What are the first things you think of when you say “summer”?
I, for example, I think of the scorching sun, the seas, the storms that darken the sky for a short time, the evenings when I can not sleep because of the heat and stay awake traveling to distant lands I read about in books or which I see in the movies. And of course, I think of the absolutely sensational fruit and vegetables that I cannot get enough of!
I remember that a few years ago, I was in a bistro teaching about healthy food, based on salads, juices, fruits and vegetables. One hot summer day, I wanted to eat a Caprese salad. You know, those slices of mozzarella with sliced tomatoes, basil and olive oil on top. A very simple preparation, but so very tasty, whose success depends less on the talent of the chef, but mostly on the chosen ingredients.
And before I continue the story, I would like to make a small parenthesis: imagine what summer looks like in the markets. What colors come to your mind first? Definitely green and red, right? Obviously the juicy ripe tomatoes, the spring greens of all shades.
Well, when I got slammed on the plate with some green stuff without taste or smell, I could not help but ask: how in God’s name, in midsummer, the high season for tomatoes, I get this? And more so, in a place supposed to abound in fresh fruit and vegetables! And the problem is that there are numerous examples of this kind: how many high-brow restaurants with quite unreasonably high prices do exactly the same? There are places where profit matters unfortunately more service and quality. And it is time to discourage such an attitude!
As I said in a previous article, I am a strong believer in the importance of eating seasonal food. It is the best way of eating food with a high concentration of (natural) nutrients and really, really tasty on top!
Moreover, there is a theory which says that it is actually healthiest to eat only the fruit off the ground that you were born. This theory gave rise to a term which in 2007 was the “word of the year”: “locavore“. This word designates someone who prefers local, seasonal, ingredients which can be bought and prepared without the need for preservatives.
If a few years ago, I would have dismissed it as just another trend, it seems that this concept has caught on and grown organically in society. And I am glad that there are strong initiatives in this respect, I encourage them wholeheartedly!
I often see people interested in buying only Romanian products, untreated and unharmed by chemicals. And there are quite a lot of small traders that can actually satisfy this need. Sure, there’s still a long way to go, but at society level we have begun to make small but firm steps in this respect and I hope that in the near future we will all eat fresh, healthy, food, with no additives or other chemicals, grown in the garden, grown just as our grandparents once did.
For this reason, whenever I see a restaurant where the salads are prepared with local, seasonal, carefully chosen, ingredients, I become a loyal customer of that place. I think that, gradually, more and more places begin to adapt their cuisine to market needs, reinvent their kitchens and become really proud of their offer. Romania is particularly generous in its food offer. A highly important asset, which I think would be good, not just for us, but especially for future generations to acknowledge, appreciate and promote.
And even at the risk to be considered subjective, I must confess that I was very happy to meet Ashlie Dias last year, the Executive Chef of Crowne Plaza Bucharest hotel and of Citronelle Restaurant, and to see that they have adopted exactly what I described above: a menu based on the “market to table” philosophy, enriched with plenty of enticing ingredients to cool you down during the hot days in the city.
Oh, and just writing and thinking about food, I got a sudden craving for a good portion of Romanian tomato salad with mozzarella and fresh basil from my balcony. So I invite you to do the same thing … after all, it is a “hot summer in the city”. Let’s savor it entirely, with all its authentic tastes!
Article by Sonia Argint Ionescu, TVR presenter