Sunday, August 10, 2008

Here's to you, Sanda Marin

"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.


Romfoody said...

I bought Sandra Marin's book last year; it has recently been re-published here in Ro. I know what you mean about the vagueness of the quantities. I have the same problem with some of Radu Anton Roman's recipes. I don't know if you can find a copy of his book there, but I'd certainly recommend it if so.

i said...

Romfoody, thanks for this comment too. I didn't know about Radu Anton Roman's book -- it looks like the closest I'll get to buying a copy will be when I'm in Germany later this year, and can order the French translation of his book from . (Yes, this is how disconnected I am from Mother Country -- I've read more Eliade in French, English, and German than in my native tongue!)

The quantities issue -- reminds me of a lot of medieval cookery books. But you know what? I so rarely take quantities seriously in cookbooks I read, and certainly not the second time I make a recipe, that it sort of appeals to me too. Like, who can really tell me how much garlic or onion I should put in a dish?

Anonymous said...

>> The quantities issue -- reminds me of a lot of medieval cookery books.

Well, what can I say? Cooking is an art... while taste differs from one to another. Some ppl like more salt in the food, others more curry. There is nothing vague in Sanda Marin's cooking book, it's only accommodating various tastes.

You said (and this is long time ago, by now) that u can cook East Indian dishes. Mild for the means extremely hot 4 Europeans. Imagine hot fancy should be their quantities...

But, my last 2 penny thing is why u took that "romanian medieval cookery book" on 3 continents?... and used a lot over there?... C'mon...