Daily food customs at school and at home
Despite of the many changes that people had to experience in the past twenty years, when they had to remodel their lifestyle in numerous ways, it seems that food customs in Romania still remain constant, following the well established rules of many past generations.
One of these golden rules states, that the best food anyone can eat is the one prepared by his or her mother. Maybe this is the reason why Romania might be one of few countries in Europe where cafeteria lunches aren’t very popular and only a few schools are equipped with kitchens and lunchrooms to accommodate food preparation and consumption. The majority of schoolchildren go home at the end of their school day (12/1/2 o’clock) and eat homemade food.
But of course there is one major meal and a snack before lunchtime, so let’s concentrate on those before lunch. A typical weekday breakfast in Romania is based on bread and a spread. Good old lard has been replaced with butter or its terrible sister margarine, and children usually drink tea or hot chocolate to get started on their daily fluid intake. However, cereal consumption came into fashion as multinational companies started commercializing their products, and as they are really time saving meals they start to gain popularity.
Weekend breakfasts tend to be more sophisticated, as with time on hand and the whole family around the table for more than ten minutes, mothers or fathers venture into creating various egg dishes like omelets, scrambled eggs, which are usually accompanied by processed meat products like bacon or salami. Eggs are the main ingredient of an all-time favorite, egg-bread (a salty version of French toast), which is a slice of bread soaked in scrambled eggs, and then deep fried.
Lunchrooms might not be very popular in Romania, but lunchboxes sure are. Everybody arrives to school prepared with a snack which is consumed at recess, mostly at ten o’clock, as classes begin at eight. Sandwiches are the most popular school snacks, and they are paired most of the time with a fruit, overwhelmingly an apple. Bread used for these sandwiches may vary in shape and shade. An all time favorite is “kifli”, which is basically a baguette, but a third of its size. The Romanian government recognized the importance of breakfast for school children, and also realized the poverty level of the population in some areas, so it began a program where it offers a mini baguette and a small box of milk for every child in the public school system.
As mentioned above, cafeteria lunches do not characterize Romanian society. Where children do eat at school, the health department has strict rules regarding calorie intake and type of food served to them. There is only one problem. When children eat out of their home a lot of food gets wasted. Only at home do parents or grandparents watch over their children and gently “force” them to eat first course, second course, and desert. Excuse me, there is no need to convince for desert, but it is years and years of convincing when it comes to healthy food. For economic reasons wasting food is discouraged in Romania, where everybody tries to be thrifty.
Transylvanian cuisine has a great arsenal of delicious soups that do not appeal to children. They would try to narrow it down to chicken noodle soup, but excellent vegetable and sour soups are available, and they are prepared on a daily basis. Eating soup is believed to be the only way to good health. For second course stews and cooked vegetables are staple foods often paired with meat.
My conclusion is that Romania still possesses good eating habits and it hasn’t given in to fast food yet. We seem to be able to pass on to our children our old recipes which we are proud of, and which are indispensable from our everyday or festive meals.