Nation Building through the Stomach: The Introduction of a Standardized National Cuisine in Bulgaria under Communism

Wednesday 27 September
Room 16, Medecroft, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO24 0QF

This talk will study the formation of a national cuisine during the communist period in Bulgaria in two fields of social life: folklore and tourism. Markus claims that the regime proved to be particularly active in both as through these, it tried to strengthen the popular awareness of a national belonging-together under socialist auspices. Viewing the development of Bulgarian cuisine within the context of folklore, the regime pursued the same policy of “standardizing” the Bulgarian identity as it was done with traditions of folklore as well as of nutrition and eating: rural traditions were broken down to a few standardized and uniform elements, and regional varieties were widely eliminated. Standards of eating were enforced top-down and became essentially the same throughout all regions of the country. The “Shopska” salad, a creation of the late 1950s, whose ingredients represent the colors of the Bulgarian national flag, is just one example of such constructing national identity by means of creating culinary standards.

Domestic tourism was the channel through which these standards were communicated to the Bulgarian population. Holiday resorts in the Bulgarian mountains and at the Black Sea were the locations of “nation building through the stomach”: Bulgarians were given the sense of belonging to a great, nationwide, unified culinary community which was complementary to similar standards in folk singing and dancing, national costumes, or architecture. The effort to “engrave” a uniform understanding of cuisine and food variety is evident even in the menus. Tourist resorts also aimed at implementing improved common standards of behavior and table manners.

In sum, Markus will seek to explore in detail the ways the Bulgarian communist regime pursued a policy of constructing a sense of national unity also by using domestic tourism and cuisine as tools and elements of this national identity.

This talk will be given by Dr Markus Wien.

This is part of the Modern History Research Centre. For more information about the centre, click here

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