My big fat (vegetarian) Moldovan diet

I have wanted to write this post for a while, but I haven’t had the time yet. Fortunately, Sundays are often a slow day so here it goes. One of my biggest concerns for coming in the Peace Corps was having to compromise my vegetarian diet. I have been one since I was 10, and I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight. I filled out many essays throughout the application process saying that if I felt it was necessary for my health and safety or for the assimilation into a new culture, I would abandon my dietary restrictions and bite the meaty bullet. I wasn’t lying when I said those, I’m just pretty stubborn and don’t want to have to change. Fortunately for me, there’s a plethora of wonderful and delicious vegetarian foods. Bre’s meals include many of the same things as mine but also have a meat dish of some sort.
To start our day we have breakfast that usually consists of tea or coffee along with a porridge/gruel and some bread with butter and cheese. This also seems like a good time to defend the word gruel. That stuff’s delicious. I like to add some of our host family’s home-farmed honey to it and it’s great.
For lunch I have had a wide variety of dishes ranging from placenta (not -that- placenta, but “pluh-chen-tuh” which is a pastry that can be filled with many different things. Our variety is egg/dill/onion/brinza(a sour goat cheese)) to sandwiches to even grilled cheese, which I introduced to Eastern Europe. This is also accompanied by plenty of fruit such as mere (apples), banane (bananas), portocale (oranges), castroveţi (cucumbers), and roşii (tomatoes). Sometimes we also have hardboiled eggs.
Dinner has brought a wide variety of foods for me. Every night we have a salad, often consisting of varza (cabbage) with castroveţi (cucumbers), roşii (tomatoes), and dill. The dressing is olive oil and salt. Additionally we have slices of bread that are either from a loaf of french bread or a loaf of homemade bread. Some meals actually come with homemade french fries. Next comes the variety. We have had:
-a dish that is a saucy rice with mushrooms and parsley, covered with some melted cheese.
– Culţunaşi – a homemade ravioli filled with brinza and tossed in butter. Served with smîntînă (sour cream). E foarte delicios!
– Soup. Not sure of everything in it. I know it has cartofi (potatoes) and parsley. I can’t remember what else but it’s good and vegetarian.
– Spaghetti, often just tossed in oil with some salt and maybe a bit of cheese.
– Mamaliga, which is similar to polenta in the US. It is basically cornbread that was taken out of the oven after half of the cooking time is completed. My family makes it softer though some families make it a bit firmer so you can roll it into balls with your hands. This is accompanied by any combination of the following:
– cheese
– sour cream
– fried pork fat (none for me!)
– from time to time there is not a specific main dish for me, but mama gazda won’t allow me to have fewer options than everyone else so she will throw together a few egg-related dishes such as soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, or a sort of egg salad dish.
I’m sure I’m omitting plenty of things I’ve eaten here, but this is just to reassure vegetarians that Moldova is (at least in non-winter times) definitely vegetarianable. I’ve also been fortunate enough to convince my familia gazda to let me cook pizza, American style (pizza exists here, but it isn’t the same.) I have some pictures, but I’m not sure if I’ll post them here since they contain my host family. I’ll probably ask their permission and if they are okay with it then I’ll throw them on here.


10 thoughts on “My big fat (vegetarian) Moldovan diet”

  1. So glad to hear this is working. Please thank your new mama from me for accomodating you! I hope your next mama is as supportive. Just had some goat cheese last weekend and wasn’t a big fan. Hmmm….I guess I could acquire a taste, but I like cream cheese better. Love the word “vegetarianable”. Tell us more about gruel. What does it consist of? Just the word is enough to turn me off, but I have no clue what’s in it.
    I thought it was interesting that you told me on Skype once that you eat tomatoes much like we eat apples…whole. Would love to see pics of the fam if they are willing!

  2. I was more than a bit concerned about you, Moldova, and the vegetarian thing. What a relief it is to find that you have pulled it off! (Or that you and your host “Mother” have done it.)

    Keep them cards and letters coming. I’ve missed hearing anything for several days; but I do understand that you are a teensy bit busy just now. Nonetheless, every entry is great.


  3. I am happy you both are liking your food. Once Jer & I were at friends house for the first time and before dinner they brought out goat cheese we were concern about eating it but turned out we sat there and ate the whole dish with crackers since then I have served it.

  4. Hey guys, I’m so happy to hear that you’ve apparently become acclimated in such a short period of time. I would imagine it would take me the better part of the entire experience to become as comfortable as you appear to be after less than a month. The posts are as entertaining as they are informative, so please keep them coming and we’ll keep reading them. Let me know about the skype sessions. I know how to log on and all, but don’t know how you schedule them. We’ll talk soon!


    1. It’s really surprising how quickly you can get accustomed to a new culture when you are completely immersed in it. I think the fact that we have a great family hosting us is very helpful too. Our Skype sessions aren’t really planned, they pretty much just happen whenever we end up being online at the same time as someone else. The biggest difficulty with that is the fact that we are 8 hours away so when we do end up getting a little bit of time for being online it is sometimes around 4 or 5 in the morning stateside. Either send us your name on skype or I think ours is on the website somewhere so we can add eachother and hopefully catch eachother online at some point.

    1. I’m glad too. Many other Peace Corps countries are not as accommodating for vegetarians as Moldova so I have definitely gotten lucky about this.

  5. Hi Tim!

    I know this blog is a couple of years old, but I just got nominated to Moldova for the Peace Corps and I would love to talk to you about your experience as a vegetarian there, Would that be possible?
    Thank you!!!

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