When one word sparks a food memory

recipe card

It is amazing how something as simple as one word from a byline to a story can spark a flood of memories. I experienced this phenomenon today when a Guardian Food article caught my eye. Just one word – plachyndy – unleashed a vivid flashback to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Plachyndy is a Moldovan word used to describe a savory flatbread typically filled with cheese and herbs or a sweetened pumpkin filling. German families living in the area corrupted the word into plachenda (aka blachinda or plachinda). The Germans corrupted more than just the name, as they also tweaked the dough recipe to more resemble a pastry crust, but there is no doubt that plachenda is a direct relative of plachyndy, which hails from the area to the southwest of Ukraine where that country borders Moldova.

This area is known as Bessarabia, and the adaptation of a dish from the region is appropriate because as the article notes, Bessarabia was a “cultural melting pot in itself – Moldovans, Romanians, Jews, Ukrainians, Gagauz people and Germans all lived side by side, and evidently dishes were borrowed, fused, adapted and passed on through generations with extraordinarily lavish results.”

I’m not sure that I would characterize this humble dish as lavish, but reading about plachyndy immediately brought me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. My great grandmother had learned how to make the dish while growing up in a tiny village on the border of Ukraine and Moldova, and the recipe traveled with her when she came to the United States about 100 years ago.

She passed it on to my grandmother, who in turn passed the recipe along to my mother and me. I recall watching my grandmother prepare and roll out the dough, add the pumpkin filling, and fold the dough squares to create small packages that were baked until golden and aromatic. Until today, I had no knowledge of the Moldovan origins of this traditional family recipe (my grandmother’s handwritten recipe for the dough is pictured above), so I am glad the article caught my eye.

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