Proverb: От последната харка, юнаци стават
Transliteration: Ot poclednata hapka, yunaci ctavat.
Translation: From the last bite, heroes are made.
Meaning: You have to finish all the food on your plate, especially the last bite, if you want to be strong.
I have heard this expression used multiple times throughout my childhood at nearly every meal. Whenever I had felt full and did not wish to finish everything on my plate, my grandparents and parents would insist I ate the last few bites, because otherwise I would not be strong as a hero or heroine. I had not heard the expression in a while, as it is reserved for children, but during spring break when I was home with my family, I heard it again when my younger brother, who is twelve, did not want to eat the remainder of his dinner. My mother prodded him to finish off his plate, reminding him that unless he ate everything, (in this case he was lagging on eating his salad), he would become a hero.
The motive behind the phrase is clear: caretakers want the children to eat all healthy components of their meals and be strong, and they encourage them to do so by comparing the kids to heroes. The word for hero, as it’s used inBulgaria, typically refers to the legendary Krali Marko, who was incredibly strong and brave, sort of like a Slavic Superman. Every youngster would hear tales about him and naturally wish to emulate such an incredible man. My grandparents would continue the expression by adding that even the strongest man was once a child, though he was a dutiful one who ate everything on his plate, and thus he became a great hero. It would be very difficult for any young person to refuse this offer, and my brother and I grudgingly ate the remainder of our meals each time we were reprimanded.
I should also note that although the term for hero is masculine in the expression, it would be used universally for both boys and girls. Female children such as myself were encouraged and urged to eat our dinners in their entirety as much as male children.