This article explores the ways in which the Bulgarian socialist regime integrated a newly elaborated culture of food and drink into its promises for the “good life” and a utopian future. With a focus on Black Sea coast tourism, it argues that the development of more refined food and drink offerings and public dining venues played a dual role of shaping and serving a modern socialist citizenry. With tourism as a major engine of the Bulgarian economy, catering to Bulgarian, Bloc, and Western tourists meant that creating a gastronomic utopia by the sea was part and parcel of “building” and showcasing socialism. This was intimately tied to bolstering state legitimacy through the provision of leisure and abundance, but also to a newly minted Bulgarian national cuisine. By the late 1970s and 1980s, however, the Black Sea tourist phenomenon both exhibited and exacerbated the problem of growing shortages and hence the deep crisis of the system, which collapsed in 1989.
Dining in Utopia: A Taste of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast under Socialism
Mary Neuburger is Professor of History, the Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), and the Chair of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas of Austin. She is the author of The Orient Within: Muslim Minorities and the Negotiation of Nationhood in Modern Bulgaria (Cornell University Press, 2004) and Balkan Smoke: Tobacco and the Making of Modern Bulgaria (Cornell University Press, 2012). Neuburger is also co-editor with Paulina Bren of Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe (Oxford University Press, 2012) and has authored numerous articles on Bulgarian history on topics ranging from gender and material culture to ethnic identity, consumption, and more recently food. She is currently co-editor with Dr. Richard Evans of the Journal of Contemporary History.
Mary Neuburger; Dining in Utopia: A Taste of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast under Socialism. Gastronomica 1 November 2017; 17 (4): 48–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2017.17.4.48
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