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Food History

December 7, 2005


s resurrected anthem

Romania is a linguistic oasis in a sea of Slavic languages. There are five romance languages, of which French, Italian, Portugese and Spanish are spoken in Western Europe. The fifth is Latin-based Romanian, the official language of Romania, deeply isolated in Eastern Europe.

The country was once known as Dacia. In 106 AD, Dacia was conquered by the Roman Emperor Trajan. For the next 165 years, Roman or Latin was the official language for trade and commerce. Today some 26 million people speak Romanian, and Trajan is remembered in verse two of their national anthem.

Dacia/Romania was a valuable prize. Almost half the land in the Oregon-sized country is arable, providing a surplus of food for export. More recently, valuable deposits of coal and petroleum have been found. After Roman rule ended in 271, Romania was occupied by a succession of foreign invaders; Goths, Huns and Magyar tribes, until the Islamic Ottoman Empire conquered the area in the 16th century. Their rule would continue until 1848. That year, the Romanians rose in rebellion. The rebellion was crushed, but one treasure was saved. Two patriots had written them an inspiring national anthem.

The hymn was &

Desteapta-te Romane&

(Awake Thee, Romania). The lyrics were by poet Andrei Muresan; the music by Anton Pann. The Ottomans forbade the song because it inspired the people to fight for independence. It was driven underground, dormant but not dead.

In 1877, the plucky Romanians rose again. &

Awake Thee, Romania&

was resurrected as their national anthem. Their war for independence ended with the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. After 17 centuries, Romania was an independent kingdom.

World War I pitted the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States) against the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Romania was isolated by geography but its residents sided with the Allies. They had modeled their government and culture on the French. In fact, their capital, Bucharest, is known as &

the Paris of Eastern Europe.&

Pressured by Hitler, Romania sided with Germany in World War II. On Aug. 23, 1944, the pro-Axis government was toppled. The new government declared war on their former allies. This did not prevent Romania&

s occupation by Soviet troops. In December 1947, King Michael was forced to abdicate and the country became a Communist satellite. There was another casualty. &

Awake Thee, Romania,&

was replaced by a new national anthem praising their ties to the Soviet Union.

On Dec. 22, 1989, the old anthem was sung in the streets again, uniting the masses to overthrow the repressive Communist regime. One of the first acts of the new democratic government was to make &


their national anthem. The first verse is a call to action:

"Awake thee, Romania, shake off thy deadly slumber;

The scourge of inauspicious barbarian tyrannies;

And now or never to a bright horizon clamber;

That shall to shame put all your nocuous enemies."

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes is a nourishing Romanian dish. Cooked rice can be substituted for the bulgar wheat.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

8 large ripe tomatoes

2 cups crumbled blue cheese

4 cups cooked bulgar wheat

4 scallions, finely chopped

6 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons lemon huice

Cut off tops of tomatoes, scoop out pulp, leaving a quarter-inch rind. Discard seeds, chop pulp with other ingredients except one quarter cup cheese. Stuff tomatoes with mixture, mounding on top. Dot with butter then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degress about 25 minutes. Serve.