Craft lets the world around us appear. Things (foods, rugs, dresses, cars and cities) describe a map of significance. That map, of moving boundaries, illuminates what is most and least significant to us and situates us amid the wilderness of earth in a culture. What we understand craft to be, how we support craft, and how we access and learn one craft or another has a direct bearing on the cultural atmosphere of our world. This is why craft deserves our attention. Still, as we chatter about a sustainable future or the fuller life that we desire, we are unlikely to think about how the making of something bears on our world and its significance. More often we seek technological solutions of greater and greater sophistication like electric cars, more sophisticated solar cells or CO2 eating mega-machines. In so doing we fall back upon the same perspective that already disregards the notion that craft, technology and science have a direct part in fabricating the world. Yet, is it not obvious that the dress woven by hand for a special event on a wooden loom gathers different associations than does the dress offered on the floor of a labyrinthian department store? Why are we so reluctant to see that there is a connection between handcraft and what we hold to have significance? And, that the work that we do with our own hands offers a broader understanding of the things around us, including nature and community than advanced technologies, that despite their attractive novelty, always offers a narrowing in our perspective on nature and community. Perhaps the discussion of craft is routinely overlooked because there is so little to remind us of what it is like to make a dinner, claypot or drawing. Some of the places where we live are so saturated by factory-made things that it takes an effort to track down the web within which one or another thing was made and delivered to the department store. Fortunately, there are places where a world persists, that in practice and recent memory, have a place for hand crafted food and things. Place and the Continuity of Craft One such place is Bulgaria. Even the most congested areas of Bulgaria, even central Sofia, have ‘green markets’ and micro food shops that are within easy reach. If the shop owners do not grow or make the food themselves they have a direct relationship to the farmer, or food manufacturer. The photographs here are from the green market in Velingrad. In Bulgarian towns and villages the green market, like this market in Velingrad, is truly a wonder of diversity. At these markets unpasteurized milk is sold together with homemade wine, rakia, honey and a tremendous variety of fruits, beans, corn, wild herbs and teas. At micro shops, some no bigger than four square meters, local cheese, milk products, handmade wine and rakia as well as shops for spices and baked goods, sweets and breads are also fairly easy to find. Beyond the mere facts that unprocessed, healthy food, is much easier to find in Bulgaria than it is the United States; Bulgarian food is steeped in story, ritual and a wonderful diversity of taste. Americans often want to shy away from explicit tradition and ritual but, more often than not American ritual and traditions are not absent but are, instead, unacknowledged and hidden in familiarity or rituals that lack beauty. In Bulgaria I have been reminded on two accounts how tradition and ritual can strengthen the best in our humanity. First, many holidays shine through the meal. Family cooks, during those holidays, are lent the opportunity to spend time making the best possible meal for the occasion. The night before Christmas, Badni Vecher, is one such occasion where a relatively well established menu, a yearly ritual, includes pitka bread and vegetarian dishes. Others include Trifon Zarezan day, the first day of grape vine pruning which involves round pitka bread and other foods, Sourva, the new years meal, and round of other lesser holiday meals throughout the year too numerous to mention. The second account involves the same idea, that craft lets occasion shine and this has to do with material crafts. Wedding garments are intended to be wondrous. Not long ago and within the childhood memory of my wife, the bride and groom are presented with piles of woven bed sheets, blankets and carpets. My wife remembers trucks spinning away with gifts woven by family members and friends for the newlyweds. The practice seems to have petered away sometime in the late 1970s but memories persist. Likewise are the memories of how these things were made. My wife, Anna, sat next to her grandmother at the loom. There not only, presumably, was baba’s companionship a pleasure but also was it a fun to watch the rhythm of the shuttle cock sail back in forth the warp and woof at the loom. Bulgarian children may not have been tempted to sit next to baba on the loom without having watched the smiles on the families and the glow of the wedding. Tradition, on both occasions lends the opening for anyone who has an elder willing to teach them to be involved in a craft. Weaving traditions persists. Bulgarian houses have a store of beautiful woven work from generations past. However, these days a craft that was once a familiar part of home-life is now less about celebration than it is a part of the tourist trade. Bulgarian craft traditions are at a turning point and some are in danger of dying out. Bulgarian food culture, however, to a large extent remains. Homemade wine and spirits as well as a variety of special breads and desserts persist. And, commercial wine and cheesemaking, after having been in relative hiatus during communist times is seeing a revival. The craft of making good food or beautiful clothes is about the pleasure of significant moments in life and often about the pleasure of the making itself. This was reaffirmed when my wife, her cousin and I interviewed Baba Roska, my wife’s 96 year old grandmother who glowed when asked her about how she felt about the work involved in making her prolific embroidery, woven carpets and many other woven things. She smiled and said “always a pleasure, always a pleasure.” Things and Nature Too often, among the people I have known in the American Midwest, food and things are treated as mater of fact necessity. Mashed potatoes with gravy, overcooked beef and canned greened beans is the identifying plate of these flat-land states. Likewise, the things that inhabit the home, the constructions of the city and country-side, are nothing more than bland, mass produced clutter. I was lucky to have been raised in a family where cooking was an important part of family ritual and fellowship among friends. Without this background it is unclear if I would have been able to see and admire the extraordinary beauty of Bulgarian food culture. The technical revolutions that greased the wheels for two world wars, including the post-war agro business ‘green revolution’ had a significant part to play in the American acceptance of tasteless food. Americans were eager to purchase inexpensive processed food and their enthusiasm increased as working hours had to grow to maintain the basic necessities of life. Lacking the time and skills to make and grow food themselves Americans began to rely on the super market’s American cheese, Spam, Wonder-bread and bologna. The green revolution transformed America in a direction that let us dismiss the significance of important transitions in our lives with well crafted meals. Americans, as a result of these technologies, are well fed at a relatively low cost to their own individual economies but the costs of that neglect of craft were displaced to the farmer’s landscape, forests, atmosphere and rivers. Equivalent to the damage done to the earth was the loss in our ability to grapple with the meaning of these places. How we make things, even a lunch-time meal, bears on how understand the wider world and nature that participated in bringing the lunch time bowl of soup to the table. The farmer’s landscape comes into focus best when we have the ability to make and grow our own foods as well as find pleasure in the process, time and the event of the meal. This also means that the craft involved in those meals lends us the capacity to care and find meaning in the world. The preparation of any yearly or even weekly ritual grants us this kind of significance. Likewise, the pattern of the world that would let the young Grandmother Roska sit with her grandmother at the loom was broader and more intimately known than the world represented to us as a more distant consumer of things. More than a mere weaving is made in a world of skilled family weavers, more than a mere dinner is the meal made with our hands, from our vegetables in our garden with friends.