A (Romanian) meal without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze


As part of the new addicted-to-traveling generation, I spend a lot of time outside Romania and I always get easily adapted to other types of food. Nonetheless, whenever I go back home, my mom asks me the usual question “What do you want to eat?”. Surprisingly, my choice is always the simplest one: tomatoes (healthy and natural Romanian tomatoes), eggplant salad and CHEESE.

The special thing about Romanian cheese

Of course I don’t pretend to compete with France when talking about cheese. Romania might be known for “palinca” or Dracula’s castle, but definitely not for dairy products. However, I think that we have a really special concept of “cheese”, which says a lot about our traditions.
First of all, let’s put it clear. The generic word “cheese” is translated into Romanian with “brânză”, but this covers only half of the meaning. Romanian perfectly describes the difference between white cheese (such as Feta) and yellow cheese (e.g. Gooda or Emmentaler), because the first one is called “brânză”, while for the second one we use the Italian originating word “cașcaval”.

When tradition beats processing machines

Both types of cheese are well-spread all over the country and their recipes and tastes vary from one region to another. But when a Romanian says “cheese”, he probably means the white one, which will never be equal to other Balkan cheeses. What is so special about it is that, usually, we buy it from countrymen which come to the market places and tempt you with their fresh and unique products.
I don’t know about others, but I love going there and asking to taste the cheese. If there are 10 traders, you will have 10 different tastes, sometimes incomparable and yet named by the same word “brânză” (or, to be more specific, “telemea”). All of them are home-made and therefore unique; some are perfect for polenta or potatoes, some go well with the eggplant salad or with watermelon, while others have a specific spring savor which is suited for cucumbers and radish.

Endangered customs

The sad part about this tradition is that if you’re really fond of one particular cheese, it’s unlikely that you will find it the next time – unless you remember the countryman who made it! But going to the market place is also about knowing the best producers and making friendship with them, so that they will guarantee you high- quality products. Unfortunately, this tradition is endangered by the European laws, which are currently trying to set a standard recipe.

If you still want to find out more about Romanian cuisine, click here.

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