I’ve always been interested in how food and culture intertwine, how certain foods can make us think of different people, places and parts of our own identity. I was lucky enough to get a chance to explore my own culture through food while in Oxford, and this came in the form of exploring my new favourite supermarket.
Located on Cowley Road, this supermarket came as an absolute lifeline to me here in Oxford. Being a proud Bulgarian, I’m extremely connected to the food from my country. At home, I regularly scoff down сарми (Sarmi) and fresh баница (Banitsa) made by my parents and I, with Bulgarian cabbage, cheese and yoghurt being sourced from our neighbourhood Bulgarian shop. However, when in Oxford I found I missed my food from home- and, while eating in hall is great, there’s nothing like home cooked food, especially when it’s from your culture.
Alas, one faithful day during a stroll through Cowley, I stumbled upon a shop with my flag, plastered on the outside of it, adjacent to Polish, Turkish, Hungarian and Romanian flags. Without hesitation I stepped in. Immediately I was overwhelmed with options- not only did they have food from around Eastern Europe, but they also had food from Bulgaria! Bulgarian brands, food I was bought up on, food I only ever get to eat when back in my country.
I was truly spoiled for choice. As much as I love our little Bulgarian shop in my neighbourhood in London, the options there aren’t exactly exhaustive- so stepping into what I can only describe as a heaven for all things eastern European was a complete gamechanger. Not only did they have my favourite snacks, packaged foods and drinks, but Euro supermarket also has a fantastic deli section filled to the brim with meats and cheeses from Poland, along with freshly baked breads and fresh produce (with the added bonus that it’s all loose without plastic packaging). I was also stunned by their selection of beers and other alcohol- including a wide selection of Bulgarian-branded spirits such as мастика (Mastika), мента (Menta) and ракия (Rakiya).
Quite literally bursting with joy, the following day I ditched the usual trip to Tesco and decided to base dinner around ingredients I could find from this beautiful supermarket I will now be calling my second home. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and onions were made into a шопска салата (Shopska salata), paired with Serbian плескавица (Pleskavitsa), with an obligatory can of Bulgarian beer, my favourite being Каменица (Kamenitsa) with which to wash it all down- a classic meal served in Bulgaria that I would probably only ever eat during my holidays there. I felt so connected to my culture and country, in a way in which I hadn’t yet in Oxford, and I definitely couldn’t have done it without finding this little pocket of culture in the city.
Overall, it’s a remarkable supermarket with something for everyone, whether you’re looking for your favourite childhood snacks, a new spirit to get drunk on or to try a new food, I highly recommend going to visit.