the previous two and that if you go to the Parthenon, don’t look at your watch with a carton of orange juice in your hand, and if you got to visit the Oracle in Delphi, wear a jumper.
Anyway, the recipe is here. I used a bunch of silverbeet and a bunch of spinach (60/40 greens to cheese ratio) and finely diced a zucchini and when you rinse your greens in, make sure you lift them out of whatever you’re rinsing them in rather than pouring them, along with assorted grit, into a strainer. Then wash them again.

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13 comments

  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    Well I thought it was funny. New Aussie Bryson???
    Dr Gonzo

  2. santos.’s avatar

    did you use it in the feeding of the 5000?

    i know very few people who have had anything like a *good* experience in eastern european countryside. mine was even less eventful than yours, although a bedbug bit my eye shut. i, too, lasted a day before heading elsewhere (the former yugoslav republic of macedonia. actually, no. i just wanted to say that.).

  3. Anthony’s avatar

    Ha! If I could catch an ounce of that Bryson soft rock magic then and only then, maybe I could be an Aussie Bryson.

    I think, and this applies generally to all countries lacking a few of the assets of places like Paris or Antigua, that really cheap reasonable quality drinks and a cheery greeting at the station might do wonders. (Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?)

  4. shula’s avatar

    Well, I laughed.

    I know the one about the jumper in Delphi.

  5. Barbara’s avatar

    Great story. One of my boys currently has a Greek girlfriend who has taught me the correct pronounciation of Spano’kopita. Sadly no one can understand what I’m asking for when ordering it in a cafe so I revert back to spano’ko’pita.

  6. Anonymous’s avatar

    god u r funny
    i pissed myself laughing
    now i gotta change me nickers..

  7. Anthony’s avatar

    Bulgaria – a big bag o’ laughs.

  8. fdb’s avatar

    My EARS!!!! Aaargh!!!!

    Great link Ant. How did they get Roberta’s genuine grand piano to sound exactly like a shitty Kurzweil electric piano? Studio magic!

    Not-feta would go superbly with non-rabbit I reckon.

  9. Francis Xavier Holden’s avatar

    You are so lucky you weren’t on a melbourne suburban train without a “valid” ticket. Six burly “inspectors” would have thrown you to the ground, arm up back, and knelt on you whilst they took your name and address in order to fine you about $150 for not having a $4 ticket.

    Anyway whats with the silver beet in spani – thingo?

  10. Anthony’s avatar

    FD
    Blearrghhhhh!
    I always think about those sting operations where they send letters out to parole jumpers saying that they’ve won something and they have to pick it up and thn they get busted when they arrive. Wouldn’t it be great if they did the same for the Grammy’s so when Peabo and Celine came up to collect their grammy for Beauty and the Beast, special forces agents could come out and hit them round the ears with batons or something.

    It’s that smooth music magic FDB – don’t want strings harshing our vibe.

    Boned and rolled!

    FX
    Feel the Melbourne love! In Hungary they just look at you with immense sadness and thyis just being another instance of life’s indignity.
    Silverbeet always looks a lot healthier than spinach, which just kind of limp next to eachother.

  11. Francis Xavier Holden’s avatar

    Silverbeet always looks and tastes coarse whereas spinach has class.

    For me it compares to the rural women I grew up with compared to city protestant private school girls.

    We all have our cross(es) to bear.

  12. Bret’s avatar

    My Macedonian in-laws took us to Bulgaria, where we had planned to visit the wife’s auntie. But the border guards took the line that we needed visa. Unprecedented apparently. There was lots of argy-bargy about it. In the end, they decided the wife couldn’t enter because that meant our 2 year old would have to remain with his father in Macedonia and that wouldn’t be right.

    Anyway, KASHKAVAL. After the cheap excellence of Bulgarian feta, this stuff is just excellent (and cheap). $15ish a kilo at that Italian supermarket near Roe and Fitzgerald (streets). It goes great with Cupie mayonnaise as does fried eggplant by the way. A remarkably good sandwich, add lettuce if you must.

    It’s time to retire the NotTheWest link MTC.

  13. Anthony’s avatar

    FX
    That would explain why my country born/ city protestant school attending sister could often be found passed out in the shrubbery in a lovely dress at school balls. [alright, once]

    Bret
    Ha! It’s like the didn’t want us there. For a man to look after a child, it is madness.
    Ta fr the tip, I haven’t been there for a while. Can’t work out why they haven’t come up with a memorable name yet.
    I would but – too lazy to sort out links and I’d feel a great loss as:
    –TW=TW
    and that’s a terrible think to accept.

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