Sunday, March 8, 2009

Food and Eating Out in Bulgaria

Grocery Shopping
Buying groceries has been a challenge. There is a large supermarket at the mall near our apartment, where we do most of our grocery shopping. There are many products which are easily recognizable, and we can manage to figure out what they are. There is very little English listed, unless the product is imported. I don’t think that there is much of a law here regarding listing of ingredients, or their nutritional value. And whatever is listed, is so small, that even my new multi-focal glasses don’t help! So, you can buy canned tomatoes, but not be sure if they are crushed, whole or chopped! Spices have been a real challenge – all the green ones look the same!

Fruits and vegetables aren’t always the best quality, and most come packed in packages, instead of loose in big bins, like we see in supermarkets in Israel. There also isn’t a great variety to choose from.

One of the things that we’ve found the hardest to adjust to, is the cheeses. The notion of “light” or “low-fat” cheeses is almost non-existent. We’ve found that the few items that we’ve seen that are listed as “lite” seem to be a minimum of 12%! You can find low fat milk and yogurt (which is very good), but I guess they just don’t believe that this concept should carry over into cheese!

There are quite a few areas that we haven’t dared to try yet – still trying to understand which of the meat is beef and which is pork….chicken is pretty recognizable, so it’s a fairly safe bet, and this week we managed to figure out which was chicken cold cuts-quite an accomplishment! Needless to say, we stay away from the aquarium with the lobsters swimming around in it!

There are quite a number of small, local food grocery shops in the neighborhood, but they seem to specialize – one shop is for drinks and snacks, another can have fruits and vegetables, and near us is one shop where all they carry are cleaning products and shampoos/soaps etc!

Eating Out
The food in restaurants is quite good, but again, we have to go through the menu to see which food doesn’t include pork or seafood – which is probably half the menu! The weirdest part of eating out, is the way the food is served – the waiter takes your order, and the food arrives in whatever order they get it ready! We’ve had situations where we ordered soup and a main course – one of us will get our soup, and while in the middle of eating the soup, the next course will arrive – and in the meantime, the other one is still waiting for the first course! There’s no point in getting upset – this just seems to be the way it is done….I guess the Bulgarians still have a way to come in catching up with the idea of customer service….Also, when you ask for the bill, they always ask you if you’re paying cash or credit card – I don’t really understand why, but I guess they print a different kind of bill depending on how you plan to pay…..On the whole, eating out is much cheaper than what we’re used to – even an “expensive” meal here will be about half of what we would pay in Israel.

That’s it for this week – hope you’re enjoying my little diary of experiences!

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