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!