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The Taste of the Balkans, Canned 12/10/2013

Posted by allthingsro in food, places.
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Mir Foods Kingsbury is the answer to two pressing questions:

1)      Unde pot să cumpăr varză murată pentru sarmale în Londră?

2)      Where can I buy the taste of the Balkans in cans in NW9?

Mir Foods replaced Fruit Asia on Kingsbury Road. Outside there’s a range of fresh fruit and veg, including that varză murată, but the wonders really begin inside. Countless varieties of Turkish cheese in cans and Turkish halal sausage sit on shelves close to a fantastic variety of Romanian pork products: cârnăciori pentru grătar, pastramă de porc, pate de porc, parizer; the list goes on. There’s Romanian cheese of goat, sheep and cow variety. Then there’s zacuscă picantă, tocană de legume. Then Romanian jams, biscuits, chocolates and teas. And alcohol.

Labour is divided along ethnic lines: the shelf stackers are Asian, the cashiers Romanian. The team includes Kingsbury’s very own Romanian Megan Fox lookalike.


A quiet invasion 22/09/2013

Posted by allthingsro in language, quirks.
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The Romanianisation of NW9 continues apace. Kingsbury now boasts three stores selling Romanian food within five minutes’ walk of the tube. A Romanian nursery school has opened. When a barber shop closed down, it was replaced by a Romanian Church store. The Asian guy at the fish store asks me if I’m Romanian or Polish, this seeming to be the most logical explanation for being white in Kingsbury.

But this is the most surprising thing: Kingsbury Discount Store & Pound Plus is like a poundland version of Aladdin’s Cave. You’ll find everything, from cheap’n’cheerful sunglasses to Pyrex cooking dishes to cleaning products and air freshener. A Romanian lady pushing a pram buys some discounted nail varnish. The Asian shopkeeper asks her “pungă?”

Now this word happened to be my favourite Romanian word for a good five years of my existence as a Romanian language learner. To a Romanian it sounds completely banal – it means plastic bag. But to me, boldly ploughing through Colloquial Romanian by Dennis Deletant, it sounds so much more appealing than English “bag”, which rhymes with drag and even the vowel “a” sounds kind of draggy. Pungă elevates the simple shopping bag, granting it a whole two syllables and making it somehow exotic without difficult sounds for the clumsy English tongue.

(I now say that cuişoare – clove – is my favourite Romanian word, but I still hold a candle for good old trusty pungă.)