Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

Cooking instructions, grandma style


I don’t know about you, but I spent most of my childhood summers in my grandparents’ village. To this day I am convinced I had the best childhood imaginable – I was running around all day, building castles from sticks and whatever form of cloth I could smuggle from the house, riding donkeys, driving horse carriages and eating watermelon which my grandpa would pick from the vine and smash open on the ground if we had no knife on us. Some of my favorite memories and flavors come from these days.


Over the weekend, we went to visit my grandma. Yesterday I was reading on the couch, keeping her company while she was cooking lunch and I realized (a little too late) that she is making one of my favorite summer dishes, which I have wanted to know how to make for a while. For me, the best way to learn how to cook something, is to watch the one making in and take notes on each step. This time, the meal was almost ready so that wasn’t an option, but grandma started dictating and I was writing the instructions in my phone. It went like this:


-       You chop up some garlic.

-       Yeah … how much?

-       Well… it depends on how much food you’re gonna make.

-       Erm. Ok.

-       Then you fry it in some oil and add flour.

-       How much flour?

-       Exactly as much as you’d need.

-       [Pause]. Right. Of course…

-       Then you thin it out.

-       Ok, with what?

-       With whatever you have handy.

-       A-ha.

-       And then you add whatever you’re cooking…

-       Whatever I’m cooking??

-       Yeah – you know. Chicken. Or something else.


A little later as we were eating it, I noted that the dish was (then, and every time I’ve had it) notably red.


-     Grandma, you put paprika in this, right?

-     Well of course you do. It’s red.

So there. Now you guys know how to make one of my favorite childhood meals as well!

Bon appetit!

Day 1: Apple vs. Lufthansa and a small jeep


Vesko crosses the Atlantic back and forth a couple of times a year for work. He has this great-sounding advice about dealing with time differences and the lack of jet-lag to prove it: while on the plane, you set your watch to the destination time and (this is the key) you keep looking at it. Eventually despite your body’s protests, your mind will catch up on the lie and start functioning on destination time.

Side note to the airlines: early flights should be banned! Businesses can and should afford the extra-night hotel fare, if you have an 8 o’clock. No one should be having a business matinee after having woken up at some ungodly hour to travel across borders. I’ve done it. While your brain should be processing complex rebranding strategies for example, it is stuck on iwanttosleepiwanttosleepiwanttosleep.

Anyways, we went to bed at around 1:30 cause of course we had absolutely not left packing to the last minute … and woke up sometime before 4. Or rather, Vesko woke up – I merely kinda got up and continued to on minimal body-and-brain functionality for the next, very confusing 24 hours.

We flew Sofia-Munich-Charlotte-Jacksonville. I did the whole setting the clock back as early as the Munich airport (very nice lounge area!!), and kept looking at the longest day of my life. Or at least in recent years.

Thankfully, the long flight was rather uneventful. Since we were travelling on the day when the clocks were set back (or forward? I never remember how it goes) in the US, at one point the rather mundane question “what time is it?” became very difficult to answer. The battle was between Apple Inc. and Lufthansa: my iPhone said it would be – let’s say – 5 o’clock in Charlotte when we land and the Lufthansa screen claimed it would be 4 PM.

Now we all know that Apple has had trouble when it comes to daylight savings time changes, but I was siding with them anyway. Vesko’s claim was that the Germans who are world-known for their punctuality and precision could not possibly be wrong. The answer made the difference between having a layover of an hour and fifteen minutes and one of fifteen minutes (and potentially missing our flight to Florida as we had to go through customs and what not in Charlotte).

I finally had to admit that one of the most reliable airline companies in the world could not miss something so important as time of arrival. We went through customs and security (a very quick and pleasant process) and started dragging our suitcases slowly in the direction of the gate. Something kept on bugging me, though, and I stopped the next uniform-wearing dude and asked what time he had. It took us a couple of seconds to process the answer, after which we looked at each other – eyes wide open all of a sudden, as if they were screaming: RUUUUN!

(Note to self: don’t do that anymore. Not in front of US officials at a US international airport. Seriously.)

Thankfully, either the Charlotte airport isn’t very big, or our gates weren’t too far apart and we made it a couple of minutes before boarding. We even found the time to sit down for a while at which point I took in my surroundings for the first time. I looked at Vesko and said, “I want to live here!!” “At the Charlotte airport?” he asked, rather surprised. I didn’t have the energy to explain – so I just nodded “Yeah!”

