For the bread...
"Behave yourself!" There is bread on the table! Grandma used to say, and that was enough for us kids to stop teasing. He did not repeat. There was no need. We knew what we had to do. Grandma, as the real mistress of the house, had established rules that we all followed and that were and remain part of our upbringing. No one started eating before everyone was sitting at the table. It doesn't matter if you are angry, have recently eaten or have a headache - you come to dinner. Whether you will eat - you will decide. The children do not tease each other by sitting down to eat. They don't push, they don't giggle, they don't talk loudly and they wait for the adults to speak.
You eat quietly from the plate in front of you, you don't dig into it from all sides, you don't itch, you don't stuff your mouth, you don't slap and you don't dare to crumble the bread! No one at the table, in the presence of Bread, has the right to quarrel, raise his voice or behave disrespectfully.
Bread is given first to the eldest. Water first for the little ones.
You do not stand half-lying or lying down if there is an older person in the room or food on the table. "When you break bread, you have to make it so that it doesn't guess!" said Grandmother. Not to crush, pull and tear it! You will rise to respect the Bread and carefully break off a piece of it!
It was strictly forbidden to turn the bread upside down, ie with the rounded part down. That was unacceptable! To this day, my son, who has spent several summers with his grandmother, does not tolerate inverted bread and often, and sometimes with difficulty, explains to his friends "what the problem is." - Bread is kneaded with washed hands, cut nails and a pure heart!
Otherwise it is a sin!
Well-baked bread, when you put it on your palm and tap your hand lightly, should be light enough to bounce. In the summer, as the wheat ripened, Grandma begged Dad to bring her a few stalks with grains from the fields.
She carefully crushed them between her palms, blowing the straw out of his hand and separating the grains. Then she chewed them, closed her eyes, and said how much was left to ripen and whether the quality would be good. As a child, I thought that my grandmother had some super-skills or that the grains spoke to her, and I always watched her with curiosity. As I grew up, I realized that it was neither… but many years of experience, respect and reverence for the grain, because everyone's survival depended on it.
In one of my dreams, my grandmother told me that if I wanted to gather my relatives, I had to knead bread, break it, and they would come. Sometimes I do. I make bread and feed it to my children. I want to attach them to each other, to paint them to love and respect each other. Bread can do these things. You can pray on bread, you can say on bread. On the bread you can send a message to the dead. I know that times are different now and bread is bought from the store. Our bread no longer has a soul, but a commodity. I know we are not teaching our children to respect the bread enough now.
We have long forgotten the meaning of "no one is greater than Bread" and why people kissed and swore in it, why it is the basis of all traditions and rituals of our ancestors …
The life of everyone who is born among the wheat fields is connected in one way or another with the grains of life. If our grandparents who died to keep our fields see how we treat the land and the soil today they will turn in their graves…
And now, when I travel on the road that winds through the fields of ripe wheat, I am excited and happy.
Sometimes I stop, and I, like my grandmother, pluck a few stalks and chew the grains. I do not understand anything, but I feel that I pay homage to the land and the grain and become part of the magic of bread, which for my grandmother, for me, for my children and for every Bulgarian is actually the magic of life! May we be able to preserve it and pass it on to our children!
By Diana Stefanova
"The Living Bulgarian roots"
Translated and Shared with Joy