Bulgaria rocked by Xmas hog roast row

Traditional Bulgarian Christmas grilled pork Image copyright Biso/Wikimedia Commons
Image caption Pork chops are a traditional Bulgarian Christmas dish

A plan to butcher two whole pigs and roast them in the centre of the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv as a Christmas celebration has been dropped after local protests.The hog roast was set to take place next to the Christmas tree by the city council building on Boxing Day, the bTV Novinite news site reports.

Celebrity chef and actor Uti Bachvarov was going to do the honours in a bid to reacquaint Plovdiv city-slickers with one of Bulgaria's oldest Christmas culinary traditions - a meat feast that ends the 40-day Nativity Fast.

This was the brainchild of Mayor Ivan Totev, who told bTV that "several generations of children have no connection with village life, and don't know their traditions. So now they'll see how it's done, right here, right now."

Image copyright Vislupus/Wikimedia commons
Image caption Plodviv is the 2019 European City of Culture

But the idea of "bringing the village to the city" a matter of days before Plovdiv becomes European Capital of Culture surprised many locals.

'Fake news?'

"At first I thought this was fake news", said one puzzled resident, while another complained to Nova TV that "it's not very European to butcher animals in the European Capital of Culture. I don't think this is culture."

Following a wave of social media indignation, Mayor Totev announced that his idea had been a social experiment all along, aimed at stimulating debate about traditions and whether they can be recast as a form of modern performance art.

"Of course we were never going to butcher pigs in the main square," he protested on Bulgarian National TV.

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A pork feast will still take place, but the venue has been moved to the courtyard of a home for the elderly on the outskirts of Plovdiv.

Deputy Mayor Alexander Durzhikov reassured the public that the pigs will arrive already butchered, ready to be cut into chops for the grill.

"What was all the fuss about?" he complained to the local Maritsa news site, insisting that his boss had simply been displaying his "well-known sense of humour".

There is plenty of local support for the feast, and several firms have pledged to donate the traditional lyutenitsa spicy vegetable relish, gherkins and wine that go with pork in Bulgaria.

As for Chef Bachvarov, he warned the squeamish that the nursing-home blow-out could see "something much worse than butchering a pig - I'll be cutting up cabbage". "If anyone feels concerned, they can write about it on social media," he advised.

Image copyright bTV Novinte
Image caption Chef Bachvarov deals with cabbages and pigs

Reporting by Krassi Twigg

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