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This is an original. It's time for something real, something good, something that needs to be done. Here we have the first cookbook that focuses not only on recipes without exact measurements but also on the more important stories of those who collaborated and contributed them.
Who I am...
I spent my whole life as a transient - moving and working from city to city, country to country, job to job. Until I reached Bulgaria. I have felt more at home here than I have anywhere else or at any other time in my life. I found something here that I never thought I would find - a home. The people and friends I met, the soul I felt, the happiness and pain communicated to me here finally convinced me that this is where I needed to be.
This is how I began to shape my life in Bulgaria. To introduce myself and my ideas to the people and the landscape. From creating craft beer culture, organising the first independent beer festivals and events to foster cooperation among competitors and friendship where before there was only skepticism. Eventually finding myself immersed in the local culinary scene, only to discover the immense wonders outside of the city - the nature, the local traditions and cultures, the food, the languages, the habits, and hobbies... they invaded and possessed me. I needed more. I had to know more.
So I began to meet many people in my travels. People who were desperate to be heard, to be appreciated, to be understood. The lost villages in Bulgaria drew me in to learn more about the village and the forgotten souls within it.
What started as curiosity led to a sort of obsession with understanding as much as I could and helping to give these people the appreciation they so thoroughly deserve. So I searched for a way to best reach them, and what better way than through food and my newfound love of the culinary experience?
I understood that cooking is the same as living. That it must be done with the heart and without hesitation, without mathematics, without measurements... The art of living and the art of cooking are one and the same.
A short story of what this is...
The moral goal of this project is to preserve and present in an attractive, humorous, unique, and modern way the lives, tribulations, and passions of our recipe contributors. The forgotten generations of grandmothers and grandfathers living in the disappearing villages across Bulgaria have something to tell and show us through their recipes, their habits, their traditions, and their lives. We are here to present all this in a way that appeals to today's generations... the curious generations ignorant to what treasures are hidden in the villages and their inhabitants.
We aim to present these recipes, along with the incredibly interesting tales of those who provide them, in such a way that people will want to read the book not only for the recipes, but also because it is entertaining, humorous, interesting, familiar, but also something new. It will inspire nostalgia and curiosity about these lost villages, it will inspire people to look back at their roots and see them in a new light. This recipe book is a culinary journey... people don't need or want grams and procedures, volumes, and restrictions. We emphasise that life is to be lived 'НА ОКО.'
We want to take the reader on a journey and show them something they have never seen before, or better yet, make them feel like they already know it, but not well enough, to feel ashamed that they did not explore or appreciate it earlier and will do so now with a new, more dramatic desire and enthusiasm. What better way to do that than through the eyes of a foreigner turned native. A possessed American.
Who is making this happen...
Author & interpreter // Rory Miller
Photographer & videographer // Ivo Nedyalkov
Book Design & Layout // Spacetype
Organisation & Logistics // Idea Factory
Illustrator // Таралеж Art & Design
Retro Car Providers // Rentalada
Video Editors // B-Team
We are infinitely grateful for the organisational and logistical help of the Idea Factory Foundation and Residence Baba, who connects us and protect us on our adventures through the countryside.
What is inside...
The book will contain short biographies of the recipe contributors, facts, and info about the villages and regions. Not to forget the personal experiences of the author during his travels to all these places.
Everything is interpreted and written by Rory Miller and then translated with the help of independent translators and editors to capture his 'special' use of the Bulgarian language. We plan a later edition with the original English text (by 'later' we mean within a year), but for now, we will publish only in Bulgarian.
The idea is for this book series to be divided into volumes - each volume to follow the ethnographic map of the past (see below). The first volume of Na Oko will explore the Severnyashka Region with villages from areas of Vidin, Vratsa, Montana, Lovech, Pleven, Gabrovo, and Veliko Turnovo.
We would like to visit about three villages per region and collect at least two recipes from each place. Of course, the exact numbers are fluid and we will try to collect and include as many recipes as possible.
We will travel to each village in some interesting way - most often in a retro Russian car, our Lada 1500S. But also in other ways, such as trains and buses. Everything will be visually documented through pictures and film by our multi-tasking and multi-talented photographer Ivo Nedyalkov.
Extra and additional things about the material...
Each recipe section will include tips and thoughts from leading culinary personalities in Bulgaria, giving ideas on any changes or additions they would make if they were cooking that specific recipe, as well as their thoughts and comments.
We will also include a drink or cocktail recipe for each region, created by the best mixologists in Bulgaria, with the idea that all the ingredients should be easy to find in a normal kitchen. For example, in the Vidin region, people love to drink mechka - 50/50 wine and fizzy lemonade, so they improve this recipe with easy-to-find ingredients.
In addition to the printed book, there will also be a website where the public can access more information about every aspect of the project, as well as clips and more pictures from each village.
Connecting the public with the village...
While the book is underway, we'll also be hosting some events with the people from the villages (if they are able and willing) and their recipes so people can meet some of these amazing individuals and taste a bit of the comfort food they bring with them.
It's also worth noting that most of the people in this book are retired and living on a pittance that the government calls a 'pension,' which forces them into a constant financial struggle. However, most of them still actively engaged in some kind of work or handicraft - homemade soap, carving wooden spoons, etc. So we plan to promote their craft on our channels hoping to bring them attention and customers! So the public can help by purchasing directly from them some really great products made by real, honest, kind people.
What will the funding be used for...
The aim of this campaign is to raise the money needed so we can finish visiting the villages and collecting the recipes, including:
- The fees paid to each Baba (grandma) for their recipe
- Ingredient costs for the recipe
- Travel & accommodation expenses
- Photography & videography
- Book Design
- Logistics & organisation costs
- Online & social media promotion
- Video editing
- Soundtrack licensing
- Legal costs
A peek inside the book
- Rory Miller
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