My father’s side of the family is from Lithuania. My Great Grandparents traveled to the US with their families (or by themselves) around 1913 to 1915. Between 1868 and 1914, almost 20 percent of the Lithuanian population left Lithuania due to a famine in 1868-1869 and Russian rule. My dad’s family, after various other locations, settled in Chicago and Cicero, IL. His grandmother, Eleanor (Teodora) Stucinskas, was very important in his life. She lived to be a few months shy of 107 years of age.
Growing up, my family would visit my Great Grandmother for holidays and birthdays. Even if we were going to go to out to dinner or to a party somewhere else, my Great Grandmother would say “let’s have a snack first” or when we returned back to her house, “you must still be hungry” and suddenly the table would be filled with food that she had been preparing for the past week. Many times it was just the 5 of us and there would be food for 15 people. I had never experienced this elsewhere and now, while living in Moldova, I have found a culture that shares her food hospitality.
When Moldovans get together, they have a beautiful feast that they call “Masă “. A masă is for birthdays, holidays or any time people get together. My reuse/environmental brain did a happy dance when I found out that many of the dishes are served on small plates and then multiple plates are placed on the table. Moldovans don’t have this one special plate for a dish or a stockpile of large cumbersome dishes that take up tons of room in the kitchen but are only used one or two times a year. These small plates are used daily and the “back stock” takes up a relatively small space in a cupboard.
Throughout the meal, more small plates will be brought out with new dishes. Items are consolidated to make room or the new dishes are just piled on top of the others. Moldovans are master Tetris “Plate” players.
I help on occasion to make some of the dishes. This fall I made one of the layered salads: layers of sardine type fish, beets, potatoes, and carrots, mayonnaise between layers and topped with olives and shredded eggs.
Moldovans also don’t hold back when someone stops by for “ospeţie”; a time to visit with friends and family. Moldovans can put together snacks or a meal in seconds and suddenly the table is filled with four or five dishes and wine for their guests to enjoy. And the whole time saying “Mananci! Mananci!” (Eat! Eat!)