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Conservative eating customs in Romania

Romanians have a fixation on mealtime customs that encourages me to believe that the European "enjoy your meal" is nearly universal on the Continent.

I stayed for a month in a small Romanian town with the father of a friend of mine, an elderly gentleman, in the summer of 2009. I ate at his table — and he was generous. But he was also overly-concerned about how I ate.

At the Romanian table a salad is placed on the table for everyone to eat from the bowl directly.

I made the "mistake" of taking a bit of the salad — thin-sliced pickled cabbage, in this case — and putting it on my own plate.

My host later told his daughter that I was "mixing the salad with the rice." I'd merely put it on my plate, alongside other food. This was wrong, to him, and apparently somewhat bizarre.

One afternoon I was I was on a terrace of with a young frien, having a plate of chicken wings and bread. (Bread, bread — always bread at the Romanian table.)

Eating, enjoying, I was not paying attention to my comportment. My friend asked me "why do you not eat one piece of chicken, then one piece of bread, and then another piece of chicken?"... Apparently this is the correct procedure, and even a young man was discomforted by my non-traditional method.