Merry Christmas, and Welcome to the Table!

Christmas candle holder with fir trees, a pine cone, a star, and two white baubles in the snow
Merry Christmas! (Image by Frohe Weihnachten from Pixabay)

Here’s to wish you . . . nope, not Happy Boxing Day but Merry Christmas (still)! Here in Romania we have three days of Christmas!

On the Second Day of Christmas godchildren visit their godparents bearing gifts and apart from this people celebrate Christmas eating together at large tables for the extended family. Various guests, godchildren or not, also make an appearance on December 26. There’s chicken soup, roast chicken with potatoes and, perhaps, other vegetables (carrots, for instance), boeuf salad, a kind of potato salad with meat similar to Olivier salads (only often with chicken meat from boiling the soup rather than with the beef meet announced in its French name), sponge cake with walnuts or poppy seeds (cozonaci), various cake-style sweets, and lots of traditional pork products such as sausages, caltaboș (similar to hog’s pudding/white pudding—mainly made with pork offal and ground pork meat and lard; or, alternatively, with pork meat, onions, and rice—here’s a video in Romanian), sângerete (blood pudding—made with pork offal and ground meat and lard, and with pork blood), lebăr (usually with three quarters of the pork liver, and then, if not used for the blood pudding, with the lungs and the spleen, along with some pork meat and lard—boiled, chopped, and fed through a meat grinder, and then squeezed into the pig’s previously cleaned large intestine, boiled, and then left in that broth in a cool place until the next day; for the visuals and extra details see this video—again in Romanian but the images are largely self-explanatory), tobă, with or without aspic (with pork offal—that usually includes, if you’re not making blood pudding, the kidneys, the heart, a quarter of the liver, the tongue, part of the meat from the head, the snout, an ear or two—and then some meat, lard, and rind, all chopped, mixed with some of the broth in which they’d boiled, and fitted into the previously cleaned stomach of the pig, and then boiled; for images and extra details here’s another video—you know it, in Romanian, but it will give you a good idea of how to make tobă, meaning “drum” in Romanian) . . . all of these pork products with certain spices, varying a little from recipe to recipe . . . and, I almost forgot, sarmale (stuffed cabbage leaves)!

Next time you plan to travel to Romania, maybe try coming in winter. Winters are not too bad lately, and while the above descriptions for “the pork’s alms” (pomana porcului) may not sound too appetizing, the above pork cold cuts are actually quite tasty, particularly if enjoyed with quality mustard or homemade horseradish sauce.

And the sweets are delicious, and they pair really well with the liqueurs women drink at Christmas, while attentive hosts keep refilling the men’s small glasses of plum brandy—not a very good Christmas custom this latter one, if you ask me, since that stuff is really strong, particularly in Transylvania, but in a pinch I guess I’d say that it does seem to go well with all the rich food!

Enjoy the culinary feasts of these holidays, and enjoy each other!

And if you have a moment, do let me know how you set your own table on Christmas Day! What culinary traditions do you have for Christmas?

Happy Christmas,

🙂 Mira

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