I attended the Promise of the Peace Corps Gala on Saturday and a fellow Bulgaria RPCV texted me before I went to the party to have a nice time with all the "pensionari" or pensioners/retired folk. Surprisingly, it wasn't a bunch of pensionari sentimental for their years of service but people who truly believe in what the Peace Corps offers. It was a great feeling to be in a room full of RPCVs, we all share something that defines us for the rest of our lives and often changes its course dramatically. Over dinner, I met some fascinating people: two RPCVs who served in one of the first groups to re-enter Panama in the early 90s after conflict in the country as well as an RPCV who served in Mali and subsequently became a technical trainer with PC, first in Mali and then in Bulgaria for six months. I also met a gentleman that served in Tanzania's first PC group in 1961 and had returned to Tanzania several times since his service. It was quite a lovely night with a great group of people, and amazing food of course.

NPCA handed us a gift bag on our way out which had some samples of Madecasse chocolate, which was just melt-in-your-mouth amazing. It was started by two Peace Corps volunteers who served in Madagascar and decided to create a chocolate company that was better than fair-trade and truly served local cocoa communities. Check them out, I think they sell their bars in Whole Foods and many other retailers.

On the subject of food, I made quite a trek out to Parrot Coffee- not a cafe but an Eastern European grocery way out in Ridgewood, Queens, NY to find some Bulgarian stoki. It's my husband's birthday tomorrow (his first in the US) and while I am not opposed to cooking Bulgarian food, sometimes the ingredients are difficult to come by. You wouldn't think so in NYC, but let's just say not having a car really sucks sometimes and taking a bus or subway for an hour+ is the only option. I was pleasantly surprised with the store and packed a backpack full of goods including sirene from sheep's milk, lutenitsa, boza (for him of course, not me), jarred veggies (eggplant puree, roasted peppers, pickled cabbage leaves for surmi), testo for mekitsi, and of course some borvetz vafla for the long ride home. Tomorrow's menu: kufteta, lutika, kartofena salata, bob, and banitsa. Yum.

For those that need your Bulgarian food fix, I was able to get an e-copy of the 2009 Bulgarian Peace Corps cookbook, courtesy of Krista Greiner. It's linked here and on the "Links" page under "Bulgarian Food." Enjoy and remember, Don't Eat Brown Sugar. 

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