Time to talk about good old slanina. Yep. If you travel to Eastern Europe, sooner or later you’re going to run into it so time to learn about it NOW.
As I mentioned in my earlier post on drinking, the very first day I was in Romania, I spent a few hours in the home of a Romanian couple who didn’t speak English. They poured me many fine shots of very strong alcohol but they also fed me many delicious and varied Romanian foods.
They also gave me a slice of slanina. At the time, I had no idea what it was. Sitting on my plate it looked like one very oily and severely undercooked French fry. I took a bite of it, thinking it was some kind of potato, and found it to be cold, loathsome and hideously greasy.
My host kept saying, “Slanina, slanina” and I looked in my pathetic guidebook and there it was: slanina – pork fat.
Imagine taking a pig and slicing off thick slabs of pure fat. You take this fat and either smoke it or salt it or both. Then you leave it to hang somewhere dry for a long time and this is what slanina is. It isn’t “bacon” in any sense of the word because proper slanina is about 99% fat and no meat.
These days, I don’t even eat animal products anymore, but regrettably I got introduced to slanina the wrong way – when you’re not expecting it to be a hot, crunchy French fry, it’s actually pretty good.
Around where I live, the proper way to eat slanina is to throw it on the grill and get it nice and toasted and then eat it with (raw) onions. I was talking to a friend of mine last night who had just gone to a “barbeque” slash cookout and I asked her if she had eaten any slanina and onions. She looked at me as if I had asked her if the sky was blue. “Of course!” was her reply.
Another popular method to eat it is to impale a slice of slanina on a wooden stick, roast it over a campfire until it begins to drip and then catch the drippings on a piece of bread.
I know to many western sensibilities, slanina seems a little “wrong” in the sense that it’s all, you know, pure fat. But really it’s just a cousin of ordinary bacon. And if you DO eat meat and you DO like bacon, give slanina a try. I think you’ll really like it.
POFTA MARE, MY FRIEND!