Saturday, 23 July 2011


Well Friday and Saturday was busy in the restaurant (obviously) and Friday was also bread making day. I got up early and went to the restaurant as Dragos began to shape the dough. He hadmade a large batch and I had to weigh it out then he shaped it and put it into baskets. These went into and incubator to prove for 40 mins then into the oven to cook in the heat left over from the night before. When the bread was about 80% cooked we removed the cover from the oven door and the smell was incredible! It was amazing, like fresh baked bread but times 100! After that we had to get ready for opening and It was my first time in the shop front. I was basically waitressing all the tables (which I've never done before) and had no idea how things were done. It was a baptism of fire really, because we had some people wanting to stay and eat, and others coming to collect take-aways, still others would come up and pay then point to things in the deli cabinet that they wanted. There were little things like where to place order tickets, how to prepare the drinks, appitizers, when to bring the water, all of this had to be learnt on the spot with Dragos telling me every 5 mins that I'de done something wrong. Even that fact that I'de put the dirty pizza boards in the wrong place, it was just a baptism of fire really. Luckily working in London at John Lewis had prepared me for some tasks, like making coffee, but that was a self service restaurant so it was a little different. By the time dinner service was over I was very tired, it had been a long and challenging day. The other thing about Kiwi restaurants, even nice ones, is that you get up and pay the bill at a counter or checkout at the end, rather than having the bill brought to you. I think its better because it creates less work for the waitresses, but also you can leave in your own time and not feel rushed.

Saturday went better, only made two very small mistakes although it was busier. We only had 5 or 5 tables ut loads of takeaways. They have no staff here, Carmen and Dragos do all the work with the help of wwoofers like me and their daughters. So last night I was doing waitressing, the till and clearing tables, while Carmen, Allisa (12) and Sara (11) made pizzas, Dragos did the pizza oven and any meals which were ordered, like the Goulash or Moussaka which they make in advance and freeze. This is why the prefer long-termers to stay. Today it was just me and Carmen doing lunch as there was a bit of drama at the Romanian Orthodox church in Wellington and Dragos had to go vote in something. But it was very quiet, the worst thing to happen was a group of ladies staying chatting till an hour after we closed (we close at 2 then open at 5:30) which was a bit boring to have to wait for.

If the weathers good I work outside and if its bad I help at lunch service then get the afternoons off then back for dinner service. Nearly finished in the orchard now. Sara helped me with the massive fig tree as putting the weed mats down when its windy is hard enough, let alone doing it for a tree that size. We played 20 questions to pass the time and thats the last time I play it with an 11 year old!! She thought of the most obscure things ever!

Anyway when I get bck to London I can now put that I've been a waitress at a Romanian restaurant on my CV ha!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

More of La Casa Romana

As I said in the previous post on monday night we had dinner with most of the family. As all but the children were born in Romania (where the family left just over 20 years ago) they were all speaking Romanian to each other. It sounds like a Slavic language to me and when they speak in English it sounds like they could be from Russia or Poland or anywhere in Eastern Europe. They even day 'da' which is Russian for yes. But actually it is a Latin language and is closer to Italian, but with a few Russian corruptions. 'La Casa Romana for example has la-french for the, Casa, Spanish for house and Romana (Romanian). The food they eat is a mixture to, with influences from all over Europe. Geographically Romania is sort of at the cross-roads between the Latin part of Europe and the Slavic part so that makes sense really.

They have a dog called JoJo who is bread for killing rabbits, but he doesn't seem to know the difference between playing and actually killing. If you let him walk next to you he will bite and your heals and jump up to bit your hands. It was a bit scary and they keep him on a very long chain most of the time. Dragos has told me to hit him when he jumps or bits, but I'm a bit wary of doing that as I know positive re-enforcement is a better way to train a dog then with fear. He kept doing it and Dragos brought out a stick to theaten him with, and I didn't like that at all. He's been bread to hunt, and he is young and needs to learn the difference between what he can hunt and what he can play with, but I don't think beating him with a stick is right. Their two daughters don't really like him and are a bit scared of him.

The daughters are 11 and 12, and the oldest helps out a lot in the restaurant. They are on school holidays now so that is expected of them. Its nice to have kids around, makes for more interesting dinner conversation. Although last night they decided to make pizza's for dinner and just as they were about to go in the over a family walked in, then the phone rang and two take-away orders were taken as well. So they made mine and the daughters first so we could eat, then the 10 pizzas for customers then cooked theirs themselves and Anke, the sister. Then we all sat down at a table in the restaurant behind a screen, said grace and half ate, half just sat talking while the customers in the restaurant ate, then we got up and started the cleaning. its nice having Anke around, she's 24 and in grad school so its good to have someone my own age to talk to.

