Thursday, 25 January 2018

ciorba de burtă

This post is a ramble about tripe.

Ciorba de burtă is a Romanian, rich, creamy, sour tripe soup and I love it.  Indeed I have formed friendships based on a common love for this delicacy.  Those of us who like it do gravitate towards each other. Everyone else seems to think us weird.  Looking back at old cookery books out here, I do think the diet has become much more restricted than it used to be.  Meat wise, you can just about get beef, but it is mainly pork and chicken and turkey. There is no lamb, and nobody seems to eat duck or hare or rabbit or goat anymore. Pork is ubiquitous and very poor quality, it is nearly grey in colour and has not been allowed to hang for any length of time so it is watery and unpleasant tasting.  Those in the south of the country don't seem to make use of the blood products either, there is nothing even resembling a black pudding, and this is a shame.

Meat is certainly disappointing out here, so much so that (apart from the tripe) I am nearly vegetarian.  I have no interest in salamis and smoked meats, so unless I get the opportunity to dine with a family who have recently slaughtered their own pig, I stick to cooking for myself and cooking vegetarian. Interestingly the Romanians got an exemption from the strict EU rules on pig slaughtering when they joined because it would be unenforceable as pig killing is part of the culture. I was a little annoyed when I heard this. I used to know one of the last independent pig slaughterers in Gloucestershire, he was good at his job and respected the animals, he was prevented from doing his thing so the poor brutes on the many smallholdings had to travel uncomfortable distances to EU approved giant slaughter houses. It is worth noting that many abattoirs no longer slaughter pigs in the UK, so they can be "halal".

Strangely I don't miss English meat, as good as it was, but there are a few English things I'm beginning to miss.  Marmite is one and I need somebody to come out here with real luggage to get hold of that, it gets confiscated from hand luggage. I also miss Lancashire cheese; simply the most fresh, tangy, versatile, beautiful cheese in the world.  There is a fresh, wet cheese out here called telemea, it is good, but not that good. I also miss fish and chips with mushy peas and a mug of hot tea made with proper creamy milk from a glass bottle....

The longer I am out here the more I loathe the whole "European project".  I feel the Common Agricultural Policy is  at least as devastating to agriculture as Stalinist Collectivisation. And the multinational food corporations ride on the back of it. Every crap Dutch tomato and cucumber, every tasteless French Golden Delicious apple, every lousy Eurobeer, each plastic container of French or Swiss owned insipid multinational yogurt or plastic cheese.... kills the soul of the country into which it is imported...... And Romania is no exception..... food choices, the choice of buying local produce are getting more and more limited... For example, Romanian apple growers seem as beleaguered as British apple growers, they can't get their lovely fruit into the supermarkets, they are not uniform or bland enough, they are odd shaped, tasty, wobbly apples that simply won't conform to "standards".  If I can't get Romanian produce, I will seek out Turkish stuff rather than Euro produce. I'm not romanticising Romanian food, their rice is ghastly, and there is lots of it... but that is what I will get out of choice.....

A businessman was telling me, it its cheaper for him to import raw material from Germany than to purchase the equivalent from here in Romania. How is that right?  I often get asked how I voted in the Brexit referendum.  I say that I didn't and I am understood. They understand that the question of leaving or staying was unanswerable.  They nod when I say I loathe the whole  European project as it seems to be run purely for the benefit of French and German banks.  Romania is in a mess, but the EU is more of the problem than the solution.  OK so the internal politics here are corrupt and not much to do with the EU, but within the EU she will always be "second class".  And the slow erosion of their deep seated morality, conservatism and Christian culture, the NATO agenda with its Russia-phobia not shared by the people are other threats from the West..... I feel they simply don't want to "annoy the Bear", the people seem somewhat indifferent to Russia (though the press do seem to be looking for anti Russian stories, especially if the Russian Orthodox Church is involved).  The Moldovans I know, even the young ones, have grown up with Russian food on their plates and Russian films in their cinemas, she is part of who they are, more than any French apple or Dutch tomato or American blockbuster. A far as I know Soviet troops never had a base here in Communist times, and the Romanians were more than capable of their own horrific persecutions and policing without the help of their powerful near neighbour. It is a complex land, but one that I feel is on the edge either finding itself and flourishing because it stands up for itself or losing itself completely, and the EU will only let it do the latter.

I do ask if there are any nations they don't like much.  The answer is always the Hungarians, but they say it with a half-smile on their faces.

I'm talking tripe, I know..... but this place is just like that soup: warm hearted, rich yet poor, and totally under appreciated.

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