Bulgarians read “Life From Scratch” & fall in love

Sasha Martin and her daughter, Ava, get their first peek at the Bulgarian edition of LIFE FROM SCRATCH

It arrived one summer day in a nondescript, brown paper package reinforced with bubble wrap. We were on our way to the pool, I in my flip flops, she in her hat.

Keith,” I squealed (because squealing is still a thing that happens when joy doesn’t quite fit inside our hearts, the way it normally does), “Come quick.”

Ava gave a little leap in response to my outburst, catching my energy in the way that kids do. Keith ran to us, his face a mix of fear – was something wrong? Was Ava hurt?

But he read between the lines, between my big eyes and gaping mouth. He saw my laugh. This was good. This was very good.

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There, in my hands, was the Bulgarian edition of Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. Many books never make a second printing, let alone a foreign translation. My toes began, very much on their own, to wiggle in gratitude.

Lost in Translation

The Bulgarian edition was put together by the lovely folks at Egmont Bulgaria, and features equally lovely Cyrillic script.

Keith, Ava, and I took out my old copy (the tattered one that’s been to every book signing and book club from coast to coast) and compared the English copy to the Cyrillic.

I couldn’t read a thing. Not even my name.

Bulgarian memoir LIFE FROM SCRATCH

Or at least, I thought I couldn’t read a thing.

Understanding, finally

As I flipped pages, trying to find a side-by-side comparison, I found I could read a few words. French words to be precise – “croque monsieur,” as written in the lovely vignette featuring my sister’s visit to Paris.

Bulgarian memoir LIFE FROM SCRATCH

For context, here’s a photo from my sister’s visit to Paris. We are likely about to eat the croque monsieur (or, surely, recently ate it). What a gift her visit was, to me.

Sasha and sister in Paris

And, since we’re going down memory lane, here we are when I was little, in Jamaica Plain.

Sasha and her sister

Awe.

Reading my name

A short while later, a reader saw me post on Instagram about my inability to read my own name. He took the time to email me and explained in simple terms how to unpack the letters. This is what he said:

I studied Russian when I was a kid in NZ so can read Cyrillic script, which is used by the Bulgarians too. C is pronounced S, and W is pronounced SH. An A is pronounced the way we do. So “Cawa” is “Sasha”. MA are as we pronounce them, P is an R, T is as stands, and the funny-looking backwards N is pronounced EE. The ordinary N is as usual. So – there you are: “Sasha Marteen”!

Thank you so much, Jonathan K., for helping me figure that out. Your sweet note is yet another reminder why I adore our community of families, cooks, and readers, always so generous and kind.

Why Bulgaria?

Several people have asked me why there’s a Bulgarian edition of Life from Scratch. I can’t help but smile. Remember Nick, the door-to-door salesman who rang the doorbell at the very moment I was looking up recipes for our Bulgarian Global Table? How I drug him into the house to help me? He spent about 30 minutes sitting at the dining table with me, narrowing down recipes and figure out exactly what to make. The menu we decided on included five dishes, among them chilled cucumber soup and a cheese pastry called banitsa.

Nick’s perfectly-timed appearance is one of the most beautiful moments of serendipity from my time cooking the world. It turns out the story fascinates Bulgarians as well. I recently did an interview with bTV, the largest news station in Bulgaria. The journalist told me Bulgarians have fallen in love.

I grabbed Nick’s photo that day. Granted, it was before I knew how to take photos… and he was quite shy… but, in any case, here’s Nick.

BU_Nick

Thanks, Nick! Thanks, Bulgaria!

xxoo
Sasha

7 Comments

  1. Shane says

    I love hearing all the little stories about your book and your adventure! I am glad that I got to play a small part in it!

  2. Marta says

    Poles read your book, too (although it’s not translated into Polish yet). And they fall in love, too. It’s a beautiful book. Congratulations! Greetings from Poland.

  3. Cynthia says

    Loved this story! Thanks for the universal connectivity. Good to remember in these divisive times.

  4. Sandra Giffin says

    Congrats Sasha. I love those serendipitous moments. It must be very gratifying to know that all your hard work has given so much joy.

  5. Galya says

    It was a pleasure to read your book, Sasha! It is such an inspiration! Greetings from Bulgaria 🙂

  6. Hi Sasha! I read your lovely book in June and then went traveling in July. I was happy to recognize your book in a Bulgarian book store and here you are writing about it! Would Ava like a postcard from Bulgaria or Romania? I have some left. If you email me a mailing address, I would be happy to send her one! If you don’t have a PO box and don’t feel comfortable sharing with a stranger, I understand. I find your blog inspirational!!!!

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