Adventures in a Romanian Kitchen (and Other Adventures)

I am thrilled to have my own kitchen in Romania. Trips to the grocery store provide a nice 30 minute walk through the park and city while a daily produce market gives me the chance to practice my fledgling Romanian.

Cooking in Romania has not been without it's challenges. Things that I take for granted in the United States, such as maple syrup and sweet potatoes, are non-existent here. Instead, I find bumper crops of produce that I have no idea what to do with, such as celery root. Jacob and I have become quite the fan of beets.

This made Thanksgiving an interesting proposition. Jacob and I have had Thanksgiving outside of the U.S. once before - we were in London and had our holiday meal in an underground vegetarian restaurant with communal tables. Keeping in the spirit of un-traditional Thanksgiving, we immediately scrapped the notion of a turkey, and chose to make simple "seasonal" recipes. We bought a pumpkin from the produce market and I was faced with the challenge of roasting it.

The only problem is that our oven is about 50 (or more) years old. And it's a strictly gas oven. Lighting the oven means risking your entire arm to a tragic gas-oven explosion. Placed over the flames are several bricks which distribute the heat and prevent the food from burning too badly on the bottom. All of this turns using the oven into an adventure for my convection-spoiled self. It turned out to be easy though. I put the pumpkin in the oven, hovered a bit, and voila!

Roasted pumpkin. Which turned into this:

Pumpkin, Balsamic caramelized onion, and Goat cheese gallette.

It was delicious, and we were thankful.

Dinner tonight was not so successful. We had a whole defrosted chicken waiting for us, so we decided to roast it for dinner. I started blogging; Jacob tackled the chicken. Five minutes into blogging I heard a yelp. As Jacob had been preparing the chicken, he checked inside the cavity. This is what he found:

The head. Next out of the cavity came two chicken feet, gizzards and organs, followed by the chicken neck, still attached to the body. I quickly looked up "how to butcher a chicken", and together we learned how to detach a chicken neck.

Feeling mildly grossed out, we dressed the chicken and popped it into the oven with some potatoes. At the proper time we pulled it out to check the meat. Then we tried stabbing it with a fork, hacking at it with a knife, and hitting it against the counter. Once it became clear that the chicken was impenetrable, we set it aside and started on plan B for dinner. (The potatoes turned out awesome - not a total loss.)

It later occurred to me that it was a rooster, not a chicken, which may mean we were doomed from the beginning.

When not cooking, Jacob and I have been having fun exploring the city, often with our dear friend Anda.

Anda loves tea. 
Anda took us to the most incredible cemetery I have ever seen before. (Once again, my apologies to people who find cemeteries creepy - I love them for some reason. I love the history they contain and the stories they tell.)

Once you've seen this cemetery, you will realize how truly personality-less our American cemeteries are. Very few of the graves are simple headstones - these people get creative. People build mausoleums the size of small houses, and some that look like full-blown churches.

I also appreciate that Romania has a yearly holiday for visiting family graves. On November 1st families go to visit the graves of their forebears and leave gifts of flowers and candles. Apparently that night, the entire cemetery glows by candlelight. Sounds romantic, doesn't it?

While in the graveyard we saw something that pretty much made my day.

A Chimney Sweep a la Mary Poppins! And you thought that only existed in Victorian England! Pretty exciting stuff.

On another afternoon walk, Jacob and I discovered a gigantic birds nest on top of a hill over the city.

Seriously. My guess is that it's an installation by a local artist - regardless, it's ridiculously cool.

Trying out my "model face"