by Tat’yana Berdan
My mom doesn’t really use recipes. The few she has, she keeps written down in an old journal she brought with her when my family immigrated to Charlotte, North Carolina from Tiraspol, Moldova 14 years ago. When I asked her for a recipe to feature in this blog, she told me I had to come home and cook with her, that’s the only way I’d learn. We would make one of my favorites: platsindi, a fritter-like, pan-fried Moldovan dish served with a variety of fillings.
My mother and I have squabbled about her obstinacy against writing her recipes down. Like many moms of college-aged children, she constantly laments my inability to cook anything that doesn’t come in a pack of 12 at Costco with microwave instructions on the back. “How can I cook if I don’t have a recipe?” is what I always ask. “If you cooked more often, you wouldn’t need a recipe,” is always her response.
But if I had a recipe, I wouldn’t mess up and could cook whenever I wanted, isn’t that the point, mom?
Mom’s Never-Before-Written Platsindi Recipe
-4 cups water at room temperature
-12 cups of all-purpose flour
-1 tbsp. of salt
-3 tbsps. of vegetable oil
Mix ingredients together, adding cups of flour as necessary until dough no longer sticks to your hands. Let stand for 30 to 40 minutes while preparing filling.
-finely chopped potatoes (3/4 cup per platsinda)
-finely chopped green onions (3/4 cup per platsinda)
-graded feta cheese (3/4 cup per platsinda)
-several pinches of dill or parsley
-several pinches of chopped onion
-1 tsp. vegetable oil
-salt and pepper to taste
For potato filling, mix potatoes, onions, dill, and seasoning.
For green onion filling, mix green onions, dill, 1 egg, and seasoning.
For feta cheese filing, mix cheese and 1 egg.
Separate the dough and roll it into balls—adjust number depending on how many platsindi you want—and let stand for 15 minutes. Flatten each ball out into a circle and add filling to the center. Cut the edges of the flattened dough into five sections and fold each section in. Cook in pan on medium heat until each side is golden brown.
When I look at my family, my mom’s way of thinking— you never really know until you try, you’ll never learn unless you fail—seems to resonate with everyone. When my parents (and my grandparents before them) made the decision to start over in a new country all those years ago, they had no way of knowing how our lives would turn out. When my dad started his own business eight years ago, he didn’t know if his risk would pay off. Now, as my family plans our August trip to Moldova—our first since we left—we don’t know what it’ll be like to go back.
Quick history lesson here: Moldova, a country of about 3.5 million situated between Romania and the Ukraine, became an independent country in 1991 after years as part of the Soviet Union. Since then, it has maintained surprisingly strong ties to the Tar Heel State. In 1999, the two signed an agreement creating the North Carolina – Moldova Partnership for Peace Program. The partnership is aimed at strengthening cultural, economic, educational, and philanthropic ties through programs like UNC Chapel Hill’s Moldova Project. And fun fact: Greensboro and Winston-Salem both have Sister Cities in Moldova.
Although it frustrates me, when I think about it maybe my mom doesn’t write anything down for me because that’s not how it’s supposed to go.
I know she learned many of her recipes from her mother, who learned it from my great-grandmother, and on, and on, and on. It seems like cooking obtains another meaning when you learn to do it that way— it becomes less about just putting food on the table from a recipe and more about spending time with your family, bonding over something you can pass on.
So maybe the whole point is that I should learn from my mother the way she learned from hers. Because she can teach me things the recipe can’t and be there for me if I fail.
Tat’yana Berdan, our 2015 APPLES summer intern and student at UNC Chapel Hill, is a Global Studies major with a double minor in Spanish and Russian. She is originally from Tirsapol, Moldova but moved to Charlotte, North Carolina when she was seven years old. She hopes to one day work within the realm of public relations and communications for an international organization or non-profit.