Hello and welcome to my ever-evolving about page. I'm Cristina and I started The Art of Improvisation to share my love of food and exploring it's connections with time, people and place.
Since the beginning of time cooking has evolved as a grand art of improvisation. Successive generations of ideas building on each other and adapting to local conditions and sensibilities, codified into stories we call recipes, stories that point back to a specific time, people, and place.
The recipes I share here are stories of my own roots as well as the places I've grown, the places I've been, and the places I hope to one day go.
My roots are in Romania. I was born there on the Black Sea coast in 1987 in a region called Dobrogea, a region that is culturally and culinarily part of the Balkans and has strong Turkic influences from the period of Ottoman rule. I moved to Toronto with my parents in the early 90s and then spent a good part of my life shuttling back and forth; rooted in traditional farm to table eating in rural Romania, and expanding into a kaleidoscope of tastes in metro Toronto.
After university my husband and I lived in Michigan for a few years and then set our sights on moving back to Europe. We moved to Amsterdam in October 2017 with our American rescue dog Oliver.
I know there are so many stories like mine out there. Of moving, of losing and finding, of time, identity, and the connections that bind us all. For those of us that have moved through cultures like I have, food is the constant connection to not only time, place, and people but also to ourselves - to our identities.
It's these deep connections with food experiences and recipes that drive me to cook and share. To share my own and also to get a little closer to understanding others because ultimately that's what this is all about - human connection.
To that end, this blog is anchored in 3 main themes:
Exploring different culinary traditions: The people, places and histories behind recipes from different parts of the world. My current fascinations are regional Italian food and following the connections from the Romanian dishes most familiar to me to similar dishes of neighbouring countries in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Time: Food and time are fundamentally linked - food represents big moments and small, seasons, busy weeknights, special occasions, comforts and escapes.
Circularity: The connection to earth and to the culinary tradition rooted in so many cultures - use what you have and don't waste.
I hope you find something here that you connect with and please do drop me a line in the comments or find me on Instagram @theaoikitchen
About the author
My very first and most abiding experiences with food were those shared around the table at my grandparents homestead in a rural village just south of the Danube.
I remember blocks of briny homemade sheep's feta always on the table. Warm tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden. Eggs fetched from the coop every morning, fried crisp in sunflower oil. Dinner plate sized sunflowers picked from the side of the road, sun-dried, roasted, and eaten out of newspaper cones on the bench in front of the house, nodding buna ziua to passers-by.
My mamaia's feta and dill buns and hand-rolled phyllo. Lamb shanks roasted in cast iron over an open flame. Plates of hot fried potatoes with salt and paper thin slices of garlic. Endless summer days spent in trees, eating sour cherries and dark Italian plums right from the tree with sticky stained fingers. Chicken soup with the tender unlaid eggs poached in the broth.
Vinyl table cloths. Mourning doves. The perfume of late summer cantaloupe, left to chill in the larder and eaten cool in the lazy heat of the afternoon under the shade of grape vines. Dust kicked up on the dirt road from the bakery, carrying home hot crackly loaves in my arms. Walking hand-in-hand with tataia to the dairy to fill our large aluminium canisters with still-warm milk.