Food Culture and Tradition

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Domestic Life in Romania

ROMANIAN DOMESTIC LIFE

Romanian homes are brightly decorated with wall hangings, curtains, coverlets and tablecloths of richly intricate embroideries. Displays of folk pottery and carved wooden objects attest to an artistic people who are seldom idle with their hands. Even much of the furniture is handmade and beautifully carved and finished.

The center of most homes, is usually the kitchen. This same room is not only the largest in the house, it is also the living room, the dining room, and the children’s bedroom. One other small room will be the parents’ bedroom and a still smaller one will be the food storage room or the pantry. A large wood-burning stove with ovens, cooktop, and open hearth will be centered against one wall of the kitchens whitewashed interior. Not only do all the good foods come from here, but so does the heat.

Colorful earthenware dishes, mixing bowls, and casseroles for baking the many popular vegetable stews are basics of the kitchen as are the heavy cast-iron pots for soups and cooktop stews like gulyas and tokany. But most important are the utensils involved in the preparation of mamaliga. This thick cornmeal porridge that is almost all things to a Romanian is so special it is cooked in a special cast-iron pot called a ceaun and stirred with a carved wooden stick called a facalet. Finally it is turned out on to its own wooden board to cool and is cut with a special string into hearty wedges; that is, if it is not prepared to be eaten in one of countless other ways.

Romanians prefer fresh fruits and vegetables, each in its own season. But the pantry area does hold cabbages and root vegetables that can take storage: to preserve them for winter use, vegetables that are more perishable are sometimes wrapped in leaves and buried in an earthen pit. Mostly, however, seasonal fruits are preserved as jams, fruit butters to be used for pastry fillings, dried, or cooked in heavy syrup to produce dulceata, thick sweet preserves of whole or sliced fruits or berries eaten with a spoon between sips of icy cold water and finally washed down with strong Turkish coffee. Cabbage may also be stored as barrels of sauerkraut; other vegetables will he preserved for winter and year-round use as spicy hot, sweet, or sour pickles.

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