Monday, January 29, 2007

Fillet of Crap

I recently discovered this video, which purports to show "A World Without Romania"

I learned one or two interesting things from it - like about Nicolae Paulescu, who invented insulin, and learned what it was that Henri Coanda (who up till that point had been nothing but the name of an airport*) was famous for.

However, I started to disbelieve what I had been told by the video when it reached the bit which mentions that Romania has created the "most mouthwatering dishes in the world". Now, I have no wish to offend anyone, but come on. Coming from a nation which has a global reputation for producing some of the world's worst food, I am not about to start comparing Romanian cuisine to English here, but really without trying I could think of at least 50 countries which have better food than Romania. And that's before starting to subdivide countries like India and China into different regional cuisines. Of the three commonly-quoted traditional "national" Romanian dishes, two of them (sarmale and ciorba de burta) are almost certainly Turkish anyway, and the third (mamaliga) gets translated as "corn mush" on menus. This is not, of course, to say that Romanian food is bad, but it's not up there among the world's great cuisines. How many Romanian restaurants are there in a place like London, for example?

It's a shame, because until that point, I had been enjoying the video, although the fact that they had chosen someone to narrate it who couldn't pronounce Romanian words to save his life was a bit of a let-down. I think the pronunciation of "multumesc" (sic) is the lowest point. The Romanian pre-cursor to baseball, therefore, following on from the ludicrous food statement, was significantly less interesting than it would otherwise have been. Of course when it gets to the end you realise it's an ad for Ursus beer, which also lowers the tone somewhat, and possibly explains the bland "trailer for a poor quality Hollywood action movie" aesthetic (Ursus being a beer brewed by that bastion of blandicity, Miller).

Anyway, watch it (it's about 5 minutes long) if you have the time.

[*Spotters badge for anyone who can spot the pop culture reference here without resorting to google]


Anonymous said...


I was in Romania for the first time a couple of months ago and really liked Ursus beer.

In saying that, I don't usually drink lagers (as, more often than not, they are shite).

Did my taste-buds deceive me?

Andy said...

It's not bad, Reg, as lagers go. I have obviously written this very ambiguously - my point was that Miller (the US "beer") was bland and insipid (they happen to own Ursus).

You're the second person to get the impression that I was dissing Ursus (the first being here), which rather lets me know that it was badly written.

By the way you can see the beginnings of a tasty argument on the comments to that post. Sadly my opponent has got on a train to Copenhagen (no idea from where) and left me to my own devices)

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think your taste buds did deceive you - I reckon that Ursus (and Stejar which they also make) are rather good, and (as already intimated) surely the tastiest thing in the Miller cellar! (But then I'm a Clujeano now, so maybe I am biased). The video is glorious. It's only fair that a country with quite a low profile, relative to the others mentioned, should sing its own praises. Coanda, definitely yes - and Vlaicu and Vuia too please. Add Babes (rabies vaccine etc) to the insulin guy. A few people from other groups born and raised here wouldn't go amiss - I'd have Bartok. How about Hahnemann the German doctor guy who developed the principles of homeopathy by studing in the Brukenthal library in Sibiu? (I'm English and engaged to a Romanian - I have no axe to grind.) Please don't mention Romanian food in this company though.... :-)

Anonymous said...

How many Romanian restaurants are there in a place like London, for example

Mmmm, can't remember any, there was one very expensive Hungarian one, "The Gay Hussar" or something such like. Found a Romanian restaurant in Tel Aviv though, I had a shish kebab from memory...

Andy said...

I've eaten in the Gay Hussar. Erika took me there on our first trip to the city. It's full of pictures of (UK) politicians - it's a favoured haunt of MPs apparently.

It was pretty good, though overpriced.

Andy said...

Gadjo: I think it would be a stretch having Bartok - he wasn't born in Romania (though the place he was born was in Romania by the time he died). There's loads of weird bits about the video though - pictures of Bran Castle inn which Vlad Tepes may possibly have spent one night to illustrate a connection with Dracula? Ducadam's saves in the European Cup Final but no Hagi? No Ilie Nastase? None of the writers?

Andy said...

But having said that, if you include Bartok, it would be worth also including Janos Bolyai (to go along side-by-side with your Babes suggestion :)) as the inventor of non-Euclidean geometry.

(Is "inventor" the right word there? Possibly "founder"?)

Anonymous said...

Ah yes - as somebody from an island race, I still haven't got the hang of this boundary changing thang.... Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it a little disturbing to see pictures of Jews praying when Iron Guard sympathiser Mircea Eliade was being extolled? (My appreciation of Romanian history is mainly culled from The Rough Guide to Romania, an outsiders viewpoint.)

Sebi Buhai said...

Hey Andy,

I got in a train to Copenhagen from Aarhus, where I reside for the moment (I sort of commute now and then to Amsterdam as well, where I still have to finish my PhD) :-). But I'll write a post about this trip to Copenhagen on my blog- it was at the EU Commission representative in DK, to "celebrate" the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in EU (with addresses from teh Prime Minister of DK, the Bulgarian Ambassador to DK and the Romanian Ambassador to DK). So very much linked to our topic:-).

Oh, the unfinished thread on Dan's blog: I've certainly tried most British ales you mention, after all I've been for quite a few months in London (visiting University College London Dep of Economics) and so it that couldn't have been passed :-). But there's nothing in the beer domain that approaches the Belgium tripples :-). But we go nowhere with this discussion, it cannot turn objective (unless you accept the supremacy of the Belgian beers :-)).

I see that you guys are pretty much interested in knowing things about Romania (beyond stereotypes) so I'll let you know in advance that I and Dan Anghel are working on a project that will bring Romania to outsiders, so to speak, and will invite all opinions from outside as well, on all series of topics. Andy is already somebody we'd like to hear from, of course :-). And we believe we are far more echilibrated in our opinions than probably most Romanians you've ever met :-). That of course remains to be proven.

Sebi Buhai said...

major lapsus calami in my comment above (I never preview my comments...): My Romanian-English hybrid "echilibrated" should be read "equilibrated".

Andy said...

Cheers Sebi, Look forward to hearing more about your project.

Since no-one's going for it, the obscure reference in the Henri Coanda bit was from Gil Scott-Heron's "B-Movie" - specifically the line "John Foster Dulles ain't nothing but the name of an airport now."

(Full text here)

Andy said...

As if by magic, Sebi, the NYT has run a restaurant review of a new Romanian restaurant (thougha fair few of those dishes sound Hungarian to me :-))

Anonymous said...

"How many Romanian restaurants are there in a place like London, for example"

There's even a Romanian restaurant in Dublin now - called (ever so imaginatively) "Transylvania".

I've never been but have always meant to wander in.

Given its name, it might serve Hungarian food as well.

Anonymous said...

According to a recent BBC News article, there are three Romanian resturants in London; one near the Old Bailey, one in Edmonton, and one in Mill Hill. See "Romanians put trust in hard work" from 3rd January 2007.

Sebi Buhai said...

Hey Andy,

It's really funny because when I wanted to tell you that the number of Romanian restaurants in London would not be a proxy (even approximate) for the quality of teh Romanian food quality the first thing that crossed my mind was the number of Ro restaurants in New York. I have only been there once and for a few days but there is for instance (to my surprise!) a street where there are no less than 3 Romanian restaurants; there are prolly more in total (and they should be less in number than the ones in Chicago, for sure- but I have not been there yet) . I am not sure any longer if the one I have been to for dinner is the one reviewed by NYT, though that was also in Queens. Very interesting review though, I should make a link to it on my blog as well.

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