Angel Roy said autumn in Pittsburgh means Steelers football, cooler temperatures and -- in her experience -- a hankering for soup.
"This is soup weather," said Ms. Roy, a self-taught cook.
And around the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center, she's one of the experts when it comes to soup. Since the inception of the West Homestead nonprofit's Soup Sega sales 12 years ago, she's helped organize the popular fundraising effort.
"We get people from all over Pittsburgh and have regular customers we see every year," said Ms. Roy, 45, of Squirrel Hill. "It's all grass-roots and word of mouth."
Saturday was the kickoff of this year's weekly sale of all natural soups, stews and Bulgarian delicacies, made from traditional Bulgarian recipes. She said the menu caters to a wide spectrum of customers -- with options for vegetarians, and those requiring gluten-free or low-sodium meals.
Not sure if you're ready to try the traditional Bulgarian specialties such as hearty gyuvech (beef stew with cabbage, okra, beans and potatoes that is baked in a clay pan), pulneni chushki (stuffed peppers) and savory banitza (cheese strudel)?
Don't worry, there's something for people with more traditional taste buds.
"Many of the soups on the menu are almost universal," she said, reciting a list of offerings including cream of potato, lentil and chicken with dumplings.
But even those old comfort food favorites have a Bulgarian flair, Ms. Roy said, explaining that some of those recipes incorporate ingredients such as dill -- which is intrinsic to many Bulgarian recipes.
"We also use mint in the bean soup," she said. "It sounds off, but it's a great taste."
Her palette was developed while growing up in a family that savored home-cooked meals and forgoing the traditional for new tastes. Her mother, she remembers, prepared rabbit for Thanksgiving on several occasions.
"She always made sure we were always trying something new," Ms. Roy said.
What she's learned about cooking -- soup and beyond -- has all been a "learn by doing" process.
Ms. Roy said that while she would have loved to go to cooking school, "life presented itself" and she found herself loving the world of sales. She has worked at Triad International for two decades and enjoys the work.
And specific experiences, both at home and abroad, have helped shape the type of kitchen she runs. In Germany, where she worked for two years at Bayer Corp., she learned about the importance of frugality and about buying local.
That's something she said runs over into the Soup Sega sales, where she tried to buy as many of the products as she can from local vendors.
She is still mulling some of the menu items for the sale, which will run from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays through May 29. Every month it includes a specialty soup, which she said is always particularly popular.
Ms. Roy said the pumpkin soup she debuted last year in November might be returning; this week's specialty soup is the Spicy African Sweet Potato Soup, a blend that includes rice, zucchini, chickpeas, tomatoes and peanut butter.
Not only is the soup an inexpensive, healthy option for lunch, but she said the money goes toward programs offered by the Homestead-based organization.
Ms. Roy said that while she has participated in the soup sale since its beginning, she also has been involved with the center for more than 12 years and has served on the board of directors.
So she knows how important and popular the programs that are offered at the Otets Paissii chapter of the Bulgaro-Macedonian Beneficial Association, named to honor the monk who wrote the first history of the Bulgarian people.
Ms. Roy participated in the dance program at the center, which offers myriad programs to help preserve and raise awareness of the cultural values and rich traditions of the Bulgarian and Macedonian people.
"It does great things," she said.
Details: www.bmnecc.org or 412-461-6188.
Amanda Gillooly, freelance; firstname.lastname@example.org .