In 1985 I was in Romania for the first time. We were complaining, at our hotel, that we had schnitzel every evening for dinner.
We should have been happy, because at the time, meat was a rare sight on dinner tables in Romania, as I later understood it.
I must admit, my expectations for Romanian food were not high, when I came back 26 years later, in 2011. Forgive my ignorance, but I thought food would not be very tasty and not varied at all. Luckily I was wrong!
The strength of Romanian food lies in its variety and freshness. There is an abundance of vegetables and fruits as Romania enjoys a beneficent climate . There seems to be a big focus on meat and people seem to take good care of where to go when getting the meat for the Sunday barbecue.
Above all, people enjoy sharing a meal together and I often long to have a Sunday lunch with my friend’s family in Bucharest. The ambiance is great! The home made aperitif, the food, the smell of a barbecue when somebody is making chicken pastrami and mici is wonderful! The Romanian white wine that I love, drunk with some fizzy water. All very Romanian to me. And the the snacking of sunflower seeds.
What else? I love having the first spring onions from the garden of my friends in Bucharest. I enjoy the fresh, tasty tomatoes in the summertime. I think I could actually live only on tomato salad during the entire summer in Romania! The white cheese is something that I associated with the Greek feta cheese in the beginning, as that was my point of reference. Later I realized it was something more, something else. I love trying different ones and eating cheese with tomatoes and red onions. In the summer time that is a treat! As I write this I notice how I start to long for summer in Romania.
One of my Romanian favorite foods is salate de vinete, eggplant salad. The taste is smooth and delicious and it goes well with pretty much anything.
Another big favorite is sarmale, stuffed cabbage (in picture). A friend’s aunt once taught me how to make them and I enjoyed it so much. As I understand it everyone has their own way of making them. Sarmale is minced meat and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves. You eat them with mamaliga and sour cream. Of course you add your own favorite condiments. I personally love hot peppers and they go well with sarmale.
To write about Romanian food is like taking on writing a whole book. There is something that can be said about every product. Take the walnut for example. I will never forget eating the fresh, crisp and large, walnut, taken directly from the tree and given to me by a friend. A feast for my taste buds! The crispiness of the walnut taken from the tree was nothing like the walnuts we can buy in a plastic bag in our supermarket.
I will never forget when a friend of mine took me to a market in Bucharest in the late summer and there were only melons. Different kinds, different smells, different tastes.
I like to go and choose a dessert from a bakery or from a market on the weekend. Romanian sweets are delicious! The home made ones too. I love the pumpkin pie in autumn. The smell from the making of the pie is wonderful and warm.
I have been in Romania during every season and always enjoyed the food. The only part missing is Christmas, as I tend to celebrate it at home in Sweden. Maybe I will celebrate one Christmas in Romania soon and also be able to enjoy the food which I’m sure is very good.
But let’s not skip seasons. Even though spring took a long time to arrive it is finally here, and with spring things are growing in Romania.
By Yvette Larsson, Guest Writer
Yvette Larsson is Swedish, born 1972 in Gällivare, Lapland. She has a Masters of Arts / Upper Secondary School Teachers’ degree from the University of Umeå, Sweden. There she studied English, Swedish, Education, Media & Communication and Science Journalism. She has 13 years of experience as an ex-pat: she lived and worked in The Reunion Island, Norway, France,UK, and Denmark. Yvette has worked with Sports Management for ten years and is a Coach and Leadership Trainer, passionate about facilitating individuals and organizations to find and express their values & visions, talents and impact in the world. Yvette runs the blog and a Facebook -page called The Bucharest Lounge, where she rebrands Romania with beauty and meaning and where she models a new generation of leadership in Romania, all seen through her Swedish lens.
(photo source: Yvette Larsson)