Roaming in Romania

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Bucharest

Since my bout in Egypt I have yet to update you on my journey. I hope you enjoyed the Shortbread story. It came to mind on the train ride to Romania. I’ve just left Bucharest for Bistrița, a city near the Carpathian Mountains.  When my mum left him, my father had a meltdown and a midlife crisis at the same time. I was 13 at the time.

Out of nowhere he up and left, forcing me to go to live with my two aunts who wanted nothing to do with me and sent me to boarding school. I received letters from my father the two years I was there telling me of his adventures in Romania of all places. It was in Bistrița, in an “obscure patch of woods” (his words not mine), that he met the gypsy, or Roma as they prefer to be called, that would soon become my mother and law.

When he returned, he had a beautiful Roma girl clinging to his hips and a baby girl nestled in his arms. I will tell more of this later I promise, but I must not get sidetracked. For now, know she was the one who ignited my taste buds and created my insatiable palate with her exotic, most delightful dishes.

To my extreme dismay she refuses to tell me how she makes anything. So, I figured if I can find her village I’d simply ask her people. Simple enough right? But I must leave you now, the bus I am on has gone as far as it can go and I must transfer to another bus.  I’ll get back to you soon! Enjoy the photos!

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Carpathian Mountains

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Don’t Call Them Nuts!

Macadamia Testicle Shortbread

A few years ago, during a road trip across the States, I had the pleasure of staying with an older woman by the name of Henrietta Jolie.

The old clunker I’d bought to make my way across country stalled on me halfway through the middle of nowhere Oklahoma.  I waited for hours for another living soul to pass by but I had no such luck.

So, I ended up having to walk miles and miles in search of a gas station or at least something that resembled civilization! Nearly two hours later I saw in the distance, across a grassy plain and tucked between some trees, a small white cottage.

I nearly jumped out of my boots running towards the haven.  A young man tending the garden greeted me in the front of the house after getting over the shock of my appearance.

When I’d caught my breath, I relayed to him my ordeal.  A hearty laugh ensued followed by a reassuring pat. The young man (Lucas was his name), told me he knew a “thing or two” about fixing cars.

During our conversation, a plump old woman walked out of the house asking where the fresh eggs were. Lucas answered and quickly told the woman my situation.

Her meaty chin disappeared into her neck as she smiled and ushered me inside to “sit a spell and have a bite to eat,” while she called a tow truck. I wasn’t sure how long a “spell” was so I found myself constantly getting up, then sitting back down only moments later.

During one of these leg exercises, Mrs. Jolie ( as I later learned), came from the  kitchen carrying a plate with a sandwich on it and another plate filled with looked like square cookies.  My stomach churned and I feigned refusal, for politeness sake, but quickly accepted after her second offer.

The desert was actually shortbread. After the first bite, I begged to know the name and how to make it. She laughed a little and turned to look out the window behind me.

Her eyes glazed over as her memory swam backwards.  I knew that look…it was a look I was growing accustomed to.  It meant “I have a story.”

She told me that when her son, Lucas, was a little boy he had very strict school teacher who was “particular” about words.  Every morning Lucas would come home and tell her the new word he’d learned.

“It’s not called a lie mamma, Mrs. Ellis say’s to call it a fib.” “You shouldn’t say nasty mamma, it’s distasteful.”  So on and so forth this went for weeks.  Then one day, Lucas came home walking funny and complaining about his “testicles” hurting.

“Where in the world did you learn that word boy?” Mrs. Jolie had asked Lucas.  Lucas told her that during recess, one of the boys had kicked a ball and hit his “nuts.”

He went over to Mrs. Ellis crying saying his nuts hurt and Mrs. Ellis turned beet red and angrily told him never to say the word “nuts again.”

Mrs. Jolie gave her son some ice to help with the pain, and started cooking dinner forgetting the ordeal.  That night at the table, with whole family present and few friends from the neighborhood, Mrs. Jolie brought out her new shortbread recipe.

Filled with Macadamia nuts and topped with whipped cream, the shortbread looked delicious. When Lucas took his first bite he happily exclaimed, “I love Testicles!”

At this point in the story, Mrs. Jolie could no longer keep her composure and laughed loudly me along with her.  The proper name of this desert was Macadamia Nut Shortbread but the family called it Macadamia Testicle Shortbread.

