Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Titbits from The Romanian Kitchen #1

As I said once before, it took me some time to adjust to the food here, and to be honest I still haven’t fully appreciated that Romanian is one of The World’s Great Cuisines, but, for your delectation, I've collected half a dozen exquisite examples that do present it at its best:

#6 Slănina: Romanian heaven will be made of slănina: they’ll be thrones carved from a solid blocks of it, and the white clouds upon which pass the harp-strumming gypsy seraphim and cherubim lăutari will also be slănina, still dripping translucent globules of cardiac-arresting goodness from their warming on the end of a stick at some celestial camp fire.

#5 Salată: This word covers both “salad” and “lettuce”, and of course the two meanings are not mutually exclusive. If you order salată in a Romanian restaurant you may very well get lettuce.......... with SUGAR on it.

#4 Sarmale: Actually, this is perfectly respectable food, one of the Archetypal Foods of Eastern Europe, a legacy from the Ottomans and recreated in one form or another by many nations over here. A confection of cabbage leaves and pig nonsense (lungs, knees, testicles, etc), and flavoured with savoury, a herb we no longer use in Britain, because it’s rubbish, and which for some reason I cannot smell without feeling ill.

#3 Cluj Tap Water: I recently organised a “no-frills” holiday for ourselves and some of Mrs Dilo’s friends and requested that we all “pack light”. Sure enough, the girls forewent many of their party dresses, but I couldn’t believe the amount of provisions they’d bought from home. The most astonishing was a 1 litre bottle of water. “Is that mineral water??”, I asked. “No, it’s tap water, I wasn’t sure if the water in Spain would be any good”. Bless.

#2 Ant Piss: Mrs Dilo: “When we were children we used to stick a twig into an ants’ nest, pull it out after a few minutes, shake the ants off and suck the twig. It’s got quite a funny taste - a bit acid.

#1 Bulă: A pig, lovingly executed with a Stanley knife, five full-sized cabbages shoved up its arse, its ears shoved up its nose, fried for five hours, then covered in a layer of mashed potato moulded in the shape of a slightly larger pig. (OK, I made that one up).

Ok. Now, at the end of this week I'm off back to the land of fish 'n' chips and Cheesy Wotsits, to my ancestral birthplace, the only two famous sons of which were Pope Adrian IV and Vinnie Jones, and so, 'cos the YouTube clip of Pope Adrian's version of My Way seems to have been removed, and while we have bad taste very much in mind.... take it away Vinnie! (and please don't bring it back again, ever):

22 comments:

Gaw said...

You're really tempting us there, Gadjo. How will you manage being deprived of your Romanian delicacies for a while?

But this prompts thoughts of a longer term project: opening a Romanian restaurant in England (Watford?), perhaps the first ever. This post suggests you can certainly provide some unique selling points.

Gorilla Bananas said...

The Ottomans invented a dish containing pig parts? I smell an uncooked rat. Your ancestral birthplace looks like a good place to put people in stocks.

Gyppo Byard said...

Two feelings were warring within me as I read that - "oh how extremely disgusting" and "where can I find a Romanian restaurant?"

We have recently returned from holidaying in a country where ferns are a viable salad ingredient and people fry flying termites as a delicacy.

Mrs Byard shocked and intrigued me in equal measure by brushing off my wimpy white-boy twittering about "not being able to eat that crab because there are no crackers to break it open with" and opening it up with her teeth.

Scarlet-Blue said...

Sugared lettuce? The sugar will encourage the slugs! Romanians don't eat pickled slugs, do they? DO THEY???
Sx

Francis Sedgemore said...

Slănínă - nowt but fancy dripping.

inkspot said...

Those dancers in your Vinnie Jones clip were dire, appalling, on stage and in the audience. Are they going to staff your restaurant?

Lulu LaBonne said...

I couldn't take too much of Vinnie but I can show you why those sticks taste funny

Gadjo Dilo said...

Everybody, I am not opening a Romanian restaurant: this was one of the schemes which my wife's non-alcoholic brother tried to get my into, but I knew I'd be doing all the work while he was lying on a Turkish beach, until, that it, the council came and closed us down because he hadn't bothered filling in the forms that legally converted the premises from an asbestos warehouse into a restaurant.

