Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Ode to Cheese!

An Ode to Cheese - salty cheese, sweet cheese, smelly cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese! - turned into a dance party with Tanti Selia.  Hearing the music I was playing around with for this video about syrniki - a most delicious ode to cheese - Tanti Selia couldn't help but be moved to dance.  And so what started as a celebration of the wonderful aspects of cheese in the form of this delicious dish, turned into reliving the times of Selia and my grandparents' youth... 

"We were young, students, without anything to eat, during the war, but we danced!" Selia tells me, speaking of the time she and so many others from Romania spent as refugees in Buguruslan, Siberia (Russia) during the Nazi occupation in 1941.

A stark contrast to those times of scarcity, these days you can find an abundance of Russian food stores and bakeries in Northeast Philadelphia, where Selia lives.  Her daughter Nama (my adopted Philly mother, who grew up playing in the same yard with my Dad) says that her favorite is Gastronomia on the corner of Red Lion and Bustleton.

And that is where Nama bought these syrniki that inspired the above Ode to Cheese.  In the Northeast here the food reminds me of a lot of food from Moldova, especially the farmer's cheese that these delectable treats and filled with.  In Chisinau, Moldova, we call it brinza.  It comes sweet, salty, and natural and at the market, the vendors will let you try a bit of this kind and that kind so you can choose just the right brinza for your taste.  We don't really have anything like brinza in Seattle, so my Grandma Raia used to make it herself.  I still remember the cheesecloth hanging from one of the kitchen cabinets, straining.  The process took a few days.

So here you have it - an ode to food and to dance.  At 89 years of age, Selia can dance up a storm on the dance floor, because dancing, like eating is a life-long endeavor!

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