This weekend I attended a Relief Society activity. Activities outside of the Sunday meeting schedule have been slow to catch on in Eastern Europe. In recent months it was decided that a cooking class would be well received and draw the most sisters (and a couple of brothers), after all, who does not like to eat? Hence the stray brothers!
This week Baba (Grandma) Viki organized the preparation of a traditional Bulgarian Christmas Eve dinner. About fifteen ladies (and two fellows) gathered to prepare the feast. First they made a rice mixture with onion, carrots and what-not to make cabbage rolls. Once the cabbage was properly stuffed the remaining filling was stuffed into peppers.
Next a bean mixture was prepared with spices and plenty of oil to be stuffed into the remaining peppers. Each of the entrées was placed carefully into large pans and given a final application of oil to top it off. Then into the oven!
Finally, two types of Banitsa were prepared. First to be prepared was the traditional white cheese variety with plenty of сирене (pronounced seer-nay) cheese (a white brine cheese, sort of like feta), eggs and oil. After mixing the filling it is layered with phyla dough, rolled like little a jelly rolls. The baking tray was filled with rows and rows of these favorite treats and liberally laces with oil. Then a holiday version was prepared using pumpkin, sugar, a little cinnamon and some oil. The same process was followed. After the pumpkin mixture was ready it was layered with the phyla dough and the rolls placed in a large baking tray. Oil was poured over the top.
Some of these sweet sisters speak a little English and will explain to me what is going on as the cooking progresses. Everyone is encouraged to jump in to practice the skills needed for each dish. Occasionally it sounds as though a discussion on who has the best method of preparation is going on, but that seldom gets translated. During this class I rolled cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, and carefully spread filling on delicate phyla dough sheets. Historically very little meat was used in meal preparation. Oil is added to most dishes to provide the fat needed in their diets.
It is fun to hear the chatter as they visit and work together. It is great to be here to see one more aspect of Relief Society enrich the lives of these sweet sisters. They are strengthened as they work together, learn together, and enjoy each other’s association. Little difference can be discerned between this activity and one anywhere else in the world.
I am not a very adventuresome eater, but I enjoy being part of the camaraderie as we mix and mingle in the Mission Home kitchen.
Love Sister Segeberg