Speaking of cleaning I have never met someone with more OCD then Dragos. That is good in a restaurant, for the most part, but when I emptied the dishwasher trays and put the forks in he said it wasn't good enough. The forks can't just be put in the tray they all have to be turned with the prongs up and stacked neatly. The dishwasher is a small industraial one with 3 trays, one for glasses, one for plates and one for everything else. They have to be set out on the counter with the plate one bottom right, glass one top right, and the extra one top left with the cutlery basket on the left hand side of the tray. The surfaces are all stainless steal and are cleaned with a rubber thing that window washers use to get the extra water off windows. After feeding the chickens I left my muddy boots outside and was told not to leave them next to the door cos they are to muddy, either clean them or take them off further away or the mud will fall off in front of the door and get dragged in by everyone else. There is a place for everything and everything goes in its place in this house! I just hope they don't come in my room, its not messy by my standards, but it will be by Dragos'!!!

I've been putting weed mats and mulch around the trees in the orchard for the last couple of days, so my stomach feels like its doing sit ups. The weathers been amazing, very sunny and actually warm for the middle f winter. I also made my first pizza last night for dinner. Carmen kept telling me to put more toppings on, and in the end smothered it in mozzarella. I told her she was very generous with the toppings and that in most pizza places they don't put as much stuff on and she just said 'you wanna eat pizza or bread?' I also had some home-made grape juice with dinner, that was very nice, and a stuffed pepper with home-made yogurt for lunch today. The Feta is good, and I have yet to try the buttermilk. Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 18 July 2011

La Casa Romana

I've had an exciting day today! Got up early to get the bus to my new wwoofing place. Its about an hour north of wellington and the family I'm staying with is Romanian. They have chickens, a few sheep, and orchard, bees, grape vines and a large vegetable garden and greenhouse. They also have a restaurant which serves traditional Romanian food. So I arrive and given a tour of the house and told that there is no food in the kitchen, that it is all in the restaurant and Dragos, the owner, says to settle in the come over to the restaurant for breakfast. After unpacking I went over and he was working in the office but stopped to show me around. They have a small commercial kitchen where they make bread and cheese from scratch, as well as a wood burning stone pizza oven. Bread is cooked about 80% and stored in the fridge, then baked daily in the pizza oven, with the residual heat from the night before. Then he showed me the fridge, a walk in chiller with one shelf for the family and the rest for customers. The pantry had large tupperware containers of flour, spices, chocolate, sugar, olive oils and other things which for mist people sit at the back of cupboards and forgotten about. The freezer has boxes of herbs from the garden, chopped up and frozen, and traditional Romanian meals, cooked in large batches and frozen in individual portions for customers. Its a very very good business plan, top quality ingredients from your own property with a few extras bought in, pre-cook top quality tasty meals and do pizza. It's not exactly a la carte but it works for them. I had fresh bread, home made fig jam from the tree outside, and home made cottage cheese for breakfast.

Then I went and explored the property and then helped Dragos pull up some trees. I got to drive a tractor!!! Just put it in gear and it goes, no need for a break and accelerator. With a car you need to feel for the biting point, and you can start the car without gas by holding it on the bite point then slowly slowly lifting your foot of the clutch but with a tractor theirs no biting point, it just goes in hear and stops in neutral. We pulled the trees up and Dragos was very impressed that I taught him a new knot, the timber hitch (learnt at pam and dave's) which made it easier to drag the bigger trees out.

Then I went and had lunch and chatted to Carmen. I had more bread with a traditional Romanian vegetable spread. Then we had to get ready as Dragos' brother, Ramus, and his family were coming over for dinner as it is Ramus's birthday soon. They were bringing stuff for a BBQ and Carmen freaked out when she found out they were bringing shop-baught cole-slaw, she just didn't get why you wouldn't by a cabbage instead and make it! I suggested we make potato wedges then I cooked them in the pizza oven (still unlit as the restaurant is closed on a monday) and they cooked!!! it was still hot enough a day later to cook potatoes, it took less than an hour. Dragos's mother, sister and his brothers family turned up with more food. Sauerkraut and a jar of pickled veges, taramasalata, and the dreaded shop bought cole-slaw. They shop at Moore Wilson's!!!! Thats one of the few supermarkets they trust and where you get good food from and were impressed that I had worked there. They also eat very seasonally, with fresh veg in the summer and preserves in the winter, like the sauerkraut and pickled veg (carrots, coli flower, onions, garlic, celery and tomatoes). They were all speaking Romanian as well, it was just a big loud family gathering with lots of food! I have always hated sauerkraut, the smell of it on my g-ma's back porch has always put me off, but I tried it to be polite and it was actually very nice tastes way different to how it smells. And I've seen pickled veg in the Czech Republic before, so that wasn't knew to me. We all started eating the appitizer bits while the men BBQ'd, then the things for the main got laid out and people just carried on eating. Eventually everyone sat down, said a prayer, then carried on eating. Carmen said thats what happens, if there is food to eat and she told me the rule is if we say 'you can't have this, its for the restaurant' then don't eat it but otherwise help yourself. Mind you not a lot seems to be for the restaurant. It was just lots of shouting in Romanian, but the children don't speak it and Anke, the younger sister will speak English to her family but they will talk Romanian to her. Her mother yelled at her for eating the cole-slaw cos she doesn't like the chemicals used in the shops, but she said 'I'm 24, I'll eat what I want' (her brothers are in their 40's so she still gets treated like a baby).

