I had to be away for many years to finally comprehend the true nature of Romanian cuisine.
That's right : Romanians don't eat food per se as much as accidentally ingurgitate what other peoples in other places deem nutritious. What Romanians truly feed on is ferments, yeasts and such, the food is just in the way. Consider :
I. The largest part of the Romanian diet is bread. Which, of course, is the fermented product of flour paste.
II. The second largest part of the Romanian diet is (mostly softi) cheese, curd and other fermented milk productsii. The content of live bacteria in these things is measured by the gram - and if it isn't, well... they're just not all that good. Ask any Romanian.
III. The third largest part of the Romanian diet is soupiii. Do you know what makes Romanian soup good ? It sitting in the fridge overnight, to let all that lovage make sweet sweet love to the bones etcetera. What's really happening ? That's right, they ferment.
IV. Romanians love pickles, which are generally served at every meal there's meat, which is to say at every meal. There's two principal kinds of pickle : varza murata and castraveti murati. They're both the same thing : cabbage and cucumbers respectively, that have... fermented, for months, in a salty concotioniv of spices. Vinegar "pickles" are rightly despised throughout the land for being inferior, and unfit for the table. Because they are - yeasts don't grow in vinegar.
V. The most popular side dishes (hors d'oeuvres, if you prefer) are oua umplute (deviled eggs) throughout the year, salata de vinete in the summer and zacusca in the winter. All of these benefit from sittingv, and what do you suppose happens while they sit ?
And then of course there's beer. Or wine. Or must. Or zaibar. Or pelin. Or cider. Or, for that matter, tuica.
Upon serious, introspective examination, pretty much the only thing found in nature that Romanians consume fresh is woman, and this has serious implications throughout society and general life - not to mention it explains things never before all too well understood about the particularities of the place - for instance, that Romanians don't much care for seafood.vi
Even fucking cakes, you understand me ?———
- Do you know what telemea is ? How about urda ? [↩]
- Sana, chefir, etc. [↩]
- Almost always a very heavy broth, the exact opposite of consome. [↩]
- The salt is there to select the kind of bacteria involved in the fermentation.
In fact, the selection of ingredients in all meals seems, looking through this glass, a lot more geared towards selecting the preferred kinds of bugs over any sort of direct taste considerations. [↩]
- The most eggregious example being the deviled eggs : so you boil the eggs, make the mayo, mix the separated yolks with finely chopped pastrami, pickles and enough mayo to stick it all together, stuff it back into the white halves, pour mayo-buttermilk-mustard mix on top of them and... put them in the fridge. To be eaten the next day at the earliest, once all the egg in there's done fermenting. [↩]
- Isn't it obvious now ?! It doesn't ferment well! And the things that do, like say kimchi, or Swedish herring, those they fucking love. [↩]