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Munch goes to the Bulgarian Macedonian Center

Friday, March 16, 2001

By Munch

Munch quiz: What do West 55th Street in Manhattan and West Eighth Avenue in Homestead have in common?

No soup for you if you skip ahead and look for the answer.

 
 

The BMNECC is at 449 W. Eighth Ave., West Homestead. Soup Sega is located in the basement. It is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday from September through May. Phone: 412-461-6188.

   
 

But, being loyal Munch readers, you have by now figured out the munchy machinations of Munch's mind, and you can probably figure out that the answer has to do with soup, as Munch slipped you a clue in the second paragraph. But no more clues for you! Keep reading.

How, you ask, how, did Munch come to discover the Bulgarian Macdonian Center? (Its full name, for the record, is the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center, also known as BMNECC, also known as the only local organization with five adjectives in its name.)

Well, Munch credits friend Chris (note the non-gender-specific name, in the grand Munch tradition). It was Chris who convinced Munch that a Saturday evening of traditional folk dancing at the BMNECC would be a Saturday evening well spent, and Munch trusted this friend, and Munch went with this friend, and the friend was right.

Nice people of all ages were congregated in the dance hall, greeting the skeptical public who had come to partake in the weekly folk dancing fest. A kind teacher helped Munch with the steps and put up with Munch's mistakes, but nobody else in the circle of dancers cared that Munch had two left feet. People -- Bulgarian, Macedonian or neither -- were whooping it up well into the night. Munch also got a good workout in the process.

So when Munch heard that the BMNECC had begun selling soup on Saturday mornings, Munch was in a good place to say Yes! Munch grabbed a friend (a friend with a gender-specific name, alas) and drove to the BMNECC on West Eighth Avenue in Homestead. (It's easy to get to: just off the main drag in Homestead, near the High-Level Bridge and the new Waterfront development.)

Munch and friend walked down to the basement of the center, where Soup Sega, name of the Saturday morning soup sale, is headquartered. Soup Sega means soup "now" in Bulgarian, and indeed, the smells coming out of the kitchen made Munch want soup now!

A man behind the counter in the basement pointed to a list of soups available for takeout, and when we told him we'd love to meet the chef, he called into the kitchen: "Hey, where's the Soup Nazi?"

Voila! The answer to the Munch quiz! And it wasn't even at the end of this column! (Shame on you who skipped to the end for the answer.) The Soup Nazi is the guy who sells outstanding soup in a little shack on West 55th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. His soups rock but his rudeness is legendary -- so legendary there was a character based on him in "Seinfeld."

Well, turns out West Eighth Avenue in Homestead has its own Soup Nazi, as the man behind the counter confirmed. Her soups rock but, unlike the real Soup Nazi, she is far from rude. She arrives at the center every Saturday at 7 a.m. to make the stuff, and was kind enough to spend some time talking to us about what's in her soups and how they reflect the Bulgarian culture and lifestyle. Keeping our best interests in mind, she also told us that the Rhodope mushroom and rice soup needed some more salt that day.

It did, but that's all it needed -- it was tasty and fortifying. Munch also got a quart of the Rhodope Cabbage and Tomato, which was orange-pink in color and thick and tangy as can be -- full of large chunks of cabbage and tomato. The Strandja Lentil soup had chunks of carrots in it and lots o' lentils -- good for a wintry day. And the Thracian Chicken/Farina Dumplings soup was a good chicken soup for folks with the flu: chunks of chicken and lots of dumpling material.

The best thing about these soups was their homemade quality. It's easy to tell when something is homemade as opposed to mass-produced, and these soups tasted that way. They were free of the soup grease that can plague canned soup and diner soup. Munch felt healthy eating these soups.

There were also many vegetarian soups on the list of 14 kinds. Some included Thracian Bean and Sauerkraut, Dobrudja Potato Leek and Pirin White Bean.

Best of all, these soups were inexpensive: Meat soups were $4.50 a quart and veggie soups were $3.50 a quart. Most of them could only be bought frozen, but there were also a handful of fresh, thawed soups made that day. Munch recommends freezing a few quarts of the chicken soup for sick days.

Unfortunately, you can only buy these soups on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and noon, from September through May. Perhaps that's because, during other times, folks from the BMNECC are busy teaching the real Soup Nazi how to cook.



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