Fruit on Holidays

Matache Market Bucharest 1996. Photo by Brian Smith

Here is a memory shared with me by Codrut from Bucharest, He was 11 years old in 1989.

We (me and my family) were not usually eating three meals a day, but most often only one. My mother was a chemistry teacher and she was giving private lessons, during the late 80’s, in exchange for food (cheese, eggs, ham, olives…). My father was staying in lines for hours, after work, in order to buy a couple of boxes of milk powder for my younger brother (which is born in 1987). I remember that I was sometimes eating mustard on a slice of bread because we didn’t had anything else in the fridge. As for drinking, we were all drinking tap water, or soda. There was no bottled still water at that time.

One of my grandmothers was living in the countryside and she was raising some poultry and growing some vegetables; she came to us once or twice a month, by train, to bring us supplies.

The first time I saw bananas and oranges I didn’t knew how to eat them so I ate them without removing the peel :)) Oranges and bananas were supplied in General Stores, in very limited quantities, only during Christmas.

As far as I remember, the restaurants were usually serving grilled chicken or pork, and draft beer. We were eating at the restaurant only during holidays, because we were receiving some food tickets that we needed to spend… And the holidays were almost the same every year: one week at the beach, during summer, and another week at some mountain resort, during winter holidays.

There are many things to tell about that period and many of the older people and pensioners regret these times because, at least everybody had a job and a home to live in…

The following story is from my visit to Bucharest in 1990,

I was fortunate enough to meet someone associated with the National Theater named Anca and her friend. We got a bite after seeing a play about life under Ceausescu. Anca got very emotional while telling me that in her whole life, she had never tasted a banana. I was really taken aback and surprised by her emotion. It is something I have remembered often, because it had so much meaning to her. It had been two months since the Revolution and I was told about many hardships, but this is the one that really stuck with me. It was punctuated that night when I returned to the Intercontinental Hotel and was walking in the hallway and looked through a glass door of a closed shop where I saw a huge pile of rotting bananas. You would never have heard any story from a Romanian if you were a tourist in the 1980s because the Securitate would interrogate any Romanian speaking to a western tourist and only group tours with a minder were allowed. Very few Americans travelled to Romania anyway.

Tomorrow I will write about a recently declassified CIA report that details other hardships in 1985 caused by Ceausescu’s rape of the country to get hard currency.

Published by Eric Sorlien

I am 51 and live in Philadelphia USA. I traveled to Romania about 30 years ago and I remember it still.

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