Is there a place on earth where you can wake up in the morning, look straight up into the sky, cover up with the fresh breeze and let your lungs infuse all the air around you and say:" It is mine". For me that is Moldova. My home.
It is such a great feeling to know that I owe something even though it is not entirely mine. A place where I discover myself over and over again each time I step into my beloved parent's house. A place where the string of memories flow in front of my eyes reminding me of the little, wondering child who shared so many feeling with the big world. A place where my legs take me without including my brain and somehow it knows it's safe. A place where good and bad is shared on the table with the dearest once and thanked for another great day together.
I want to dedicate this article to all my friends and acquaintances from all around the world who have been asking millions of questions about Moldova. Here it is, the naked truth, or ... at least some of it.
My Moldova is a place like no other and if it happens to visit it one day, you will understand why. But before we go further I just want to tell you that it will be the most unique experience of your life.
Just for a moment imagine a place full of enthusiasm and contradictions, stereotypes and beauty, new and old, creativity and passion, stubbornness and flexibility, a place where people talk loud even when they mean well, a place where everybody is in a rush but always have time to celebrate... The magic country. Ohhh and yes, most importantly ... loads and loads of delicious food.
I went home to spend Easter with my family. It has been 4years since last time we set together at the table and celebrated one of the most important holiday of the year. It was a great feeling to bring the family spirit back in the house. Moldovans don't need a big reason to get together and share the story of the day. But this time has something magnificent in reuniting again. With this occassion, I have decided to introduce to you our rituals and traditions and give you an idea on how some other cultures different than yours celebrate Easter. I will mainly focus on the traditional food that we cook during this holiday and perhaps wake up your appetite for some moldovan goodies.
Let's start with the beginning. Moldavans like Russians and other Eastern European countries celebrate Easter on a different date than Western Europe. That is basically because the dates are determined by different calendars. The Moldovan- Orthodox church uses the old Gregorian calendar, whereas the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches switched to the Julian calendar in the 16th century. Changes are applied for the New Years and Christmas dates.
On the night before Easter all the churches in the country hold night services at the end of which the priest blesses your food with holy water. When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we eat is a piece of holy food. We believe that this will purify our bodies and souls. We also wash our faces with red coloured eggs and money. According to the ritual this brings a wealthy year ahead.
And here it starts, the journey of non-stop eating for a whole week. After the Great Lent, most of the survivors can't wait to indulge the delicacies that are served on the table from morning till night. I'm not exaggerating. This holiday is all about food, all people talk about is food. We star the day by cheering with red eggs and bite from the specialty of the day made carefully by our talented mothers and grandmothers which is " Pasca". It is believed that quality Easter Bread ensures well-being of the family and this shows how good of a cook your wife is. It's a serious thing. In case something goes wrong with it, the holiday might be ruined.
The Moldovans share many foods with Romanians. You will see a lot of similarities. Even though every housewife has a special secret recipe that is mastered through years and years. I believe that because of the fertile soil and great care of the lands, the local cuisine is an intense mix of flavours and aromas. Ecologically clean foods come in as a decoration for the table and a fiesta for the stomach.
Salads play a big role in moldovan cooking. All types of salads will be served on the tables during holidays. It is a complex proccess to cut it, organize it and present it, as we believe that presentation is the invitation for the appetite. Moldovans tend to use seasonal vegetables to prepare the salads and during summer time the most common one is made out of: cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and cabbage.
The local cuisine is a great inspiration of elements from other cuisines in the region. We have a large influence made by the Ottoman cuisine, Greek, Byzantine, Slavic (Polish, Ukrainian and Russian). All these post- Soviet states and Russophone communities world-wide grew up with the same dishes and it is no surprise that it has been passed through generations.
Moldovans believe a lot in meat. I don't know if it has something to do with the fact that it is a cold country or it is just our history, but we love it. It is served in specially as an appetizer of the first course and it is kept on the table until everyone is done eatting. The meat is ussually roasted and grilled, for example pork, lamb, chichen. We are also famous for our delicious beef meatballs known as "pîrjoale" and "chiftele". Most commonly the meat or the fish is marinated and then grilled.
Overall the moldovan cuisine is made out of fresh and organic ingredients. But the housewives love to spoil their husbands and children with baked items, such as pastries, cakes, rolls, and buns with a variety of fillings starting from cheese, fruit, vegetables, walnuts, gem made of rose petals.
You can not have a complete dinner without a glass of the famous moldovan wine which was recognized at different wine exhibitions world-wide, including France. One of my favorite is "Negru de Purcari" which has its winery just 2 hours down south of the capital. Another famous local production is Cricova with a great range of grapes in the underground winery located 30minutes away from the capital.
The main domestic Moldovan varieties include Fetească, Rară Neagră and Busuioacă albă. Sparkling Wine has a special place in Moldovan cuisine and the most famous once are those made in the Cricova Winery, made out of European grape varietes, including Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, Sauvignon, Muscat Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot noir.
In moldovan culture it is very important to give respect to the once that are no longer with us. A lot of people get goose-bumps when talking about cemeteries, but it is a part of the tradition and it has to be respected.
Exactly a week after the Easter, we celebrate Memorial Easter. This holiday is dedicated entirely to those who rest in peace. What I find interesting about this day is the fact that we give alms to strangers or to those that we know and we serve wine, or any other alcoholic beverages in the name of the relatives you probably don't even remember anymore. And you can't refuse it. You will say "Easy to be his/her dust", or "God forgive him". At some point you will need to monitor the mix and the amount of alcohol you are taking. Trust me.
Saint Lazarus cemetery, also called "Doina", located in Chișinău, is the largest cemetery in Southeastern Europe. Founded in 1966, the cemetery occupies a surface of 2 million square metres and has more than 300,000 grave sites, including about 600 family vaults. It is considered to be a place to visit as it is unique in it's own way.
Unfortunately our tour with Easter express came to an end. I just thought to share this information with all of you as I strongly believe that the traditions of the country defines its roots and keeps the future prosperous. People should embrace the differences and have the curiosity to discover them.
I invite you to come to Moldova and enjoy the beauty of my country. I know it has a lot to offer and you have a lot to recieve. In case you want to find out more about Moldova and its inhabitants, just let me know. Enjoy your stay and don't forget “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” Orson Welles.