For months poor Lucas substituted the word “testicle” for “nuts.” It’s strange how often we use that word.

She gave me the recipe shortly after the story and when the tow truck finally arrived with my car I found out the reason my car had stopped was because it ran out of gas…I’m a testicle…

 Ingredients

1 1/2 cups salted dry-roasted macadamia nuts

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Place macadamia nuts in a 4-sided sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, but keep the oven on. Allow the nuts to cool slightly and then coarsely chop.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt until combined well. Stir in flour, nuts, and chocolate and gently stir with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Gently pat the dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Score into 20 squares with tip of a knife. Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes, then carefully cut into squares with a sharp knife while the shortbread is still warm (cookies may crumble a little bit). Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Mothers Day Breakfast Surprise!

Happy mothers day! Sorry for late post, I spent the day traveling back from my moms house.  I had the most amazing weekend with my family, laughing, talking, reminiscing, yelling, strangling…nothing out of the ordinary.

But, joking aside I really wanted to make this mothers day very special.  My mom gave up a lot for us children including an a career as a singer for Motown Records!  Yes you heard me correctly Motown Records!

My mother is an extraordinary singer (and still is) but strongly felt she needed to raise her kids so she turned down an offer from Motown!  Now, you’re probably staring at this screen slack-jawed and wide-eyed but let me assure you she never regretted it and we are eternally grateful to her.

You see how most celebrity kids turn out, LITTLE BRATS THE LOT OF THEM! *Just kidding* but most importantly, signing a Motown Records contract was equal to selling your soul.  You signed 10 years of your life to become a puppet and my mother escaped that.

Yes, she could have made Whitney Houston sound like clanging symbol (too soon?), but she raised us instead and seeing what we went through, if it hadn’t been for mom we’d be nowhere good, maybe even dead…That might sound rather extreme but if anything its an understatement.

I really wanted to do something special for her so, I split her mother’s day surprise into two parts! First, on saturday I bought her a lovely Hibiscus tree with exotic, oversized red flowers bursting from beneath the leaves and hung little tags from the branches with love notes from all her children! [AWWWWWWW!!!]

I modged podged the tags to water seal them!  She loved it and now every year we can add to the tree! She loves sentimental things like that and really enjoyed the gift!

Then today, my siblings and I woke up early to cook her breakfast and set the table up like a little tea party.  We baked mini carrot cake muffins, raspberry thumbprint cookies, and Cream Horns then brewed some tea. We also chopped up some strawberries and bananas and set them in a little saucer.

For the main course, we cooked eggs with mushrooms, onions, sausage and mozzarella cheese.  Her expression showed her excitement when she came downstairs and saw the nicely decorated table with a host of food! Seeing her smile was the highest praise!  Hope your Mothers Day was just as fantastic!

Palate Exercises

Before you start on this journey with me, you must learn to savor every piece of food that enters your mouth.  Don’t just gobble up everything that comes your way in 10 seconds flat! These exercises will help you become a food tasting expert!

1) Pay attention to what you eat.  Don’t eat while watching TV or talking on the phone.  You will miss out on all the delicious flavors if you do that!

2) Slow down when you eat! When you eat slowly, you inhale more deeply. Thus draws more aromatic molecules into the olfactory receptors in the upper portion of your nose. Close your eyes when you eat and take in the flavors.

3) Spice up your life!  Opt for spicy foods like Cajun or Thai cuisine.  This will open up your taste buds to a whole new world of possibilities.

4) Try something new. Increase the diversity of texture, color and flavor of your food.  This will introduce you to new smells and flavors. This will also help you distinguish flavors in contrasts to one another.  There is no such thing as a picky food lover!

5)Cleanse your palate for the delights to come by sucking on a lemon wedge or orange segment. You can also snack on a soda cracker. If none of these are available, try sipping tepid water instead.

6) Use less salt! When you have too much salt, you over-stimulate your taste buds and lessen your ability to discern the subtle flavors in food.

7) Use less sugar for the same reasons as above.

8) Stop smoking.  Nicotine dulls your taste buds and sense of smell.  But thankfully our taste buds regenerate about every 10 days so if you quit smoking you will notice a heightened sense of taste and smell.

List courtesy of: howstuffworks.com