Then the home-made wine came out, and the home made grappa. I have a very funny story about my mother and grappa in Italy but she'll be in trouble with G-ma when she reads it. We were on holiday in and became very friendly with the manager of a local restaurant and on our last night he gets out bottle of grappa and joins us, pours me and livvy a glass (I think I was about 18 and she was 15 but I can't remember) as we had been drinking the wine all night. We both smelt it and didn't like it but Mum insisted on us drinking it. My parents never gave me spirits and here she was telling us we had to be polite and try the mans grappa, when Liv was under-age!!! Anyway this grappa was much nicer, not as strong and didn't burn your insides like paint stripper!

So it seems these people eat a lot, but no processed food, no chemicals, no pasta sauces filled with loads of sugar and salt, and no junk food. Home made brownies with chicken eggs from outside are as bad as it gets.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Lily, Pigs, Pavlova, Fishing and Hunting

Lily, my lamb, died last night. She had the scours (diarrhea) since she was born and not much was coming out so we thing she was born with a dodgy intestine, and she was very very small, much smaller and less wooly then her twin. I'm very sad about that as I had looked after her. Pam just said that's why she never binded with lambs, or had much to do with them.

I havn't mentioned the pigs much so far. They are getting bigger, on almost big enough to eat. They used to be terrified of me and would hide when I came to feed them. But now they come up to me and bite my feet until they get food so I have to kick them away. We feed them pig meal and household scraps. A domestic pig will get fat on scraps from a family of 4 and one bag of meal. But these being wild grow slower. And are on their 5th bag of meal. To help us the owner of the mini horses comes by once or twice a week after his pig run. He goes to the big supermarket and gets the stuff they throw away. Most of it is perfectly good to eat. He as a pickup truck with the back full to the brim of fruit, vege dairy and baked goods. Its ridiculous, we've been eating most of it ourselves. There was a butternut squash with just a tiny bruise on it, peppers (which are $4 each right now) which we have had for dinner and tomatoes ($14 a kg since the floods in Australia), milk 3 days till its sell by and pastries. Some stuff you wouldn't touch like a wilting broccoli and some soggy lettuce but a lot of it is fine and would make any African cry at the waste. Its just Western extravagance and wastefulness that stuff like that gets thrown away.

I've also found out that my mum, and in fact everyone I know including me makes Pavlova wrong. It is a Kiwi desert. We always use egg whites and sugar to make a meringue (and a little white vinegar and vanilla if we have it) the top it with whipped cream and fruit. But in fact Pavlova and meringue are two separate things. A pavlova is when you add a little corn flour to the mixture as well which give the middle a spongy marshmallow like texture, with a crispy outside. I told Pam we never used cornflour and that I had seen that for the first time at Christmas when I was googling different recipes. She says thats the traditional way to make a Pav, and as she is a Kiwi I take her word for it.

There are some other interesting things I have learned from Dave since I have been here. Everyone in New Zealand hunts and fishes, with such a rural country you sort of have to. I said in England hunting is a upper class thing but here its universal. He says thats because in England any wild animal on your land is yours, and if someone else kills it you can take it, which means only landowners hunted, or their friends. In New Zealand they said that every wild animal belongs to the Crown, and once its dead it belongs to whoever killed it. So if you are on public land or in national parks you kill it you keep it. If you are hunting on private land without permission of the land owner they can tell you to leave, and leave the animal but they are not allowed to take the animal themselves, just ask the trespasser to leave without the kill. As all species hunted are non-native and introduced species there are no laws protecting them, just the native bird life. With fishing most areas will have restrictions on what you can take. Up here you can only take 2 blue cod, between 30-35cm., however you are allowed 3 on the west coast and there in no limit in the south sea. Shellfish are also restricted depending on the area and if you take more then you are allowed they take your boat, your equipment and your car just because they can and give you a fine.

The only exceptions to these rules are the Maori. They can fish as much as they like as long as they have permission from the tribal leader. I can understand why, they were hear first and in the Treaty of Waitangi that is what was agreed to. But they abuse it so much, a police came across two Maori men with 5,000 scollops, 5,000 when the area limit was 50 per person. There was no real reason either, no funeral or tribal celebration, it was just in case they wanted them over the winter and there was nothing the police could do about it. The Mutton-bird, or Petrol is another bird which was once seen all across New Zealand but now has bee driven south and onto Steward Island. Its supposedly a Maori delicacy (though there is little evidence of it being eaten before European contact) and a native bird they are permitted to hunt according to the treaty. However Dave has a theory (he trained as a botanist) that with their declining numbers (and therefore less poo) the soil is losing its fertility. They say they are the worlds best conservationists but with attitudes they have now, and 35 extinct birds the think of I think a serious amount of education, and an amendment to the treaty is needed! but that is my opinion.