Home page

Romanians watching you eat

Romanians are attentive about food and eating behaviors, and it identifies them as Continental European. Europeans react socially when they see a person with a meal. Romanians participate in this custom.

I stayed for a month in a small Romanian town with an elderly gentleman in the summer of 2009 and ate at his table. I ate well. Anyhow, I made the "mistake" of taking a bit of the salad and putting it upon my own plate. Dle. Ardelean told his daughter about how I was "mixing the salad with the rice." That's because that's what he had "seen." I'd merely put it on my plate, alongside my other food. This was not right, to him, and it was wrong in a way that he thought was bizarre.

With food, social policies become acute, and expectations of behavior more specific with still no universal clarity on what's expected. In Europe, this begins with a pofta buna, but inveigles itself deeper.

Pofta buna (enjoy well) or pofta mare (enjoy big) are the wider-European "enjoy your meal." Eet smakelijk, bon appetit, buen aproveche all express a behavior that is variably obligatory. There are occasions when you have to say them, or break custom.

And that's where it starts. People in these cultures seem to involve themselves in gustatory habits without considering it may seem rude to anybody.

Older people tend to be more conservative everywhere. But, later, on the terrace of a bar, Buna's grandson >showed me a similar traditionialism. I was having chicken wings with a plate of bread. I was enjoying it, when Daniel asked me why I was not alternating between one bite of each. This is socially proper in Romania, and apparently thought universal, there.