Long-suffering, regular readers may well remember that last year we bravely admitted that we did not like tuica, coming out as visinata drinkers instead.
While a year on we have yet to change our opinion of tuica (in fact we dislike it even more: the mere smell of the stuff makes us run a mile) there is one Romanian speciality (or peculiarity, depending on your viewpoint) which – over the past 18 months or so – we have come to rather like: slana, or slanina (smoked pork fat).
How things change. We well remember the first time we were confronted with the stuff. We asked (in all innocence): What did you do with the good bit of the bacon?
We really couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to eat the fat of the pork instead of the lean. At the time we genuinely didn’t know that the lean had of course been put to other – very good – uses, either as ham or kaiser or numerous other tasty, piggy treats. It seems stupid now but we did – for a while – actually think that those funny locals cut off the actual bacon, threw it away, and ate the fat instead. For such nonsensical thinking we would like to take this opportunity – a couple of decades too late perhaps – to formally apologise.
As an act of contrition for all this, however, what could be better than actually having to completely change our opinion on the matter?
We are not sure exactly when it happened, but our conversion to the delights of pork fat has been complete for at least a year now. It was our father-in-law’s increasingly good slanina which finally won us over, and we are grateful for the fact that he never gave up on us. Like it or not slanina would appear on our plate every time we ate a meal, and one day it was so good we couldn’t get enough. Believe us: when good, it is very, very good. What looks so inedible in fact melts in the mouth (if it has been smoked properly), and despite the fact that it’s incredibly unhealthy, a heavily smoked piece of slanina, eaten with a crispy baguette, a strong onion and some cheese is fabulous: Romania’s culinary gift to the world. (Romanian pork in general by the way is worthy of the highest praise, in all its forms, be it ceafa, kaiser, costita or – our favourite – ciolan).
Ironically, the usual liquid accompaniment to slanina is of course a glass of tuica. Maybe we will come to like that in time. Don’t hold your breath though.