Gaw, thanks for your enthusiasm, but no, neither here nor in Watford nor in anywhere this side of Hades!

Bananas, hmm, good point, maybe the Ottomans used Greeks or discarded catamites instead of the pork. Bastards.

Gyppo, your first feeling is the more reliable one. Ah, one can always respect a woman who's looked after her teeth! But how does one fry flying termites??

Scarley, the gypsies here eat snails - and very tasty they look too. I suspect they might shrink to a fraction of their size if you tried to pickle them, though.

Francis, welcome back, and what a fine picture of your noble visage! I suppose so.... whatever happened to dripping??

Inky, no, no, and thrice I say no! I actually wasn't looking at the dancers but at Vinnie's body language to see if he was about about to thump somebody (he was at the same skool as me).

Lulu, wow, those ants can really piss (and in an Irish accent too)! Please tell me if it's hygenic or not, as the Mrs is still telling people what a good idea sucking those twigs is.

Lulu LaBonne said...

Formic acid, I am reliably told, is certainly hygienic from the ants point of view, burning sensations inevitable if tasted or swallowed - not to be drunk in quantity (I gather it's a bit more vicious than vinegar)

Gyppo Byard said...

The thing that puts me off ingesting formic acid is that I use it in acid-baths to dissolve limestone (to extract trilobite and other small fossils from them, before you ask).

Gadjo Dilo said...

What healthy interests you have, Gyppo! (No, seriously, I can imagine what a thrill it must be to see the form of a tiny millions-of-years-old snail emerging from a stone disolving in ant piss.) Maybe it wasn't formic acid she was tasting at all, maybe it was a different, more fragrant type of ant entirely.

No Good Boyo said...

I think there ought to be a Romanian husband'n'wife crime-solving chef show called "Mama Ligă & Papa Nasi". I'd watch it, and buy the accompanying recipe book.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I'm comfortably reassured that Gyppo's using formic acid to dissolve his limestone. There are still some constants in this world after all.

I noticed this delicacy on the Webrarian's photostream. Terrifying.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Boyo, nice one! I'll put it to the wife, who'll be amused, though not necessarily on the blower to her agent straight away - Jamie Oliver is bewilderingly popular over here... but I suppose even British cuisine could seem like an improvement on this one.

Kevin, urgh, pickled brussels sprouts, what were they thinking. Is it something Australian?? They'd have to pickle their sprouts in June (or whenever) in order to have them on the table at Christmas as any civilised people must.

The Jules said...

Huh, thanks.

Now I'm hungry.

Madame DeFarge said...

I appear to have lost my appetite. I'll need a little lie down to recover from this. This is why I know I am resolutely vanilla in my eating habits. Haggis and duck gizzards are as far as I'll go.

Soda and Candy said...

"Cabbage leaves and pig nonsense" made me giggle.

Here in the South they DEEP-FRY pig intestines. They try to fancy it up by calling it chitterlings or chitlins, but it's still undeniably tubes through which pig-shit has passed.

Gadjo Dilo said...

The Jules, now you're hungry?? Then I clearly failed in my mission!

Madame, that's the spirit, and put a plastic washing up bowl beside the bed.

Soda & Candy, welcome again, sorry I haven't made it to your blog yet. I always imagined chitlins to be excellent, but then I associate them with excellent blues musians, so I suppose it's excellency by association :-)

Mrs Boyo said...

Russians and more slovenly Ukrainians pronounce the word for female elephant as "slanina".

Now 500 years of Romanian-Russian misunderstanding, not to mention the fraught history of Bessarabia, begins to make sense.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Madame de Boyo, welcome again, the sun now lightens upon the hollyhocks. I think the misunderstanding has largely abated - though regretably they still don't fully understand the concept of "Ukraine" - and everything makes better sense after slanina!

eleni said...

The so called "ottoman" or Turk dishes are nothing more than variations on the originals cooked up by ancient Greeks and then Byzantines. Some translations of ancient Greek cookery documents exist as well as Byzantine ones and it would do all foodies well to delve into the origins rather than just assuming wrongly that "ottoman turks" came up with anything which they did not.

eleni said...
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