Weeds and cholesterol

19095332_1601402143267072_3596137347554648961_oHere’s my piece in the first edition of the new print magazine OZB (O Zi Buna). The English-language mag, well-illustrated, is produced by a British-Dutch-Romanian team for Romania’s international community (aka immigrants / expats) and is a lively read. Get stuck in – if you’ve got a story of your own, or know of one that needs telling, get in touch with editor Douglas Williams. And if you can distribute copies (they’re free), let him know that, too.

Here’s my piece on food, wild and otherwise. I’d love your feedback…

Dandelion season – here’s how to use them

The meadows all around my house are dotted with splashes of sunshine – dandelions. Heralds of Spring, these little sunny plants are crammed full of nutrients and have lots of healing properties. So don’t curse them, don’t poison them or dig them up… pick them and eat them, make syrup, salves and tea with them. Along with nettles, the first great gift of the natural year.

I came across things to do with dandelions on Pinterest – you can get a free ebook of ways to exploit these wonderful plants, so get cracking!

What’s your favourite way to use dandelions?

Cooking up a storm on Romanian TV

Delia, Jamie, Nigel, Heston: move over. A new TV chef has arrived…

Before Christmas I got an astonishing invitation to come and do some cooking on camera.

happy-food-still-chillisHere you can see me and Vlad, the charming presenter, being hit by a high-Scoville wave of heat from an innocent-looking chilli pepper we’d just eaten.

Apart from our heads exploding with spice, it was amazing fun. And while I don’t expect to worry any famous TV chefs, it was a great new experience and I’m grateful to the team at Happy Day for the chance to chop chillis on the telly. The crew certainly seem to relish every dish once the cameras were switched off…

See the three 8-minute shows here.

Sunteti in Brasov? Petrecere, vineri! / Are you in and around Brasov? Party on Friday evening!

banner-lansare-liverpool

În seara de vineri, 16 decembrie, are loc în Braşov lansarea cărţii mele şi m-aş bucura tare mult dacă mi-aţi fi alături.

Vă veţi putea bucura de:

  • o tombolă cu multe premii delicioase
  • un interviu telefonic cu Ranulph Fiennes, cel mai mare explorator în viaţă din lume (şi văr al actorilor Ralph şi Joe), care a semnat Cuvântul-înainte al cărții
  • colinde cântate de copiii de la şcoala din Măgura (îmbrăcaţi în costume populare)
  • o scurtă, dar fascinantă intervenţie a lui Dan Marin, unul dintre cei buni ghizi turistici din lume
  • ocazia de a-mi pune orice întrebare doriţi în legătură cu volumul sau cu viaţa mea în Transilvania
  • gustul minunat al chutney-ul de casă pregătit chiar de mine, din mere româneşti, alături de brânza organică făcută de păstorii din Zărneşti, precum şi de o prăjitură de casă delicioasă.

Programul va fi distractiv, dar scurt, aşa încât vom avea timp pentru a ne relaxa şi a discuta pe îndelete. Vă veţi întâlni cu câteva dintre personajele din carte, putând, totodată, să achiziţionaţi o mulţime de exemplare – cadouri minunate de sărbători, cu care îi veţi încânta pe cei dragi… mai ales că vor purta autograful autoarei!

Evenimentul va avea loc la Librăria Okian (Str Mureşenilor, lângă Orange, telefon 0728 728 315) și începe la ora 6pm (18.00). Am rugămintea de a vă confirma prezența, precum și de a mă anunța de câți prieteni veți fi însoțiți. Nu întârziați, riscați să pierdeți lucruri absolut minunate… Ne vedem acolo! xx

English:

Next Friday evening, 16th December, my book is being launched in Brasov and I’d love it if you could be there with us.

You will find:

– a prize draw with lots of delicious things to win

– a phone interview with Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer (and cousin to actors Ralph and Joe), who wrote the foreword to the book

– colinde sung by children from Magura school (in traditional dress)

– a short but fascinating talk by Dan Marin, one of the world’s top tourist guides

– the chance to ask me any questions you have about the book or my life in Transylvania

– a taste of my home-made Christmas apple chutney with some organic cheese from Zarnesti’s shepherds, plus my home-made cake.

We’re keeping the programme entertaining, but short, so we all have plenty of time to relax and talk, meet some of the characters from the book, buy lots of books to cross all the names off your Christmas present list… and get them signed!

The event is at Okian librarie (Str Muresenilor, next to Orange, tel 0728 728 315) and starts at 6pm (18.00). Please let me know if you are coming, and how many friends you are bringing along. Don’t be late or you might miss something… See you there! xx

The truth for The Truth

adevarul-blog-interview-23-10-16Here’s this weekend’s interview, on the blog of Adevarul, in Romanian… (and below, in English)

 

Arabella McIntyre-Brown, an English writer established in Romania: “At first, I chose Magura village, not Romania”

by Livia Lucan-Arjoca (Roșca)

Arabella McIntyre-Brown, writer and journalist who lived for 20 years in Liverpool, has for the last six years been in Magura, Brasov County. Sufficient time to write the book “From Liverpool to the Carpathians: How I found happiness in the heart of Transylvania” – a love letter to Romania’s qualities and flaws, a story of rediscovering herself, full of English humour. For Arabella McIntyre-Brown has found the secret of happiness in the simplicity of rural living in Transylvania and wrote the story with passion, talent and contradictory emotions, in a manner so authentic that it melts the hearts of Romanians. The whole adventure of her settling in Romania is in the book “From Liverpool in the Carpathians”, which will be launched in November at the Gaudeamus Book Fair, at Editura ALL’s stand.. Until then, this is how life is in Magura, seen through the eyes of an Englishwoman enamoured of Romania.

