WARNING: The following is a foretaste and warning of many future posts that will focus on gardening (and possibly cooking) and that will contain no discernable humour content and nothing of any interest whatsoever to anybody except Kevin, and maybe not even him.
I've said before this is a meat and potatoes country and no more so than in regard to the diet. I got over my early digestive problems, but not with any help from the food. Now, my mother's pretty handy in the kitchen and she passed on to me the values of variety and of cooking things only just enough to make them not raw yet neither shoe leather nor pig slop. I crave vegatables, steamed, with a little salt, still with a hint of crispness, possible then glazed in the pan with a little butter and honey, perhaps with some mint, sesame seeds, pine kernels.... No. I would have to kill several people to make anything like this happen. But in the interests of positiveness here are the Top 6 Vegatables I might have an outside chance of getting my hands on. (NB: Some of the photographs you may have already seen before - our digital camera has broken, so bad luck.)
My Brocolli: They said I couldn't do it. They said it wouldn't survive the Transylvanian winter. They said these seeds I'd got from England were not adapted to local conditions. They said purple was not an acceptable colour for a vegetable (assuming any vegetable might be deemed "acceptable"). They said Mrs Dilo's mother's withering glances had already predetermined its destiny from the off. They were wrong (so far).
My Tomatos: I've already bored people to death about these. I'm growing heirloom varieties: Pink Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Black Russian. Jamie Oliver raves about them. But it's the names mainly, isn't it.
Mrs Dilo's Mother's Carrots: This otherwise fine lady takes vegetable-hating to it's ultimate and grim conclusion and will barely allow them in the house. She does however sometimes make clear soups, and I once observed that part of this process involves a carrot which is then thrown away after the soup has finished boiling. "Errrr, could I perhaps have that carrot?" I asked timidly. Bless her, I now get a large soggy carrot with every bowl of clear soup she serves me.
Wild Mushrooms: (These are Boletus edulis, to be precise). You've got to take a granny with you, obviously, one who knows what's what. This granny knows what's what and then dries them and uses them in stews.
Rosehips: Not really a vegatable, but then neither, technically, is a tomato, and you let that one through. We gather these, and clover and nettles and mint and something called "mouse's tail", and make tea. Ahh, so that's where Romanians get the Vitimin C they otherwise shun. Mrs Dilo's father swears by them, but then he also swears by pickled cabbage water as a cure for every illness including swine fever.
Banana: Not a vegetable or a fruit but an insect. So there. Bananas have huge cultural significance in Romania. One can judge a person's age when you hear them say (and they will at some time, you can be sure): "You know, I was 13 before I ate my first banana!!" She's 33 years old. Yes we had no bananas under communism. First banana's always eaten in 1990 or '91, and, interestingly, monkey fashion, always started from the end without the tail - it's an anthropology thesis waiting to be written.