The drug in the shell

in #blog3 years ago

I guess that we've got this habit through the ancestral connection. Somehow I think this comes back from the time we've been very much fucked up by the Ottoman Empire. The Turks, who pave their stadiums and walkways with their waste, eat them like crazy. I think they are the masters of this but nonetheless...

I eat sunflower seeds too. [Public shaming follows...]

Sunflower seeds the flower

The back story

What am I saying? The whole country is eating this like crazy and from year to year this has been growing into a huge market: the market of different sorts of sunflower seeds, packed and sold as "snack". We call it "the poor man's candy". The reasons are easy to understand. When you have lands upon lands cultivated with it, it came in handy to have a half of the sunflower and pick on its seeds while the horse was driving the cart by itself, high noon, coming back from the field. It somehow got into our culture.

I personally have it since I was a kid. I mean, I could go to ASE Meetings (Anonymous Seed Eaters) if there were any, that's how hooked on them I am. We used to have 6-7 sunflowers seeded in the back garden just for yours truly here, to have at the end of the summer to chew while reading his Jules Verne books. My grandmother was planting them carefully and from the middle of July she would cover the seeds with some newspaper, nicely tied behind, so the precious cargo would be protected from the nasty birds. I was about 12 I think; and I can still remember me staying in the hammock in my grandfather's plum tree orchard, picking on the seeds and reading. So the "crave" got early in my veins.

Sunflower Seeds the seeds

You can still see people on the sides of the roads, selling all different kind of goods during the summer, that have one fresh sunflower in their arms, sitting on their little chairs while waiting for the customers to appear, eating these little seeds and spitting the shells out with the precision and cadence of a Kalashnikov.

Knowing your strains

Like every drug, knowing what you consume is the best way to achieve your desired "high".
the "Kalashnikov bitch" strain

When we were kids, living somehow in a rural area and very close to some agriculture fields, made us roam them all summer long in search of different breeds of sunflower. We would consider the small, black ones, "the bread of the traveller" as one could find it anywhere. They were small enough to put a lot into your pockets if you wanted to take it out of the flower, so not appreciated more than raw material for oil, but it fit nicely between teeth and that strain was the one that shaped our character.
the "Purple stain" strain

Then, there was this "purple stain" strain. At first glance (and especially for the unprofessional consumer) they looked very much like the small, black ones. Only that they were dark purple and the indigo on it would transfer fast on the fingers and even around one's mouth if they would eat it uncontrollably. We used to make fun with this one giving it to the newcomers. They would always have their mouth purple in a couple of minutes and wouldn't know at first why they would receive a good, old broom on the back from their grandmothers as they would go back home in the evening looking like they fucking drowned and then came back as zombies, that's how purple they were around the mouths.

Sunflower seeds movie

the "Harlequin" strain

Back when I was a kid this was the most difficult strain to procure. The seeds were striped, black and white and they were big. Good for direct consumption, with big cores and flavour. Nowadays these are the most packed strain and I think that Turks also prefer these. Usually, they are heavily salted and only the experienced tongue can take more than a bag of these until the tongue will swallow and blisters start to appear. These are not to be toyed with...

Packing and distribution

The packing of the shit is done with the seeds roasted. Of course, they would not put the fresh thing inside the bags. It wouldn't last a week as when they are not dried enough, if the packing is not the best (and it usually isn't), they tend to take up moisture from around. And when they do they get mould and mould is more bitter than Satan's liver. Eating a moulded one is like you would eat the worse poison in the world.

All the above strains come roasted, salted (or not) and packed. Even if we are talking about the "black, Bulgarian one". The black one is the smallest of them all and while at first, you wouldn't even think it makes sense economically, this petty black seed is selling like crazy. Hard to eat if you're a novice but pretty tasty (brings back childhood memories).

Sunflower seeds black market

Small shops around the neighbourhood are the best place to start the quest for "the perfect seed". Usually, this small shops, hidden between grey blocks of apartments, are having a large variety of packed goods. Nights are long in the neighbourhood. Staying out is a feat the 80% of the population uses during the hot summer nights, forcing the good weather up to early October. Benches are full of people, all eating and spitting, eating and spitting, eating and spitting... like a devil machinery where everybody is set to break the seed, eat its inside, repeat. Almost ape-like behaviour. Ape-like pattern.

Supermarkets are the next big ring where you could find pretty decent merchandise. Usually the big, already traditional brands are here, on their paid space on the end of the aisle. I wouldn't recommend the supermarkets though. The seeds here tend to be stacked for months and in those months they are surely going to suck up moisture from the air and ruin the flavour. The rotation of the stock here is very long and in my experience, sunflower seeds have to consumed as close to their packing. Probably because of the low price of the product the investment in the packaging is low too, so the quality of the "sealed environment" is not the best money can buy, if you know what I mean.

Selling ladies - we used to have a lot of them. Heck, those gipsy women selling their goods in the bus stations during the '90s were the fucking dealers that got me hooked on the roasted ones. Being a rural boy I only liked them fresh, during the summer but then I got into school and I got into the culture of "the pocket full of seeds". They would stand in the bus station, with their little cardboard boxes, some newspaper on top of it, a very small stool for their large bodies and on top of everything they would make a pile of seeds. And they would sell them by the glass: that was the "measure". You would pay something like a bus ticket for 2-3 cups. And you would fill your wares with it, eating them in the station, in the bus, from the bus station to your home. 24/7, eating and spitting, eating and spitting.

Sunflower seeds field

Funny thing is that we cultivate a lot. But the best, packed ones out there are imported from our neighbours, the Bulgarians. They have a thing for this sort of behaviour too I guess or there are some "master seeds cookers" out there in Bulgaria because I'm telling you: this purple, small bag of sunflower seeds are incredible for an addict like me (the ones pictured above). I mean perfectly roasted, just the right amount of salt and the way they open (so easily and with a big crack!) is such the best out there.

You can't find them everywhere. No chance in any super or hypermarket out there. Sometimes I'm thinking they are black market stuff, like illegally imported cigarettes that they cross with the drones over the border from Ukraine. The bag is so small that when you've started you practically also finished. It doesn't last more than 2 episodes of the "Disenchanted".

Like any drug, they come in packed in small quantities so you would need to get more...

...and more...

...and more...

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