Skip to main content

Posts

13 Creative Takes on Traditional Romanian Food

The guy on TV is saying, "you're doing something that nobody else is doing, and that's special!"

I'm watching Guy Fieri take another trip to flavour town with his iconic food porn series, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives ('Triple D'). A guest on the show, speaking to the head chef as Fieri looms, is raving about the chef's creativity. He is telling the chef how important it is for customers to get something different while Guy, smiling benignly like a peroxide headed Buddha, is no doubt thinking about what a great job he's got, or maybe about how this show will be the death of him.

"Looks like nobody in this country got the memo." I tell my wife.

'Different', as a concept, is rarely revered in Romania. More often than not, it is vilified. On the other hand the 'me-too' culture is just out of this world. When I first moved here, every restaurant served pizza. If there had been a burger joint around at the time, it too would ha…
Recent posts

From Untold to (re)Told - Untold Festival 2017

The lineup looked as familiar as ever, but it was no less than expected when we signed up for tickets to the third edition of Romania's premier summer festival and Cluj-Napoca's major event of the year.

I could write about the artists, the massive crowds, surprises at the peripheral stages, Argatu's captivating performance, the unexpectedly heavy security presence, the street food, the #buckets, or the impressive logistics, but instead I'd rather highlight how a single event has become, for Cluj, a sort of beacon of the local culture. It's as though most Clujans -and every corporate entity in Cluj - becomes a part of Untold. On the street, at the mall, at work, Cluj is split between two types of wrists: those adorned with a festival bracelet and the rest.
In a sense, even those who escape town for the duration of the festival take part by way of their intentional non-participation.

I've written about the typical Romanian apathy when it comes to uniting for a co…

Weddings in Romania

Wedding season, like the highly anticipated cherry season in Romania, starts around the middle of May. Within a month, it is a fact of life. Much like the 'very, very, very, sweet cherries' advertised at farmer's markets, brides, along with their wedding parties, also start to pop up all over the country. The parade continues all the way through to the end of summer, thus outlasting the short-lived cherry harvest.

Although I've attended several Romanian weddings, enough to 'get the gist', these observations are partly fueled by the readily available bottles of Jack Daniels, wine, and the occasional tuica, without which no Romanian wedding is complete.

You must first understand that Romanian weddings fall into one of two categories: for the couple's friends and family, or for the couple's parents and friends. There is a distinction here and, keep in mind, it's almost impossible to combine the two.

The former tend to be smaller weddings, in quaint - …

Romania's Red Plague

"Jos Comunistii!" "PSD, Ciuma Rosie!"

Why are there now, as I'm writing, protesters out in the streets chanting, "down with the communists" and "PSD is the Red plague"? Hasn't it been nearly thirty years since a bloody revolution rid us of the Red plague? It had poisoned our minds and imprisoned our souls for nearly fifty years. Globally, Communism has killed more people and lasted longer than any historical plague. Yet here we are, still fighting this insidious disease, as if it never went away.

Judging by much of the Romania around me, it hasn't.

Without a doubt, the Romania of '89 and the Romania of today are two different countries - at least on the surface. Cars are not all Dacias, people aren't toting worn-out raffia bags wherever they go (even if Luis Vuiton has made them fashionable in the West), there is more colour, more glass alongside the concrete, more neon, more music. Roads are flatter, (some) sidewalks wider. …

PSD, The Owner Has Noticed

In Chinua Achebe's, A Man of the People, the narrator, Odilli,  describes an incident between villagers and a greedy local shopkeeper, Josiah. While disliked by many, the villagers could tolerate his greed as long as the shop remained well-stocked and convenient. But one day Josiah is caught stealing a blind beggar's walking stick. He was planning to use it for a medicine that would "turn [the villagers] into blind buyers of his wares." This act epitomizes Josiah's greed and turns the entire village against him. "Josiah has taken away enough for the owner to notice," a villager says.

"I thought much afterwards about that proverb, about the man taking things away until the owner at last notices. In the mouth of our people there was no greater condemnation. It was not just a simple question of a man's cup being full. A man's cup might be full and none be the wiser. But here the owner knew, and the owner, I discovered, is the will of the whole …

Romania: 2017

Gotta be honest here, a 5-month break wasn't what I expected when I wrote about Untold Festival back in August. There are plenty of reasons I haven't been writing, but as I list them off, I can see that none are particularly good...

Work - Yeah, everyone works
Felt like doing other stuff - Don't we all
Ran out of things to write about - No I didn't
A little bit blasé about my Romanian life - Welcome to any life

It does seem we're at the cusp of something, and maybe I just don't know quite what it is nor how to approach it. Maybe it's not "we", and it's just me, but I doubt it - we're all in this together. 2016 was weird for everyone.

In spite of the absence I didn't feel all that disconnected from my Romania blogging. Email has come in fairy regularly from blog readers, and -although I'm hardly going crazy with it - I've been keeping my Instagram updated with Romania themed images.

But, this absence has been nagging away at me.

Untold Festival: Days 2, 3, 4

I took a 9 minute long video of the streetcar party on day two and  thought it was the greatest thing. Then I watched it on the computer the next day. As with every day at Untold it's about 4 or 5 in the afternoon before I'm ready to face the world. Another day of Untold at this point is not only difficult but almost a punishment. Yet we persist.

Eat, Sleep, Untold, Repeat. Never have I lived a more accurate t-shirt cliché.

Friends come by and we sip some tea. Three shots of it. Start feeling better and call an Uber. Oh yeah, Uber finally made it to Cluj. It's been the same pre-festival ritual four days straight. Eat, Tea, Uber, Untold.

A Brazilian marching band welcomes us in past the security gates. Nobody knows how to Samba but the beat is intoxicating (which is fitting isn't it?). The crowd follows the band through the park. To the spectators on the side it must look like Rio's take on the pied piper.

We said we'd explore but it's hard to stay away fr…