Saturday, August 21, 2010

Romanian food, part 1

Happy hogs at the sheepfold where we had an epic party. This is a long way from factory farms.

I spent 16 days in Romania in June and July, singing, dancing and eating with the Kulshan Chorus.

Nearly every meal featured soup. One night we had lamb soup followed by mutton stew. After a few days I started keeping a soup diary. Here are some of the combinations:

In Botiza –Moldavia

Vegetarian cream of potato with green and yellow beans, served in the priest’s pavilion

Carrot, cauliflower, green pepper, in beef stock with small pasta

Pork stew

At the sheepfold outside Gura Humurului (say that 3 times fast)

Soup—lamb shanks, lamb broth, onion, carrot, red sweet pepper, potato, amaranth (maybe), sour cream

Mutton stew with a rich tomato meat stock

In Transylvania

Chicken broth with potatoes, slivers of carrot, tarragon, ham hock

Potato, carrot, broth, with sausage

Leek, potato, and maybe a bit of squash

Meresti Village

Potato soup

This is only a sampling. It took me awhile to start writing them down.

The soup I would love to try and only heard about, from Dan our mensch of a guide, is Nettle Ciorba.

I've made ciorbas. They are a Romanian specialty that is a bit like Greek egg lemon soup, with sauerkraut or sour cream instead of the lemon. Dan said in his family it was an early spring dish, using

young nettles
sour cream

Nearly every Romanian household that is not stuck in one of those depressing Soviet-era apartment blocks keeps a small laying flock, so a fresh egg is easy. The nettles can be gathered at the edge of the woods. Carrots, and onions are long-keeping garden staples, and at least the country households make their own sour cream in quantity. Except for the rice--and you could substitute potatoes--most people could make this without a trip to the store. During the 1970s and '80s when food was increasingly scarce, this was no small benefit. Mushroom ciorba, another classic, makes use of the giant boletes found in abundance in the Transylvanian mountains.

Another reliable serving was cabbage: fresh cabbage with a bit of salt; occasional sauerkraut, which becomes a staple in winter; cabbage salad with cucumbers and tomatoes, and of course cabbage in soup. It was excellent cabbage, fresh and crisp, although I did start to wonder what was happening to all those beans we kept seeing in gardens. They didn't show up in our meals and a change of pace would have been welcome.

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Potato salad at breakfast. Fried potatoes, roast potatoes, potato soup.

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