Transylvanian Food: From Fieldwork to Festivals

Post by Jada Langston

Being here for the last three weeks, I have tried an array of delicious food and drinks. To provide better context I split up this blog post into two separate food stories: an everyday food post where you will learn what we usually eat throughout the day, and a post about food we have eaten at festivals around Romania.

Lunch on site

Everyday Food:

For breakfast and lunch: We usually have a small meal of scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs with toast. Then, we pack the lunch cooler before we hurry to leave around 7 am. Around 12 pm at the site we all gather around the cooler to eat lunch. We mainly eat a variety of sandwiches, such as peanut butter and jelly, or ham and salami with mustard, with different fruits on the side. Because one of us is a “ham monster” (Sophia), and because there are so many of us, we go through our basic necessities very quickly. As a result, we have to go shopping almost daily for another kilo of ham, loaves of bread, eggs, and other foods.

Sophia “Ham Monster” Coren, delighted to find a ham vending machine at the Turda Salt Mines.

For dinner: We are much more creative at dinners, where each person has to make a meal for everyone to sit down and share. On a  Saturday or Sunday, everyone chooses a meal to make for the coming week and places the ingredients on a shopping list for Colin and Jess to buy. After we return from the site, one person is assigned to cook that night with a helper. Meals have ranged from shepard’s pie to chicken and dumplings. Once a week, usually on a weekend, we have a leftovers night where we try to finish the meals. In my opinion, and probably everyone else’s,  the best cook of us all is Tina Marcuti.

Langos made by Tina

She make delicious and authentic Romanian food, ranging from langoş, a fried bread that’s stuffed with goat cheese, to bean soup, gulas (a meat and vegetable soup), fasole batuta (a white bean dip) and Romanian meatballs. Tina enthusiastically cooks us food to bring to the site or a small meals to eat throughout the day. Just the other day,  she made deviled eggs that she decorated to look like small ducks.

Tina’s ducks

Festival Food:

So far, I have been two two festivals with food. The biggest one was the Alba Days Fest that lasted from June 8th to 10th. The festival was part of an annual celebration hosted by the city The occasion featured performances from prominent Romanian artists such a Smiley, Inna, and B.U.G Mafia, while also hosting a wide array of food stands throughout the fortress. There was such a variety of different options to partake in, from huge ham steaks the size of your head to a plate of small fried sardines. While I did not have the time (or the stomach space) to eat all of the food, I did try some delicious mici, chicken kebabs with fried potatoes, and fried sardines.

Food from Alba Days

The second festival was a Dacian festival in the town of Cetatea de Balta. Here, we watched re-enactments of the wars between the Roman Empire and the Dacians, which took place in the 1st and 2nd century AD. The Dacians were the people that lived in Romania before the Romans came and conquered the region. Here, we ate placinte, a crepe that can be filled with both savory and sweet concoctions such as the cheese placinte that Lana, Jess, and Colin had and the chocolate-filled placinte that Sophia and I had. The food stands also had boiled corn on the cob and small dessert treats as well.

Romanian sweets from the Dacian Festival

Overall, the food in Romania has been amazing! Thanks to Tina, all of the amazing shops, and festivals, the entire team has been eating fresh food almost daily. I am excited for what other foods are in store for me to eat.

Placinţe at Mama Luţa’s in Ampoiţa

 

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My Introduction to Romanian Food

A more area-based post this time, featuring the best thing in the world next to anthropology: food!

While here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on the MARBAL Project and also eat a lot. One of our nights was spent eating burek, a stuffed filo dough dish:

Burke brânză (with salty sheep’s cheese), burek carne (with ground meat), and burek cu spanac (with spinach)

We all shared a beef burek, a cheese one, and a spinach and cheese burek. They were all good! I think we agreed the cheese one was the best though, can’t go wrong with cheese.

Food number two that I tried was langos. Langos, fried dough topped with sour cream and sheep cheese, quickly became a huge favorite of mine. I had it three times and regret nothing.

Langos cu smântână si brânză (fried dough with sour cream and cheese)

The final night we were there, Jess, Colin, and I had kürtőskalács. Kürtőskalács is spit-cake that is made from yeast dough coated with sugar and butter before being cooked. It is sold at a stand in the center of the Cetatea Alba Carolina, which is normally easy to find because of the groups of excited children clustering around it!

Kürtőskalács, a sweet yeasted dough that is roasted on a spit.

I got a really cool picture of it cooking! Once it’s cooked it can be coated with various toppings. We had ours with cinnamon. 

Roasting the kürtőskalács

Later on I had a stew called pomona porcului that made my night. It had sausage and cubes of pork with polenta in the center. The polenta was great! We had seasoned mushrooms to share which were some of the best mushrooms I’ve ever had.

Pomona Porcului – Pork and polenta stew

It was the perfect end to the field season and helped me get through the overnight train to Budapest!

Roses in Romania

Alba Iulia is a beautiful city! After traveling for two and a half days we arrived in Romania, greeted by Dr. Ciugudean and many blooming roses.

Roses in the Alaba Iulia Cetate

After arriving, the bioarchaeology fun began. Our second day in the lab, we performed an inventory of the skeletal remains from three Bronze Age sites that are housed at the museum. Inventory, while not the most exciting activity, was essential for finding out which burials were preserved and which bones were present for each provenance. All of the labels associated with the bones were recorded and some bags were given different labels so that they could be located more easily. Thankfully there should be no need to do this again…

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After we finished the inventory, we started analysis for two of the individuals. This included gently cleaning the bones with materials that would not scratch them, like toothpicks and toothbrushes. Many of the bones had to be cleaned in order for the features to be visible, which is needed for identification and further analysis. I mostly worked on cleaning the bones while Jess recorded the information so that it could be accessible and organized.


We also scored tooth wear in order to  estimate age for one of the individuals.

Occlusal view, maxillary tooth wear

It’s been a great first few days here in Romania, surely with more to follow!