My mom told me how to combine foods, by choosing one sweet dish, and a sour one. Of course, that is besides dessert.
Lack of a specific food can cause illnesses
What does it mean to combine food for the best nutrition? It means to eat a variety foods every day, to get all the vitamins, calcium, proteins and minerals our body needs in order to function well. By regularly eating small quantities of eggs, meat, cheese, milk or yogurt, vegetables, fruits, fish, bread or cereals, we will be healthy - as long as we stick to sensible quantities!
Of course, each of us knows what kind of food is best for our diet, considering the illnesses or the allergies we might have. But many pepole are just too picky and won't eat some foods at all; sometimes for all of their lives. This has long term consequences and sooner or later, the lack of a specific vitamin, protein or mineral will provoke a illness in their body.
Take my mom's example. Since she was a child, she always has been a food picky person. She had a brother and a sister, who ate a balanced diet. And back then, they all ate at the same table, every single day. When my mom wouldn't want to eat something she didn't like, not only she got scolded by her older sister or by grandma, but she could hear grandpa complaining that he was too poor to have a food picky child like that.
Mom grew old and she is still food picky, especially with the meat. A few years ago, she got very sick with megaloblastic anemia, which caused her a weakness in her feet, so she couldn't stand anymore. After a month of intense treatment with vitamin B 12 shots and a special diet, she recovered to her old self, but she still has to have a vitamin B 12 shot every month, for the rest of her life.
On the other hand, my grandma was the opposite as she always had the best bite of all the foods while she was cooking. My mom told me that their chickens always came on the table with only one leg, because grandma ate the other one, long before lunch time!
Don't despise the greens
I couldn't be very much different from my mom, because I also had a food I didn't like and that was spinach. I know that many kids don't like spinach and that's why they invented Popeye the sailor man, just to make children eat spinach. He didn't convince me though! After I got married, I was lucky to taste a delicious spinach puree from a friend and the rest was history. I started to like spinach and even more, I asked for that spinach puree recipe. Since I enjoy cooking, I have opened up to all sorts of new recipes and that spinach puree is still on my menu after so many years. I don't need to tell you about how healthy spinach is because of the iron it contains, let alone its delicious taste. And if served with a couple of eye eggs (sunny side up, for you Americans) on top, it's a real treat.
Greens also refers to lettuce, kale or other greens you may find at the grocery store. So, don't forget the salads, which are a must for all of us. Fresh vegetables are the best when eaten raw, giving us all their vitamins. Cooking destroys part of those vitamins, yet the greens are also delicious when cooked.
Romanian specific dishes combine foods for the best nutrition
I'll start with the first dish of every Romanian lunch meal, the sour broth - we call it 'ciorba'. It is a combination of vegetables (carrots, onions, celeriac, bell peppers, potatoes) boiled with any kind of meat, soured with our specific wheat juice called 'borsch' and improved with a delicious addition of whisked eggs, sour cream and chopped lovage.
The second dish, which you Americans call a 'casserole' might be any dish cooked with some kind of meat (chicken, beef or pork, even sheep, lamb or fish) and vegetables. For example, we cook chicken with green peas or with green beans, but also with tomatoes or cabbage. These simple dishes are very good food because they combine the meat with a main vegetable (beans, peas or tomatoes) and onions, plus some herbs for a better taste and, of course, tomato paste and salt - and that's it! Any of our casserole dishes and also the soup and the 'ciorba' are flavored with some specific herbs : lovage always flavors the broths, parsley the soups and dill is always flavors the green peas, green cabbage and green beans.
We also have even more simple dishes, such as a simple potato casserole, made just with potatoes, onions, tomato paste, garlic and parsley. We really like these simple foods, which are very healthy since we cook them from scratch. However, most of the vegan dishes are often cooked during our specific religious Eastern Orthodox fasting days.
I like to cook a combined meal, made of a sour broth, as the first dish and a "sweet" casserole (second dish or main dish), with different vegetables and meat. For example, when I have a whole chicken, I usually cook a broth with the chicken's wings and back and a green pea or green bean casserole dish with the chicken's thighs and breast. If I have a simple soup, with noodles or dumplings, the second dish might be sour cabbage with pork chops (or ribs) or with chicken thighs and breast. That way, I always have two dishes with two different tastes, combining different vegetables and meat, in a single meal.
Some of our dishes might be odd for others, yet they are healthy
I'd like to tell you about some really odd dishes (you might think) that we eat here in Romania and that aroused some amazed comments through my American friends. It is about the organs we're always eating, from any domestic animal. In Romania we really appreciate the pork, beef, chicken or lamb liver besides the goose's liver, which is the most famous for the delicious 'foie gras' the chefs cook with it. Actually, we cook the same specialty with any other liver. My American friends were amazed to hear me talk about how I cooked and ate a pork liver. Which is by the way, delicious and one of my favorite foods. But not only it is delicious, the liver is also very healthy and recommended in a special diet for people suffering of anemia. You don't want to hear what I had to do to convince mom to eat chicken liver, when she had anemia!
In fact, all organs from any domestic animal, are good for anemia and for "making blood", as we say here, in Romania. I've heard that my American friends living in the countryside cook those organs too. Which is not so bad, considering the waste of food in all very developed countries. I think it's good to at least consider trying to use all edible foods, before we start eating ants, cockroaches, locusts, lizards or any other unusual food.
As a curiosity, you should know that the beef belly, or tripe, which you Americans won't eat, is shipped over and sold to us in Romania, because we are great consumers. We cook the tripe in a delicious broth, soured with vinegar and flavored with egg yolks, sour cream, garlic, horse radish and hot pepper.
Homemade food is the best and the safest during a pandemic
I like cooking and that's why I prefer to make my own food. After the Covid-19 pandemic started, I even preferred to bake my own bread, instead of going daily to the store to buy it. I don't trust people who handle it, from baking to storage, so now I consider it as just one more food to make.
As for going out to eat, I didn't go out much even before, let alone now. As I always say, I like to know what is put in my food. With all the chemicals that are stuffed in the processed food, how can it be trusted? And now, above all these reasons, this virus came so it's even more dangerous to eat out. I find it unsafe even to buy the food from the restaurant and take it away - or to just order it online. I know I'm talking from a cook's point of view (well, maybe just a housewife, cook might be too much for me!) but you all have to agree with me about the danger this virus represents. If someone in the restaurant's kitchen doesn't wear a mask or gloves while cooking, especially if they are one of those skeptics who doesn't believe the virus exists. They might have it and what if he spreads the virus all over the food or just on one portion, which is more than enough. I know that I am probably too careful, but since most of you are used to eating out, please be careful. And it won't be a bad thing if you start cooking your own food now!