Rumour has it that we Brits eat so much dairy produce that we actually smell of the stuff to foreigners. If that’s true then I’m pretty sure that I smell pretty cheesy; I really love cheese. I love it so much that one birthday, my friends clubbed together to buy me gift vouchers for the local cheesemonger (a present that was greatly appreciated, I must add).
When I’ve travelled in exotic climes before, one of the things I most often miss is cheese – in many countries (like Honduras or India) it is either impossible to find, or completely disgusting. My cravings for cheese on toast become unbearable. So I was delighted when I found out that Bulgarians in general seem to love cheese as much as I do. Their love of it is probably second only to their love of yoghurt, which is so great that I shall save the discussion of yoghurt for a later post.
Cheese makes its way into almost every meal here in Bulgaria – whether it’s a pastry that you buy on a street corner, or soup in the work canteen (the soup on yesterday’s menu was potato and cheese – weird). If you order a traditional Bulgarian salad, the shopska, you will be faced with a giant mound of cheese entirely disguising the fresh cucumber and tomatoes underneath. The humble snack that we know as cheese on toast is so well loved that it’s called принцеса or ‘Princess.’
So I find it really surprising that, despite this love for cheese, there are only two types available here: кашкавал, a hard yellow cheese, and сирене, which I would say resembles feta but if I did so I would probably be lynched. Any Bulgarian will tell you that it is definitely NOT feta – it’s much smoother, less salty, etc. etc.
When you go to the cheese counter at the supermarket, where in the UK you would find a whole range of cheeses from Gruyere to Dunsyre Blue, in Bulgaria you are faced with around 10 rather similar looking yellow cheeses, and about 20 identical blocks of definitely-not-feta. How on earth is one supposed to choose between them…? I’ve still not worked it out. (Definitely-not-fait-accompli).