The Bulgarian Studies Association is pleased to announce that Mary Neuburger’s book “Ingredients of Change. The History and Culture of Food in Modern Bulgaria”, published by the Cornell University Press: Ithaca and London, 2012, is the winner of John D. Bell 2022 Memorial Book Prize.
In argument of its decision, the Book Prize committee states: Ingredients of Change Mary Neuburger’s book is an example of a fine scholarship. It focusses on the food culture in socialist Bulgaria. The author examines how Bulgarian menus changed over the decades of socialism, so that what is commonly understood as Bulgarian cuisine developed primarily at that time and under the strong and direct influence of the regime.
Foods considered traditionally Bulgarian, such as yogurt, tomatoes, peppers, bread, or wine, only became central elements of the Bulgarian diet after World War II, meaning that they are far less “traditional” than some observers would assume. Neuburger clearly elaborates on this and thus shows that the traditional Bulgarian cuisine is in essential parts a construct. It is the result of socialist nutritional policy, which on the one hand served the national branding, but also, through specific selection of food by the regime, served the healthy nutrition of the “developed socialist personality.” Neuburger’s monograph presents a solid argumentation that the Bulgarian national cuisine as it presents itself today was essentially the result of socialist food policies and thus an area where culture was indeed “made.”