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Martin Harris

Minister and Deputy Head of Mission to Russia

Part of UK in Romania

28th November 2011

The Fat Gap

Here’s one area Romania does not want to ‘catch up with the rest of the EU’ – obesity. The latest study by Eurostat shows that Romania has the lowest incidence of obesity among the 19 EU Member States surveyed, with 8% of women and 7.6% of men recorded as obese. At the other end of the scale is my own country, the United Kingdom, where almost one in four women are obese (23.9%) and 22.1% of men.

I am no nutritionist so I can’t offer a scientific explanation as to why Romanians are in much better shape than Brits. But here are a few ideas.

Romanian food is great. It’s natural, it’s usually organic, and it’s low in chemicals and salt. When I took my family for a holiday in a village in northern Romania we spent a whole week eating nothing but the food that was grown and produced in the hills and valleys around us. It was only when I drove out of the valley at the end of the week and stopped at a garage to buy a bottle of imported ice tea that I realized I was consuming the first artificial product of the holiday – a concotion of e-numbers and sugar. It showed up the difference between the healthy traditional fare of the village and the unhealthy diet that modern society serves up.

Most Romanians have a strong link to the countryside. Over 40% of the population lives in rural areas. Many others have family in the countryside or a plot of land to retreat to at weekends. So the good food and healthy eating of the countryside extends into the towns too. In fact, when I asked the son of the family we were staying with on holiday whether he missed his Mum’s home cooking when he was away at university, he explained that she sent a food parcel with the bus to him every week. Lucky man! I had to live off beans on toast and pot noodle for most of my student years.

I just hope that Romanians can preserve their healthy diet and their traditions of good cooking and eating as the economy grows and develops. I hope that people in the cities don’t succumb to the relentless march of fast food – cheap ingredients expensively marketed. This is the challenge for Romania – how to catch up with the rest of the EU without repeating the rest of the EU’s mistakes, and how to preserve the best of Romania for the next, slim, trim generation.

12 comments on “The Fat Gap

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  3. I can only assume that the Romanians show some restraint when eating. I have been visiting Romania for a year and after each visit I notice my waistline increasing. The food here is very good and so tempting, and so is the wine!!!

  4. I don’t agree with one of the comments above. I live in Wolverhampton and there are plenty of healty choices, natural ingredients, fresh meat and (for those whom still believe in it) organic produce in the supermarkets, some in the basic ranges and at very low prices…
    The main issue is that people do not want to spend any time in the kitchen, and they would much rather buy a bargain bucket from KFC and stuff their faces… My partner and I cook our dinner every night. It only takes an hour or so and it’s a great opportunity to do something together while catching up on the day that has just finished… And we stay lean and healthy…

  5. Your Excellency,

    I wish to congratuale you for your wonderful post on Romanian food! I am Romanian but currently living in Thailand! I miss sarmale and mamaliga, I would almost kill for a ciorba de burta.. There are no Romanian rrestaurants here unfortunately..
    Nevertheless, I am right now enjoying gorgeous British crumpets at the British Club in Bangkok in an exquisite tropical garden and bless the Brit who discovered Earl Grey Tea !!

    Please receive my warmest Christmas wishes, may the New Year find you joyous and healthy in Romania or in the old Albion

    Sawadikaaaa from the City of Angels,

    Mihaela Nestor

    Ps: May I ask your permission to share your article on facebook with my Romanian friends who forgot how lucky they are to heave all those fruit and vegetables on the plate and to live in suxh a fertile country that is celebrating its National Day ?

  6. Totally agree with this!

    But, some of the Romanian traditional food can be high in fat as well al though if you eat it in moderation, it’s ok (unlike those Romanians who overeat during Christmas and Easter + heavy drinking and all end up in hospital).

    Bottom line is , that Romanian food is fresh (if you buy it from the market, and it’s coming from the country side), and most importantly the quality of the meat (beef, pork, chicken) is just SOOOO good.

    Where I’m originally from they mostly sell processed meat, which probably is coming from animals slaughtered 3 years ago and they froze the meat until it ends up in the supermarkets. I tried to eat some pork from the grill, but even a shoe would taste better. This is a real shame! Of course you can go to your local butcher, but that is getting really expensive for the majority of people,

    In Romania, you buy the meat fresh, and you can taste the difference. Yesterday I went to this food fair (near Romexpo in Bucharest) where they sell traditional produse from all over the country (sausages, cheeses, all sorts of smoked meat, etc etc). Just excellent. We came home, cooked some of the meat and sausages, and djeeeeeez, I had the best meal of the year!

    Some food in Romania I can’t stand, like polenta (“mamaliga”) or some sort of meat-in-jelly-mix (really makes me puke). On the other hand sarmale (meat cabbage rolls) and salate de vinete (“eggplant salad”) is just to good to pass on, on any day.

    And the last excellent produse from Romania: home made wine from the country side! (from the Moldova area).

    I am off, now …preparing dinner for my wife when she gets back from work 🙂

  7. I hear you!

    I am a Romanian which left Bucharest 6 months ago. I live in Amsterdam now, I am an expat. The problem I face in terms of diet is the lack of natural ingredients readily available. Whereas in Bucharest I could have gone to any open-air market and buy fresh, organic food, there is no such thing in Amsterdam. All of the vegetables and fruits here are pumped up with chemicals and do not grow in the open air, but in closed environments.

    Once every few weeks I get my mom to send me a package with Romanian food from Bucharest all the way to Amsterdam. It costs only 10 euros and it arrives in 2 days by bus (Eurolines). Maybe you can talk to that family in northern Romania to send you some fresh cooked foods every once in a while :).

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About Martin Harris

I am the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Moscow. In my last job I was the Ambassador at the British Embassy in Bucharest. Previously I…

I am the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy
in Moscow. In my last job I was the Ambassador at the British Embassy in
Bucharest. Previously I have served at the British Embassies in Kyiv
and Moscow as well as at the UK Delegation to the OSCE in Vienna.
I love music, especially opera, chamber and sacred music. I am
married to Linda MacLachlan. We have three daughters, Catriona, Tabitha
and Flora – and they have one dog Timur and two cats, Pushkin and Tolstoi.