Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pudding, Scented Toilet Paper, and Cranberries

Chocolate pudding.  In the US, the identity of chocolate pudding seemed so straightforward and clear to me, but now that I live in Romania, I am met with confusion surrounding this delicious, viscous goop.  The first problem is that chocolate pudding sometimes masquerades as other foods.  For example, if you serve chocolate pudding hot, it is "ciocolata calda," or hot chocolate.  Of course, what we call hot chocolate or hot cocoa goes by this very same name.  Therefore I was unpleasantly surprised at one restaurant when the ciocolata calda I ordered was in fact warm, thick pudding that could not be drank but was nonetheless served in a mug.  Similarly, I bought a packet of mix for chocolate "ingetata," ice cream.  Today I made it, following all the directions correctly.  When I tasted it, I was once again unpleasantly surprised, for this "ice cream" was just frozen chocolate pudding.  And again, at the store I bought some sort of prepackaged dessert that was advertised as some sort of mousse.  When I tried it....yep, it was chocolate pudding...with small chocolate lumps.

Toilet Paper.  I have observed that Romanians like scented toilet paper.  I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty sure this is a Europe-wide sensation, based on the multi-lingual packaging of the TP.  Since I always considered scented TP to be a novelty item, I was delighted to see so many different colors and scents of the stuff available in the stores here.  There are periwinkle-colored, lavender-scented rolls and orange-colored, peach scented rolls, and last week at the store I stumbled upon seasonal scents.  I discovered and bought a pack of "winter perfume" toilet paper.  It's an unexciting white color, but it smells of oranges and cinnamon and makes my bathroom smell pretty.

My winter toilet paper

Cranberries.  These are apparently an exotic fruit in Romania.  Not only is it ridiculously difficult to find fresh cranberries, most Romanians I ask have never eaten a cranberry before, except possibly in juice form.  This has been devastating to me.  When Thanksgiving rolled around, I was able to more or less recreate all my favorite foods, except cranberry sauce.  Ever since, I have been scouring the city for this evasive berry, but to no avail!  The closest I got was an old man at the piata (farmer's market) who told me he has some at home and would bring them the next day.  Well, I returned the next day, asked about the cranberries, and I got the same story; he had some at home and would bring them tomorrow.  Not wanting to eternally repeat the process, I ended up buying what they told me was a compote containing cranberries, but I think it must have something else mixed in too, because it has a bit of a prune-y taste to it.  I haven't given up hope of finding cranberries, but until then, I'll slather my next chicken meal with his bizarre compote and see if I can convince myself it's cranberry sauce.

What I've been up to:
Last Thursday was Romania's National Day of Unification.  December 1, 1918 marked the unification of Transylvania with the rest Romania, completing the country.  The main boulevards of Constanta were decked out in Romanian flags and the university was closed down, but that was the extent of celebration of the holiday.  Actually, that's not completely true.  I did spend my evening at a Turkish friend's apartment, eating Turkish kebab and then playing Apples to Apples with a crowd mostly consisting of Romanians.  So, I went to a party, but it had little to do with Romanian nationalism.  

Meat at the Turkish butcher.

And now it is cooked, perhaps too much.
On Friday I went out to a karaoke night with students and trainers from Money Sense.  We had lots of fun!

Choosing a song at karaoke.

 That night, the hard work of some city workers was made manifest when the snowflakes lights all lit the main boulevard in Constanta.
Bulevardul Tomis all decked out for Christmas
 I've continued to have lots of fun at Money Sense.  Sometimes we aren't always on task...
Doing the Romanian penguin dance.


  1. As always, I enjoyed the photos. I think you're the first person to post a photo of toilet paper on a blog :)!

  2. Can't say I'm at all surprised about the cranberries or the pudding pudding in America is not pudding in England why should it be pudding in Hungary France or Japan? Making your own pudding without a mix is not hard - this one comes out nice: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chocolate_pudding/

    Can you get a hold of some currants? Currant sauce is very good with savories and makes a decent substitute for cranberry sauce in a pinch. (they're a bit sweeter so if you want something resembling cranberry sauce take it easy on the sugar) Also fresh have considerably more water in them than cranberries do so you'll have to use a 12 inch fry pan to evaporate faster.

  3. Actually, the problem is too much pudding! Hot chocolate tastes and feels like pudding, as does the "ice cream" I made with the mix. But thank you for the recipe. I'll have to try it out sometime!

    As for currants, I'm not sure. The closest I've seen to cranberries are rose hips, and I have no idea if the taste is similar.

  4. no they do not taste remotely alike but rose hips are wonderful in their own right. Use them where one would use strawberries. :0)

  5. How times have changed! When I was there in 1979-80, you couldn't find any toilet paper in the stores. We had to get it from Romanian friends who had wisely stored it up when it was available. And cranvberries were the least of our fruit worries. I don't recall anything but apples in the markets. Oranges and bananas each made their appearance once during the year for a day or two, but you had to stand in line for an hour to get any.

  6. Yes, I've heard stories about the shortages in Romania under Ceausescu. Even though Romania was producing a lot, it was all being exported to help pay off Romania's debt. My landlord is now obsessed with buying the most fresh ingredients of everything, because before 1989 she could only buy frozen meats. I'm very glad that things have changed and now there are many fresh choices in the piatas and at the grocery stores!