Originally posted May 4, 2020 in the Archive
May has come, and in the spirit of growth, we have chosen a book that I would not normally have gravitated toward in normal times. Carpathia by Irina Georgescu came across my twitter feed in early April with the tagline ‘food from the heart of Romania’ brightly highlighted upon its cover. I have never had the pleasure of exploring this cuisine, much less eating it. As an American, I am programmed to assume that any culture previously under communist rule has birthed a cuisine from poverty, but the region has a rich history of occupation under a variety of other cultures.
The author begins by suggesting that the easiest way to learn about a culture is by enjoying their food, that this was the driving force behind writing the book. I tend to agree that a lot can be learned through a mouthful of someone else’s food. Romanian food is not a cuisine we think about when we consider the high echelons of cooking. For that matter, most American food isn’t considered that either. Taking on this cookbook is another exercise in exploration when I can’t leave my apartment.
Just from opening the book and briefly flipping through its pages, I can tell I will have some trouble choosing main course items for my household since my husband is staunchly against any tomato product. I have been able to get him to eat things with small amounts of tomato paste that mostly lend color to a dish, but when I see a recipe call for a tin of diced tomatoes, I know I have to move on to the next thing.
An ingredient I did not expect to see making such a common appearance within the recipes is rum. Sweet or savory, the author has employed it in a variety of ways I would not expect from a culture within that region of the world. This is exciting for me because rum is my all time favorite spirit. I’ve never used it in cooking. I welcome the new experience.
I found a lot of potential new experiences during my first flip through, cataloging more individual recipes that I want to try during the month of May than I have for any other cookbook so far this year. I believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that I know so little about this cuisine, and I do not know what to expect from the food in terms of flavors. With books like Nothing Fancy and even Japanese Home Cooking, I had some idea of what to expect regardless of the perceived difficulty of the recipes.
Carpathia is uncharted territory, and with Wisconsin’s stay at home order in place til late May, I intend to chart as much of that territory as I can before I return to work-- whenever that might be. Please join me for an adventure into a cuisine uncommon in American kitchens. I want to bake Romanian Breads and Romanian Desserts. I want to cook Romanian snacks and Romanian meals, and I want to share them all with you.