Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Meal 28. Romanian Mămăligă cu Brânză

Antoanella and her Dutch boyfriend Herman met while he was on holiday in Romania. Though in the beginning she hardly spoke any English or Dutch nor did he speak any Romanian, by now they've been a couple for many years and live together in Rotterdam. He has learned some Romanian, and Anto's Dutch is good enough to have completed her Master in Physical Geography here. For fun, she's even started on the novels in Herman's alphabetically arranged bookcase. She's already at the end of the B's!
Before dinner, we have wine and some appetizers, including Salată de vinete, aubergine dip with a smoky flavour. Romanian wine is very famous...in Romania. Anto tells about a local wine winning an important medal in Brussels. But when she googled it, the only sites that reported about this prize were Romanian ones.
Besides wine, (home-brewed) strong liquor is a big favourite in Romania. When travelling by bus or train, it's common that people will go round with plastic cups and 2 L coke bottles with some kind of moonshine. Even if it's 10 o'clock in the morning...this makes travelling by public transport quite fun!
Though a Romanian host will unvaryingly offer ample amounts of food and drink to visitors, it wasn't always that easy to come by ingredients. Anto recalls how during the Communist era, Christmas would mean waiting in line for meat for days. Families would queue in shifts so as not to lose their place in line. The best job during those days was in a shop, even a shoestore. That way, you could trade shoes for food.
Anto's grandfather worked at a farm collective, and with six kids it was sometimes hard to feed them all. He was allowed to take home hay, so would sometimes smuggle along little bags with milk hidden amongst the hay.
Nowadays, Romania is actually doing pretty well according to Anto, and she doesn't really understand why Dutch people still send trucks full of food, clothing and toys to her country. Many other countries are a lot poorer...but she and Herman think the Dutch that started sending over help after the fall of Communism just enjoy their time in Romania. Nice food and drink, locals happy with the gifts...why change the routine? If the food served there is similar to what Antoanella is serving, I certainly wouldn't! After the appetizers, we start with Mămăligă cu Brânză, a kind of polenta with a choice of butter, yoghurt, sour cream and feta like cheese that can be added to taste. The next course is a delicious stuffed pepper, which should be served with bread. Actually, everything should be served with bread in Romania, even if it's a carb laden dish like lasagna or rice. Bread is also used as a kind of utensil, you eat with a fork in one hand and a piece of bread in your other one, to fold around meat or to soak up the sauce. Spoons and knives are hardly ever used.
Our last course is pumpkin pastry made with filo dough. In the Netherlands we aren't familiar with pumpkin in sweet dishes, but I love it! Antoanella assures me all these dishes are easy to make, although the aubergine dip does take some time. If you'd like to try, click on these links for the recipes:

Salată de vinete (aubergine dip)
Mămăligă cu Brânză (polenta with cheese)
Ardei umpluţi (stuffed green pepper)

Plăcintă cu dovleac (pumpkin pastry)

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