Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Long live [with] Lactobacillus Bulgaricus!


Travel Through Food Destination: Bulgaria

Today's Google Doodle (above) celebrated the birthday of Bulgarian scientist Stamen Grigorov who in 1905, while working in Geneva, Switzerland, discovered the bacteria responsible for making yogurt. Yogurt had been around long before but only when Grigorov looked at the homemade yogurt under a microscope he discovered a previously unknown bacteria, now called Lactobacillus Bulgaricus
Stamen Grigorov, in the middle, as a student in Geneva, Switzerland (credit  Planet Lactose)
I do not know a Bulgarian who does not like yogurt. We grow up with it, we eat it on its own, we add it to our food, we cook with it, we drink it, we have it as a desert. And we don't shy on the amounts! Yogurt is notorious for its health benefits and longevity, and has been a staple food in Bulgaria for centuries. It promotes healthy digestive track, it is high in protein, aids weight loss, is good for your bones, and the list goes on. As a Bulgarian, it tickles me that yogurt containers around the world have Lactobacillus Bulgaricus stamped on them.

Curious Fact No 1
What many may not know is that most Bulgarians prefer their yogurt rather sour or tangy. Also, we like our yogurt light, with no thickeners. Some yogurt makers use pectin, gelatin, corn or tapioca starch to give low fat yogurt the sensory equivalent to thick whole milk yogurt. That, however takes away from the goodness of yogurt.  See, fruits, nuts and honey we happily add to our yogurt for extra Yum!
Curious Fact No 2
What most people know as Greek yogurt is actually strained plain yogurt. It may appeal with its thickness, however by straining it you remove some of the most beneficial ingredients, the whey. The whey fraction contains the highest quality protein in milk, along with a number of essential minerals, like calcium.

I chuckled at the Google Doodle today because it reminded me of me. I have lived in four countries and every time I have crossed borders the same yogurt tasting ritual takes place. I buy as many different brands of yogurt as I can find (remember, their label should indicate live Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and no additives!), I open them all up, take a spoonful of each, looking for the one that taste like a true Bulgarian yogurt - light, tangy, silky smooth. Once the winner is identified, that's the brand I buy going forward.  I love yogurt!
In the United States, where I currently live, my favorite yogurt brands are Maple Hill and Brown Cow. If however I could find Trimona yogurt, that would be my first pick. Its founder, very much like Stamen Grigorov, used homemade yogurt (imported from Bulgaria), to start his yogurt business. It doesn't hurt that it is named after the old Roman name of my home town - Trimontium, now Plovdiv.

If you are more adventurous you could make your own home made yogurt. I have tried, it works!

One of my favorite ways of eating yogurt is with honey and walnuts.  Scoop some chilled yogurt into a small bowl, drizzle honey and sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. It is crunchy, delicious and so healthy!

Long live [with] Lactobacilus Bulgaricus!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Marriage story

He wakes up with the first sun rays lighting up our windows. He drinks protein shake first thing in the morning. He likes to read on his computer in the quiet morning hours. 

I wait for the sun to climb up and aim its shine at someone else’s windows. I start the day with coffee. I like to chat. 

The Nespresso machine drones. The coffee stream fills up the cups and the aroma of fresh coffee awakes me. I go over the logistics of our day.

“You are going to Springfield for Lobby day today, right?”
“Uh huh.” 

“You wanna go grocery shopping tonight?”
“Uh huh.” 

“Can you help me make a list?”
“Can you help me make a shopping list?” 
“I’m going to Springfield.”
“I know. Now tell me what you need from the grocery store.”
“Nothing, I’ll be back on Thursday.”  

Today is Tuesday. I place the coffee cup on the counter and glance at him. 

“Thursday? What about tonight?”
“I’m in Springfield.”  

We are going in circles.

“You are in Springfield today.”  I annunciate today.
“And tomorrow. And coming back on Thursday.“

“You never told me that!”  Falsetto pitch activated.
“I told you I’m going to Springfield.” He insists.

“But you didn’t tell me you plan to stay two nights there”. I defend my grounds.
“I didn’t?” He finally turns away from the screen and towards me, spaced out and oblivious to the imminent word storm. 

Did you?”

All of a sudden a scene from the "Marvelous Mrs Maisel" flashes in my head.

Miriam’s father, Abe, is alarmed that his wife is not home. They live in Manhattan.

- I don't know what to do. I don't understand what's happening.
- What's the problem?
- It's your mother.
- Mama? What's wrong with Mama?
- She's not here.

- Well, where is she?
- I don't know.
- You don't?
- I mean, she went to Paris, but she was supposed to be back by now.
- Paris? She went to Paris? When did she go to Paris?
- A few days ago. She was going on a shopping trip or something.

- Papa, what did she say?
- That she was going to Paris, and she'd be back before the party.
- She said that?
- Yes. Well, I assume she said that.
- Assume?

A flashback takes us to the real conversation.  

I'm going to Paris. I don't feel like I have a life here anymore. Everything and everyone that I always counted on has let me down. I don't know what my place is here. You don't need me. Miriam doesn't need me. I serve no purpose. I'm unhappy and I'm tired of being unhappy, so I booked myself a flight for tomorrow night. Zelda's making lamb for dinner.”

“Lamb's good.”

One day a TV show makes us laugh. Today we are the show.

We clarify who’s doing what and move on with our days. Only I don’t. This is happening only eightheen months since we moved in together. It is too soon to be distracted, not listening when the other one is talking, not be present. I pride myself on my genuine attentiveness. I guess I slipped. Maybe it’s just aging memory. 

Later that week I share what happened that morning with my cousin, a twelve years junior. She laughs.

“I just visited my sister. I wonder how her marriage survives. Nobody listens, nobody hears. All weekend long I had to repeat what one had said to the other.”  

I chuckled, the worry still lingering. 

We spend years in efforts to find the One. And then we go back to what we know. We are living our own lives, but in a marriage. It’s easy to take what we have for granted.

Maybe he just forgot to tell me of his overnight stay. Maybe I just did not hear what he told me. But it’s also possible that these daily doses of miscommunication would build up to feeling neglected, disrespected, and bitterness sets in.
I still remember the words a man told me on a date.

“The problem these days is that nobody listens. What’s worse, instead of listening we try to guess what the other person will tell us and we think of what to say back. In missing what they actually tell us, we give our assumptions importance and power”

Is that how the marriage cookie crumbles?