Two weeks of Intensive Program are currently in progress in Cluj-Napoca, in the North West of Romania. Coming from 7 different countries, 42 students are learning about Traditional foods in relation to micro organisms. The course is international and interdisciplinary, this week they first had lectures in Sensory Analysis from colleagues of France, Belgium and Denmark and yesterday they started with the social science part in which I gave the first lecture on Food Culture & Authenticity.
We started the week on Monday with student presentations of Traditional Foods from their countries which we closed with a tasting session on the many products they brought. I used many of their examples in my lecture yesterday. For example, not one of the products presented was related to the ‘breakthrough’ of new preservation techniques (such as freezing) which developed simultanously with industrialisation. Of course, but without realising I found out, everybody had chosen products that had ‘old’ preservation techniques such as salting, smoking and fermenting.
A product such as sour cabbage was presented as typical for Romania but disputed by other students, for sauerkraut – zuurkool is a typical winterfood in many Eastern and Northern European countries. Cabbage, Pork, Cheese, Fruits such as plums, Walnuts were among the main ingredients of many traditional foods presented. Traditional because these products are rooted in rural self-subsistance household preservation. Pork, for example, is the pride of Romania. One of the traditional foods presented by a Romanian student group was the Ignat on the 20th of December. On this day, families in rural areas gather together and sacrifice the pig they have kept for this reason. It is a big ritual with particular techniques involved and roles to play for different members of the household. More than once, I heard the ‘joke’ that pork is the vegetable for Romanians.