"Sanda Marin" was, as I was growing up, the ultimate reference work. By the time I was a teenager, our family's copy of this Romanian cookbook had traveled, with us, through three continents, and had reached an advanced stage of dilapidation. Since the answer to any cooking dilemma was, "look in Sanda Marin," I'm not surprised that the poor thing no longer has any covers.
A month or so ago, realising that I could make a greater number of Indian dishes than Romanian, I decided to try my hand at creating some of the dishes I love. I was never a fan of the heavy, fatty, go-out-into-the-field-and-work Romanian foods, but there are a few basic dishes that I could eat every day for the rest of my life. Like salata de vinete (roasted eggplant salad). And clatite (crepes). And salata de ardei copti (roasted red pepper salad). And papanasi (cheese donuts). And snitel (schnitzel).
Unfortunately, I wasn't at home, and although a growing number of Romanian recipes is available on the internet, I had no idea which ones to trust. Until I found that someone, bless their soul, had digitized Sanda Marin.
Gleefully, I downloaded the pdf (no frayed covers!). Imagine my surprise when faced with the vagaries of Romanian cookbooks... you get the right weights and measures for recipes, but are then told to "spice to taste." No clue on what the spices should be. Just spice it with what you like. The recipes are, in general, meant for people who already know the dishes, know how they want them to taste, and let's be honest here, probably know how to cook them already -- they just need a reminder. Sanda Marin reminds.
Well, I don't know how to cook all of these things, and for some of them, I don't even know how I want them to taste. But I do have a mother and two grandmothers who are reachable by telephone. So here goes.