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The Taste of a Memory

Continuing the pattern of drifting slowly through the Summer days, I traveled across the small Bulgarian town to my dad’s friend’s villa; an amazing little place high up in the hills overlooking the town. The wooden house held two floors and a balcony. Fruit trees bore beautifully ripe apricots and peaches, and chickens roamed in a small allotment amongst flowers and shrubs and plants; a dream location.

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We then continued on drifting to try and find some particular spices that we’ve longed for for many a year in our home cooking; chubritsa, regan and a kind of cumin. Often used in marinades or in meat and fish meals, to me it’s the smell of Bulgaria. Most notably the chubritsa and cumin truly MAKES a kufte – a Bulgaria “meatball” (basically a tiny burger).

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Mothers’ meeting.

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Venturing into my grandma’s building’s long-unopened cellar whilst back home, my dad and I went to find his old camera film developing equipment; cobwebs entangled abandoned possessions from long ago and dust thickly coated boxes and books and barrels. The smell, almost so thick it was toxic, overwhelmed, and my dad rushed to the high window that just about peeked above ground. There was no sight of the equipment for quite some time as we rummaged and searched in the dusty darkness. I reassured it had to be somewhere.

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But alas, a suitcase emerged amongst sheets that attempted to protect piles of objects; a few parts of my dad’s old equipment from circa 50 years ago in tact, albeit coated in moistened insulation foam. It hurt to see such sentimental equipment to be tarnished so, abandoned in a moist and smelly cellar, untouched and unloved for so long.

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My dad’s eyes welled with disappointment, maybe at himself for not finding it sooner, maybe at his mother for having put it there in the first place, maybe at the damn cellar and humid weather for deteriorating the objects within it so. He carefully clattered the parts of the developing equipment around the suitcase in perhaps mild anger and sadness in memory of a time that once was and may never be again. He seemed defeated at the prospect of it being a useable piece of equipment again, but I urged it could be fine – people fight cancer, people fly to the moon, surely someone can fix some old camera gear. Although his expression remained unchanged, he stopped clattering and left the suitcase open. He looked toward the open window and went to leave. Confused, I remarked that he couldn’t just abandon it there, but he looked back and said simply; “it needs to dry out.” I like to think that I instilled the hope the equipment could be resurrected once more, and I looked back into the cellar once more before I close the door and made my way back up into some more breathable air.

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Everyday at 17:30 the ladies of the local buildings gather and sit on the benches outside, discussing food, cooking, men and their medicine.

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Later in the evening my dad planned a school a reunion of sorts, meeting friends he had grown up with since his early years in school. I tagged along of course, unable to join in the Bulgarian banter but amused nonetheless at their joy (and also at some stray kittens that cheekily kept clattering up unto neighbouring tables at our restaurant). The reunion was emotional and joyful, filling me with both a sadness and a joy that friendship, although can be sparse and difficult and distant, can span years and decades. Perhaps indefinitely as we live on through other lives transiently… The clean air has been getting me rather metaphysical. Maybe I better get back to the London smog to clutter my mind again.

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Beer and garlic-y buttery dill potatoes.

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Tiny cat wanting my potatoes.

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