It was obvious to us that we would be taking Bulgarian ceramics back home as souvenirs of our stay in the country. On our first trip to the Rila Monastery we stopped in a village, attracted by the display of pottery outside a shop. There we made our first purchase - a blue cooking pot with brown edges and handles, and a lid where the colorful design was repeated. The pot cost 30 Lev (about $20). We used that pot on many occasions in Bulgaria and it has served us well back at home in Israel.
The important thing to remember about using Bulgarian ceramic cooking pots is that they need to be put into the oven while the oven is still cold. The pot warms up with the oven. Otherwise, the ceramic would crack.
In Sofia we made many shopping trips to the Ladies Market, not far from the center of the city. We frequented the same outdoor stall every time, buying plates, bowls, serving dishes, and cups. When we left Bulgaria, my wife wanted service for twelve, so we stocked up on first course plates and larger dinner plates. Some of the ceramics did not survive the transport to Israel. My wife took photographs of our service and sent them to a Bulgarian friend of ours. She bought replacement items and brought them to us on a visit.
I featured the use of Bulgarian ceramics in my novel:
A wide selection of salads—all of them prepared by Sophia—was displayed on the table, served in colorful ceramic bowls and dishes.
His wife, a pleasant woman who didn’t understand a word of English, spread before them a variety of salads in colorful Bulgarian ceramic dishes.
Most of the handmade Bulgarian pottery comes from the town of Troyan, about 160 kilometers northeast of Sofia. Troyan was founded in 1868 and quickly became a center for crafts making.
According to the Bulgarian Pottery and Gifts website:
Troyan pottery is considered the true Bulgarian pottery. The Troyan style began to evolve in the 19th century based on Thracian and Slavic designs. It is unique due to the red color of clay from the region and the design. Traditionally the pottery was painted by the village women, each woman having her signature design. They applied yellow, brown and green paint with a bull's horns and feathers to achieve a peacock or butterfly like design or smeared paint with their fingertips to achieve a raindrop like effect.My wife continues to find new recipes to cook in our Bulgarian pots. She has prepared different varieties of chicken and stew, and also makes traditional Jewish cholent in the pots. The cholent we eat has a special taste and flavor, possibly because of the warm memories we have of Bulgaria and its unique handmade ceramic products.
To get an idea of what is typically served on Bulgarian ceramic dishes, read "Bulgarian Cuisine, Nutritious and Delicious".