Nine Rabbits is the 2008 novel by celebrated Bulgarian author Virginia Zaharieva, published in North America for the first time by Black Balloon Publishing this month. Throughout the narrative, a restless woman’s fiery enthusiasm for her family’s culinary traditions defines her from childhood into adulthood as she strives for a life less ordinary.
Some of the most significant and delightful elements of Zaharieva’s Nine Rabbits are the recipes that punctuate the novel’s prose. Dishes including “Nettle Purée” and “Oatmeal Breakfast” introduce rustic Bulgarian fare to North American readers, while recipes like “Sandwich for 11 a.m. Hunger Pangs” and “Potato Dumplings with Fruit” are characters in themselves, playing the role of counterpoint to balance the action and emotion in the narrative. The directions, which lack precise measurements, are intimate, intuitive, and conversational.
Finely slice two pounds of nettles and cook them in one and a half cups of water for five minutes on high and then five minutes on low.
Brown three tablespoons of flour in a pan until it becomes golden.
Add a packet of butter to the flour and gradually combine it with the nettles.
Stir the mixture until it becomes a full, thick porridge.
For a more attractive presentation, the purée can be served with a fried egg on top and sprinkled with feta cheese, mint, and crushed walnuts.
Mix a handful of finely ground oatmeal with a little water and half a carton of yogurt.
Add raw sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and cashews.
Add a spoonful of ground flaxseeds and a spoonful of ground sesame seeds.
Add sliced fruit to taste and several dried plums and raisins.
This is an energy bomb that guarantees long-lasting carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids — important for building cells.