I learned how to cook from Omama, my beloved grandma. I loved joining her in the kitchen since I was about 4 years old. I can still smell the wonderful aroma of garlic and onion sauteing, eggplants and peppers roasting, stuffed cabbage or Okra stewing in tomato sauce, or an apple strudel baking in the oven. Omama was an amazing cook, she and all of my mom’s family came from Romania, with an origin in Bulgaria, so the delicious foods of the Balkans were her specialty.
Romanian people love garlic and use it in nearly every dish. In Romania there is almost an obsession with garlic on an epic scale… You’ll be surprised to know that there are some very good reasons for that, and for what garlic means to their culture.
As we know, Romania is the home of Transylvania, where the vampires, and dark folklore originated, and popularized here by Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Because Romania has such a cultural link to vampires and evil spirits, this has given rise to other legends, such as garlic being used as a repellent to ward them off. Garlic has also been used to repel the evil eye. This could be one of the major reasons why Romanians are so obsessed with garlic, and why it plays a big role in their culture. Growing up in a Romanian family, I remember that whenever I was dressed up and looked all pretty, my mom tucked garlic in my clothes to repel the evil eye of others...
Romanians love garlic as a staple part of much of their food. There is no denying that garlic add a lot of flavor and tastes delicious. The Romanians love it so much, that they have a sauce known as mujdei, which is crushed garlic cloves, heavily salted, and mixed with water and oil. This sauce is served in many restaurants throughout the country and is hugely popular among the local population of Romania.
Mujdei is something that can go with any kind of food, and the locals even spread it on bread. It is also used on steak, Romanian Kebabs, and fish, garlic is seen as one of the most common and important additions to the cuisine of the nation.
I took this photograph with my Omama, and my great grandmother, Vavika, in mind, and the garlic that was such a part of their (and my) kitchen and tradition.