Bianca in Romania eating

Why food is so much #MoreThanAMeal to me

To mark World Food Day, Dana recalls the food anxiety and trauma – and the rare moments of joy – growing up in Communist-era Romania.

By Dana Buzducea

We had no idea what bananas were. We thought they were supposed to be green.

I was 18 when the Iron Curtain fell and being brought up in a communist country means all my childhood memories have that haze over them – it affected every part of our lives, and this is especially true when it comes to food.

It’s hard to say this now but I was almost killed twice queuing for food. I was standing in front of the cashier and people were fighting and pushing and pulling, and I think I fainted. A few men picked me up and got me out above the heads of the people in the queue. I was fighting them because I knew that after so many hours of being in that queue, I could not go home without eggs. I must have been around seven.

All these years later, I still wake up at 4am every day because as a child, that’s the time I had to get up to get in the line for milk. My brother was young, he needed the milk.

The demand for food was much bigger than the supply. It became my nature to worry about food, and even now, 30 years later, I get anxious when I don’t have bread in the house.

Despite all of this, my Mum would manage to make miracles happen. She would hide rations for months leading up to Christmas – we had half a kilo of sugar and sunflower oil per member of family per month. Somehow, she would manage to produce a special cake we call Snow White. It’s just a cake, it’s not extraordinarily complicated but it means Christmas to me. Baking and eating it brings back memories, every time. I make it for my kids every year, and they would never forgive me if I didn’t make it. It’s compulsory!

My story is the story of a generation and the impact of political choices on children. Most people who grew up in the 80s in a communist town would have vivid memories of the queues for food – the fear, frustration, and sometime life-threatening experiences of being crushed by the desperate crowd. It took us a while to heal, but I do think we are probably healed as a society – we don’t have the fear we used to feel constantly. It is possible. It takes a long time, but it is possible.

Learn how to make Snow White cake here.

Dana is World Vision’s Partnership Leader for Advocacy and External Engagement. Follow Dana on Twitter @DanaBuzducea