It was precisely half a lifetime ago that I was in the US for the very last time. And despite the grogginess, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how incredibly excited I was feeling about the 3 1/2 weeks ahead of us. Right there, at the Charlotte airport.

We had booked a car from the Jacksonville airport, so we headed directly to the car rental office. There we were met by the most smooth-talking salesman imaginable who made me feel just like I was in a movie (this would happen quite often over the next 23-4 days or so). He assured us that he wanted us to have the best possible experience with our car and wouldn’t we want, just for 10 bucks more a day to have a small, but very luxurious jeep? Vesko actually wasn’t crazy about driving a jeep, but guy totally sweet-talked us into it: it was a very compact car, but what it lacked in size (I guess he didn’t quite understand how this could possibly not be an advantage for us), it made up in luxury. Finally we agreed, got the keys, went to the parking lot and found ourselves staring at this 7-seater:


I vaguely remember the drive from Jacksonville to St. Augustine where we were going. I don’t really remember checking-in the hotel, but I know at one point I felt veery hungry. So we dropped the suitcases off, found the nearest pub and ordered a huge platter of the freshest seafood I have ever had (sadly, deep-fried). We barely said anything to each other during dinner/breakfast (?) because all the energy we could conjure up went to silently chewing. I don’t remember walking back to the hotel or going to bed. But knowing me, I must have been eager to go to sleep, so that I can wake up and begin the most amazing vacation ever.

Vegetarian for a month: The experiment


As we get older, and some of us even get a little wiser, inevitably the topic of preserving our good health creeps up in our thoughts and conversations. In a way, it is funny to see the former party crowd acting all grown-up and everything, but you gotta do what you gotta do. A lot of these thoughts are going to food and I see a trend of giving up meat.

After yet another close friend said she had stopped eating meat and feels fantastic, I decided to try it – for a while, as an experiment. My friend also said that she lost 8 kilos without even noticing and since I experience the force of gravity a little more strongly than the average person, I am always on the lookout for ways of dropping a few (while making cheesecake on the weekends).

Remember the Friends episode when Phoebe is pregnant and she craves meat and Joey, being the great friend that he is, says he will give up eating meat while she does, so the number of animals not being killed for food would be preserved? Phoebe was quite surprised, but then Joey said, “There’s no meat in beer, right? So no problem!”

So, after making sure there was no meat in chocolate, ice cream and wine, Vesko was on board and we decided that we won’t eat meat during the whole month of August.

Here are a couple of observations:

  • On one hand, this made eating out much easier. While normally I have a hard time picking between 5 dishes, now whole sections of the menu were just flipped over without consideration.
  •  On the other hand, being a vegetarian in Bulgaria is really HARD. Man, we love our meat in this country! The hardest seems to be pizza – you’ve got the Margherita and that’s about it. In this regard, as in many others, my favorite pizzeria in Sofia fails to disappoint as nearly half of their choices are meat-free. Well, maybe not half, but there’s quite a lot of variety.
  •  The habit sticks with you. The first pizza I ordered after the month was over (yes, yesterday) was Quattro fromaggi.
  •  August was one very carbohappy month – something you usually don’t see in the AG home.
  •  The thing I missed the most, to my greatest surprise, was ground beef. Because of things like nachos and stuffed peppers. I could have sworn it would have been bacon, but, alas! – I didn’t even think of bacon!
  •  People’s reactions varied between “wow, great!”, “WHY?” and “what the hell is wrong with you”. A little heavy on the what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you end of the spectrum.
  •  Total pounds dropped: 0. Looking back, perhaps we should have been less cheesecake-crazy.
  •  Well … even though I didn’t really miss meat, I love it.

The best thing about this for me was making a promise to myself and sticking to it – something I have great difficulties with lately (it seems all my willpower was consumed by quitting cigarettes and staying quit). In fact, if it wasn’t for Vesko, I would have broken it on day 12 – it was super easy while we were at the sea-side for vacation, but it got incredibly difficult when back in Sofia – mostly because August is the month during which most of our friends are back home and we go out almost every night.

In terms of how good it was for us – I really can’t say. While I do believe it was a decent form of detox (since most of the food toxins come from meat), I cannot say I felt any different. My face skin seems a little cleaner, but honestly, that’s about it.

So basically, I found out that I can be a vegetarian, but I don’t really want to. The one-month thing though … it may become an annual habit.

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