Anatomy of a Romanian Kitchen

For the next several weeks (or months), I'd like to blog about some things I've learned in Romania. Every day is filled with so many little happenings that have somehow become uninteresting to me, but four years ago seemed strange and exciting, or sometimes terrifying. More than lessons and bleeding heart stories, I want to share some of the ordinary moments from my life that I feel represent my second culture. 

While I started supper, I took a snapshot that represents my Romanian kitchen pretty well.

Nothing too interesting there, right? No clay oven or firewood next to the stove, although wood-burning stove/oven combos are still pretty common. The wood goes in the upper door on the right, under the stove, and the door on the left is the oven. It's called a "sobă" (so-buh).

My husband's grandfather has both a gas stove and a sobă, and we usually find a pot of soup on the latter -- both cooking and heating the house. Nice for village winters, but not a good idea in city apartment buildings!

Now back to my supper. Wait a sec while I flip the sausage... Ok, done. Smoked, fresh, homemade, store-bought, or gifted from a friend, no good Romanian can live without that pork goodness. Most families butcher a pig before Christmas, so there's plenty of meat for the next several months, including delicious homemade sausage. My in-laws didn't "cut the pig" this winter, but they did buy some quality meat to make sausage, and that's where the coil in my cast iron skillet came from. We're eating roasted potatoes and sausage for supper tonight. I fry the sausage a little to let out some of the grease, then cut it into smaller pieces and throw it in the oven with the potatoes. I use potatoes from my in-laws' garden, and my husband will probably open a can of his mama's pickles. Are you catching on to something here? Romanians make a lot of their own food, and they share.

On the back burner, I have a pot of chicken soup simmering. I'm making a huge batch to separate into containers and freeze. I'd like to mention that the chicken for my broth also came from -- you guessed it -- my mother-in-law, as did the homemade hair-thin noodles I'll add just before serving. I always thought soup was something complicated and sophisticated, but it turns out you just throw some bones in a pot of water, add a couple of carrots and a parsley root, and let it simmer a few hours. Remove meat/bones, season, add noodles, and serve. I keep a supply of chicken wings and backs in the freezer, and a huge box of noodles in the closet. Romanians eat a lot of soup. 

Between the stove and sink, you'll notice my lunch dishes on the drying rack. A lot of people live in apartments, some with several kids, and with fewer bedrooms than we have. Needless to say, 1980's communist floor plans didn't include dishwashers. Small spaces, big families, and a culture that loves soup and sausage. Think about that for a minute. Romanians wash a lot of dishes.

To the left of the stove, notice my little packets of seasoning. No shaker bottles unless you buy industrial quantities, with the exception of salt. I have a backup stash of garlic packets. Romanians eat a lot of garlic. It keeps the vampires away. 

I hear my husband's key in the door, and supper is ready just in time. Pofta bună! (Bon apetit!)

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