We love books for tons of reasons: they teach us, they warm our hearts, they have the ability to make us laugh, cry, empower and, above all, transport us to new worlds for a little while. And sometimes, beyond all these reasons, they are gorgeous objects in themselves, little works of art we want to hold dear and browse for ourselves or maybe share with our loved ones.
Today we are giving you four books by three extremely talented Romanian ladies, proud ambassadors of Romanian culture: Mădălina Andronic, Ioana Corduneanu and Irina Georgescu. Their books explore the Romanian heritage in two different ways: while Mădălina and Ioana focus on the legacy of the traditional female shirts, Irina’s books are an homage to traditional cuisine.
Timeless shirts: a story about the heritage of La blouse roumaine
Cămăși nemuritoare / Timeless Shirts is a two-volume book that celebrates our culture and, according to Mădălina Andronic, is meant to be a bridge between the past and the present, being at the same time an ode to the women who keep the ancestral traditions alive.
It all started in 2020 with #inktober, the Instagram challenge, when Mădălina painted a traditional Romanian shirt every day, for the whole month of October. She filmed the painting process daily and shared it on social media. The challenge proved very successful and joining forces with Ioana Corduneanu’s expertise, the project turned into a book. The first volume of Timeless Shirts came out in 2021 and the illustration challenge continued in October 2021, giving birth to the second volume, which came out at the beginning of December 2022.
The two books share stories and details of the traditional Romanian shirt (ia), which is part of the national costume. While having a simple cut, the shirt, made of flax, hemp, cotton or silk, is embellished with geometrical or floral motifs that differ from one geographic area to another. Timeless Shirts features models from various regions of the country, containing information in both Romanian and English, patterns and illustrations. And yes, for the most creative of us, the illustrations work as colouring books as well.
The launch of Timeless Shirts coincides with a very fortunate event: UNESCO has recently included the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (altiță)—an element of cultural identity of Romania and the Republic of Moldova—in its patrimony of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Mădălina Andronic, an established name among Romanian illustrators has developed a unique and easily recognisable style, being heavily inspired by fairy tales and folklore. Her work is quite varied, ranging from book illustrations and stationery to ceramics and wearables.
Ioana Corduneanu is a designer and the mastermind behind Semne cusute, a community that actively tries to keep the Romanian textile tradition alive by educating the public about the importance of the intangible cultural heritage through workshops, courses, exhibitions, and more.
Celebrating Romanian heritage through home cooking: Carpathia and Tava
Romania’s food heritage is a culinary melting pot where influences from the Greek, Turkish and Slavic cuisine meet the Austrian, Hungarian and Saxon, on a base established in the Roman Empire. This eclectic fusion turned the Romanian cuisine into a flavourful combination of some of the very best gastronomy in Europe.
Food writer Irina Georgescu, born and raised in Romania, has been living in the UK for more than 15 years. With a degree from the Faculty of Letters and a career in Marketing and PR, she has always been passioned about cooking and has, since moving to the UK, devoted her time to researching, cooking, writing, and teaching about traditional Romanian food.
Published in 2020, after a few years of research and preparation, Carpathia: Food from the Heart of Romania is regarded by Irina as her opportunity to share the Romanian culture. Divided in six chapters, the book covers not only valuable information about the country’s culinary heritage, but also recipes, stories and superstitions around the most important foods to be served in a Romanian household.
From starters and dips to more hearty meals such as soups, broths and everything meaty, to sarmale, the stuffed cabbage dish that is considered the national dish, all traditional foods are covered in Carpathia. Desserts, pickles and grandma’s preserves are definitely not forgotten, but celebrated. The book has been praised by many culinary publications and has already been translated to Hungarian, Dutch, and German.
With Tava: Eastern European Baking and Desserts From Romania & Beyond, published in autumn 2022, Irina took things a step further, choosing to honour the diversity of the cultures that shaped Romania’s culinary traditions, and focused on the baked goods that represent six of the many cultural communities that live in the country.
Meaning “tray”, Tava is seen as a metaphor for how the Romanian culinary landscape is introduced to the reader. It is in fact, in Irina’s words “a baking book with a history angle and also a travel book, since I wanted to show you places in Romania that you can visit, people you can meet, and food you can eat.” Armenian pakhlava, Saxon plum pies, Swabian poppyseed crescents, Jewish fritters, and Hungarian langoși, plăcinte pies, alivenci corn cake, and many more desserts are presented in this new book, integrated within relevant cultural information about the ethnical minorities or influential figures such as Baron Von Brukenthal or the Romanian royal family.
To buy Carpathia and Tava, check out Irina Georgescu’s website or local bookshops.
Featured image: Cătălin Apostol / Unsplash. Photos of Mădălina Andronic and Irina Georgescu used with permission.