You say it was  love at first sight when you first came to Romania. Several years have passed since you moved here: what has changed in your perception and what has remained the same?



I’m still in love! At first I was here in Romania mainly because that’s where Magura was – I chose the village, not the country. But as the time has flown by and I have explored a little more, got to know people here, and made friends, I have come to love Romania as a whole. I get very defensive when I hear anyone running the country or Romanian people down, and get quite boring about the qualities of both… Some things about Romania drive me crazy, but every country I’ve been to (including Britain) has its weak spots. And if things drives you crazy, it means you must care. My visitors, without exception, have been surprised and charmed by Romania: friendly strangers, a warm welcome, new friends, and a beautiful countryside. A little piece of paradise.

What does an ordinary Magura day look like?

As I live in the countryside, it usually depends on the weather. The year round, the day begins with breakfast for my four cats and the dog, then my breakfast as I listen to the news on BBC radio online. In winter, that’s followed by trudging out to the woodshed for logs (usually having to dig the snow away from the door first) so I can light the soba in my study. There’s no central heating here. Between early May and October the soba is usually unemployed, and I can have breakfast outside in the sun. Then it’s straight on to the computer: I check emails and Facebook messages and try not to get sucked into Facebook for more than five minutes (usually I fail – I’m so weak). Then it depends what work is to be done. There’s no routine, which is the best and the worst thing about the freelance writer’s life. I may have an English text book to edit, or a press release from a corporate client to turn from Google Translate English into real English. It’s pleasant work – all my clients are adorable, and I enjoy the editing process which is much less of a hassle than writing. In warm weather I’ll have lunch in the garden, with the mountain ridge of Piatra Craiului as a backdrop, then I might do some work on one of my blogs, have a sneaky peek at Facebook, or settle down to some focused writing. There’s a children’s book in the pipeline, a crime novel being plotted, and a book on how to deal with loneliness. Too many ideas! If I’m in the mood, I can write till midnight or later and collapse into bed for a great night’s sleep (if the dog isn’t going mad, barking at invading bears or wild boar). If I have visitors, I cook for them and have a good conversation and some laughs over supper, maybe watch a DVD or play cards. But I love my solitary evenings, too. Time to read, if I’m lucky, or listen to drama on the BBC.

The most recent book you wrote is “a love letter” to these places, but it is also the story of you rediscovering yourself. What are the lessons you have learned sine you have moved to Romania?



The first lesson is that it’s okay to start a new life after 50 – change is good, even if it’s a challenge. I’ve learned to let go of some fears and longings that no longer mattered; and that living alone is, truly, delightful and enriching when you discover that being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.

Do you miss England? How you manage that feeling?



Of course there are times when I long to be in England, such as bluebell time (late April) when the oak and beech woods of my childhood were carpeted with drifts of British bluebells, flowers of a soft madonna blue that reach deep into my heart. But one of the reasons I love Magura is that it’s so like West Sussex, where I was born. This is a home from home.

You left behind, in England, lifetime friends. Do you have friends in Romania?



I have more friends here than I deserve, that’s for sure. Most of my friends here are Romanian and only a handful are British expats. I’ve always had friends around the world, and have never been one to live in an expat community. Of course I miss my UK friends and family, but I see them when I go back, they come out to visit, and we keep in touch on Facebook, by email and Skype – technology drives me mad, but it’s absolutely brilliant at at making the world a very small place.

In Romanian villages, women cook. Did you learn to cook like a Romanian? Which Romanian food is your favourite?



Romanian cooks take a great deal of time and effort to prepare delicious food – I’m far too lazy to take such trouble! With one of two exceptions – I make zacusca every autumn, which takes some time, but it is SO delicious, it’s well worth the effort. I love cooking for friends, but am mostly vegetarian so make satisfying, rich and delicious vegetarian and vegan food which goes down very well. Since moving here I’ve also become a cake maker and a jam and preserve maker. I have a large elderflower tree in the garden, a huge mirabel tree, and five sour-cherry trees. But I don’t make tuica… Visinata, yes, and my own secret liqueur from a local, natural and seasonal source, which is always a hit. I grow some vegetables, mostly green leafy veg, beans and peas, as well as berries; I’ve also planted lots of fruit trees – I’ve had three apples from one so far…

How do you now perceive Prince Dracula’s story?



I’ve always known the difference between Count Dracula and anything historically accurate… I worked on a theatrical production of Dracula in London, and share an important date with Bram Stoker, but have never been an all-out fan of Gothic fiction. What I’ve learned about Vlad III is fascinating, and I enjoyed a book called The Historian – up to the very disappointing ending, anyway. Vlad got about the Balkans, even if he didn’t set foot in Bran Castle.

What is your message for the Romanians who want to leave Romania for England?

The British are not, on the whole, as open and emotional as Romanians. We keep our hearts guarded until we know someone well. But we’re not cold and unfriendly – be patient. Stay away from the east coast, which is where most of the bigots live. The UK is full of warm and friendly people, intelligent and kind, so don’t let some ignorant, fearful bullies put you off the British as a whole. Go to Liverpool, find a pub called Peter Kavanagh’s, and say hello to the landlady, Rita Smith. Say Arabella sent you. You’ll get a warm Liverpool welcome…

*******

If you’re wondering about Rita and Kavanagh’s pub, you can discover more here.

 

Organic garden pros and cons

One of the big differences between England and Transylvania is the diversity of insects. Entomologists love it here, chasing down small beasts no longer seen in more industrial countries of Europe.

Of course we have all the English favourites – the honey bee and the Red Admiral butterfly share a late white rose in the warm autumn sun. We also have a familiar English enemy – the Cabbage White butterfly – whose eggs turn into cabbage leaf munchers that create filigree vegetables.

What do you grow in your garden?