So to get you in the Halloween spirit (Ha! See what I did there?) I’m reposting a piece on THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST–time to get your fangs on!
Here are some books that are excellent reads if you’re in a Transylvanian-Gothic-vampire sort of mood. Refreshment suggestions follow the reading list. For your listening pleasure while you nibble and read, I’d suggest something truly over the top–like “Halloween” by Mannheim Steamroller or some atmospheric Grieg. Nox Arcana would also do the trick quite nicely.
*THE LAND BEYOND THE FOREST Emily Gerard. Once out of print but now mercifully reissued, this book was written by the first English-speaking woman to visit the Carpathians. It was the book Bram Stoker most heavily relied upon in conjuring his version of Transylvania, and it was the single most essential resource I had in writing THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST. Gerard’s tales of neighborhood gossip about a missing gentleman having “gone wolf” inspired my story of the Popa men.
*TRANSYLVANIA AND BEYOND Dervla Murphy
*TRANSYLVANIAN CUISINE Paul Kovi
*Miklos Banffy’s Transylvanian trilogy
*VAMPIRE: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF THE UNDEAD Manuela Dunn Mascetti
*VAMPIRES David J. Skal
*IN SEARCH OF DRACULA Radu Florescu
To drink while you read, it must be plum brandy. It goes by various names in Transylvania, depending upon whether you are of of Romanian, Hungarian, or German descent, but it is similar stuff–warmly fruity and entirely potent. And just to make sure it doesn’t all go straight to your head, a nice bowl of corn porridge, a staple of the Carpathian diet.
This is a virtuous dish, being both exquisitely simple and endlessly varied. A cornmeal mash, it requires only three ingredients and is best prepared in an iron cauldron over an open fire. If you insist upon cooking it in a modern kitchen, you may.
Boil one quart of water in a pot. When it reaches a rapid boil, add one tablespoon salt and slowly pour in two cups of cornmeal, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and cook for approximately twenty minutes, continuing to stir to break up any lumps.
Mămăligă may be prepared with a little milk to make a softer dish to be eaten as porridge, or it may be sliced and served in place of bread or eaten out of hand with a salty ewe’s milk cheese and sour cream. It may be crumbled and served in a dish of hot milk to invalids, or sliced and fried in butter for heartier types.