Following on from the Matzo balls, I have been reminiscing about my working trip to Cluj in Romania in 1995 or thereabouts. I was travelling alone and found that quite difficult because I couldn’t figure out a single word of the language, either written or spoken. This was fairly soon after Ceauscescu had bitten the dust, and the country was very slowly coming out of communism. When I went on the trams I found people staring at me and then when I tried to make eye contact they instantly looked away. This of course was the country of the Securitate where nobody could trust anybody else because of all the informing that went on.
I was in Cluj as part of a European exchange programme, visiting and teaching at the University. Three nights running I was entertained at the homes of women who were lecturers at the university. Their hospitality was extremely generous and quite illuminating. All three, notwithstanding their high educational standards and facility in many languages, lived in high-rise flats adorned with grafitti. The dumpling connection comes in here – one of the colleagues served up some dumplings which I must say didn’t enchant. To my spoiled western palate they seemed heavy and greasy and tasteless. But then she and her husband and children took me out for a drive into the Carpathian mountains and it was wild and beautiful with the possibility of bears – or vampires – to look out for, and it was wonderfully fresh.
I found a charming video on you-tube about making ‘Shliskies‘ – Romanian potato dumplings – do have a look. This recipe looks to me more like Italian gnocchi. However the interesting thing for me is that the man demonstrating the making of the Shliskies to his family is also a holocaust survivor.
One of the other ladies who entertained me that week served a wonderful smoked aubergine pate which I’ll write about next time I make a batch of same.