Communist Gourmet

The Curious Story of Food in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria
$27.50 / €23.00 / £19.50
Publication date: 
June, 264 pages, 80 b&w photos, 7 recipes

Communist Gourmet presents a lively, detailed account of how the communist regime in Bulgaria determined people’s everyday food experience between 1944 and 1989. It examines the daily routines of acquiring food, cooking it, and eating out at restaurants through the memories of Bulgarians and foreigners, during communism.

In looking back on a wide array of issues and events, Albena Shkodrova attempts to explain the paradoxes of daily existence. She reports human stories that are touching, sometimes dark, but often full of humor and anecdotes from nearly one hundred people: some of them are Bulgarians who were involved in the communist food industry, whether as consumers or employees, while others are visitors from the United States and Western Europe who report culinary highlights and disappointments. The author made use of the national press, officially published cookbooks, Communist Party documents, and other previously unstudied sources.

An appendix containing recipes of dishes typical of the period and an extensive set of archival photographs are special features of the volume.


Made in the People's Republic of Bulgaria
The Bulgarian Marzipan
Canned in Bulgaria: by Poets, Diplomats, and Teenagers
Proudly Presenting... What There Wasn't
"Napoleon Blew it. Hitler Blew it. But Coca-Cola Pulled it Off!"
Dining Out
How One Man Could Spoil the Menu of Millions
Sailing Academy for Waiters
The Canteens: Chez Les Mères Sofiannaises
Tripe Treats
The Menu: Between Communist International and Rural National
Pickle all the Day
Tarator in Outer Space


“‘You are what you eat,’ as the famous saying goes, and there is much truth to it. Yet, food creates not only individuals but whole societies, cultures, and political systems. In her well-researched and incisive study of food and eating practices in Communist-era Bulgaria, Albena Shkodrova has managed to give us a new and unconventional kind of history of that period, a history from below, or should we say, a history straight from the gut. This is an important contribution to food studies which tells us that in fact what we eat is politics.”
"'In an extremely readable and well-structured way, the author takes us back to the past times of Bulgarian totalitarianism, when food was simply a subject of industry. Albena Shkodrova’s book is not only an interesting and curious reading but can also be seen as an attempt to study the Socialist economy in its theoretical and practical direction. Bulgarians love their traditions, as Albena Shkodrova emphasizes, presenting 'for dessert' to her book some traditional Bulgarian recipes that I believe the whole world knows and loves."
“Albena Shkodrova’s Communist Gourmet is both a fascinating story of the culinary history of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and an important contribution to the history of consumption and production of food in the East European Communist countries. Rich in historical detail, it highlights the inner tensions between the official goals and ideological declarations of the Communist Party and people’s everyday life.”
“Albena Shkodrova explores the everyday foodways of Bulgarians from 1944 to 1989 in a superb, challenging, witty, critical, ingenious, and personal way. The book is not only thoroughly informative but also absolutely enjoyable to read. The many stories, the instructive pictures, the fluent language, the unexpected topics, the humor, the clever usage of various source materials, and, above all, the very broad coverage (producers, managers, political leaders, workers, shoppers, cooks, diners, drinkers, tourists…) make it an essential contribution to food studies.”
"I consider Albena Shkodrova’s book Communist Gourmet crucial for research on the history of food in the countries of the Soviet bloc and that I believe anyone interested in this field of research should become familiar with it. It offers excellent opportunities for comparative research mainly in the Central and Eastern European regions."