Posted in celebrations, Culture, Food, Peace Corps

La Mulți Ani (Happy Birthday!)

This is what the table looked like before we sat down to eat. Believe it or not, this is only PART of the meal.

How do you celebrate your birthday?  With a cake?  Maybe some presents?  If you are in Moldova, chances are you invite folks to visit you, and probably a lot of food is involved.  If you are Anastasia, my host mom’s beloved granddaughter, and you are visiting your grandmother who loves to cook, everyone is in for a treat!  On Sunday, February 4th, about 15 people gathered and spent at least 4 hours enjoying massive amounts of delicious food at a traditional Moldovan masa. Preparations for this wondrous repast began on Friday night, when a friend came to help Sasha prepare kurnice (kind of like chicken pies) and sarmale (little cabbage rolls), and continued all day Saturday when Sasha’s daughter joined the work force.  Here are a few events I managed to photograph: (Click for larger pictures or mouse-over for captions. Post continues below)

There are many other things I wish I could have captured:

  • The first several people to arrive were more comfortable conversing amongst themselves in  Russian, but made room for me in their circle, and kindly attempted to include me in the small-talk.  Sasha made a point of asking everyone to please speak Romanian so that Valerie can understand.
  • Jokes.  They must have been jokes, although they were in Russian, and I couldn’t understand a bit, because everyone laughed so hard!  Three jovial men were the main protagonists, and I wish I had a photo of their mischievous, gray-haired faces suffused with mirth as they  rocked with laughter!
  • A young man, also named Sasha* was in charge of pouring wine at our end of the table.  I wish I had a picture of his face when I asked him to add a little champagne to a glass already mostly full of peach juice.  Evidently combining these elements just isn’t done.
  • Maria, my host mom’s oldest sister, who is a retired English teacher and who repeatedly translated her husband’s (Russia) anecdotes into Romanian for me.  I also noticed her translating in the other direction occasionally.
  • The REST of the food!  After we grazed on the great variety of food set out on the table (see picture above), we were served quail and potatoes with pickled watermelon and tomatoes, then sarmale, then layered jello with fruit, then chocolate cake with coffee.
  • The cat, who couldn’t decide whether to play with people’s toes, beg for food, or run and hide from all the commotion!

*Note for fellow language nerds: “Sasha” can be a nickname for “Alexandra” or for “Alexander,” which is why I was sharing a meal with both a feminine and a masculine Sasha.

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