Traditional Foods at IP Romania (5) Student reflection

Four previous blogs reported on the Intensive Program on Traditional Foods in Romania which took place during the first weeks of February. Students who participated reflect on their experiences.

Written by Cho-Ye Yuen

picture: Stefanos Nastis - Valea Draganului

Not knowing what to expect, we arrived in Cluj-Napoca, where it was minus 15 degrees during the day and minus 20 during the night and everywhere was covered with snow. The first day started off well, students from different countries brought their own traditional food and held a presentations about it. Afterwards there was this big tasting where we enjoyed parmigiano reggiano aged 12 and 48 months, French saucisson, different kinds of cheeses and cakes, smoked bacon and off course accompanied by some drinks: strong liquors from Poland and Romania such as plum brandy. The next day was more serious and started with lectures from professors all over Europe. Assignments were given and working in groups with different nationalities was not unfamiliar when you come from Wageningen.

There were also some excursions organized, we went to the Slow Food Cluj Transilvania and experienced a traditional lunch from local products, we’ve visited the salt mines in Truda and a 2-day excursion into the montains, where we’ve visited farmer who welcomed us with many traditional homemade products like Romanian pancakes filled with fresh cheese and cured meat.

During the two weeks, we had our breakfast, lunch and dinner in the canteen. The lunch consisted out of 3 courses and dinner was always 2 courses. At some point, we learned to “read” the cutlery that was already put onto the table, predicting whether we had soup as starter or whether the dinner consisted of main and dessert or starter and main. And off course, the cabbage. Sometimes it was served fresh, other times pickled, but it was always accompanying your meal. Besides cabbage, there weren’t many vegetable served. This had to do with the fact that it was winter and imported vegetables are also expensive. It made me realise how spoiled we are with our all-year-round-mango-available mentality of the supermarkets. Another peculiarity is how often pork was served. In Romania, they have these two sayings: the best fish is pork and the best vegetable is meat, which reflects their love for pork which we often experienced at the canteen as well.The canteen had also a very efficient way of producing its meals. One morning at breakfast we had ommelet with fries in it, which must have been the leftovers from the evening before, since we had french fries for dinner. It tasted better than I’ve expected.