Women’s Day/ Shepherdess Marioara Babu, Living Human Treasure on King’s Road

On Transalpina or King’s Road, as the road where clouds embrace the mountains is known, a remarkable woman manages to get people to come to the area through traditional culinary dishes, and by her way of being, a real “Living Human Treasure”, a distinction she earned in 2022 by preserving and promoting the old customs.

Born in a village under the mountains, in the southwestern Jiu Valley, at the entrance to the Jietului Gorge towards Obarsia Lotrului, to parents who were also animal breeders, her grandmother coming from Poiana Sibiului many years ago, Marioara Babu, aged 64, carries on traditions and customs and promotes everything that life on the mountain means, with its hardships, but also with its satisfactions.

She married at 18, in Novaci, and has a daughter and a son, who are involved, as much as time allows, in carrying on the family customs. The family continues the tradition of her in-laws, also livestock breeders, who since 1964 went to Mount Stefanu, to a former sheepfold of the dairy factory in Targu Jiu.

“From May until the end of September I don’t come down one day from the mountain, because after I come down I miss the mountain so much, I have tears in my eyes. Transalpina was completed in 2011. In the summer we used to go with our cattle to the mountains in Mount Stefanu, next to the mountain we made the Stefanu Sheepfold, about 40 years ago, there we used to spend the summer. I always say that the road came upon us, not us upon the road. When Transalpina was modernised, people would see us milking the sheep, they would see the dogs, the sheepdogs, we would put a sheepskin coat outside, they would be delighted to take pictures, they would go into the sheepfold to buy cheese and they would want to eat what we were cooking in the cauldrons. We had the pots on hooks, they’d come in and catch on the smell of cabbage and pisatura (a mixture of bacon and onion), or sheep stew, they’d find polenta on the fire, they’d go crazy and wanted some. Everything that happened (…) is thanks to the tourists, because they encouraged me to make more food, the tourists wanted to eat what we ate. We started with a pot, we cut a lamb, we laid a table, and now hundreds of tourists come every day,” she tells AGERPRES.

She set up the first gastronomic point in Gorj and Valcea counties, and recently opened the second one, in Novaci, where she also organizes dinners, also out of a desire to promote and continue the traditions.

“I have certified two of my traditional products, sheep stew, the first traditional product from Gorj, is registered at OSIM, and homemade ‘taitei’ (noodles), and 18 mountain products, including cheese, butter, curdled milk, bellows cheese, cheddar, polenta-based balmos and bulz, fir, acacia, raspberry, blueberry syrups. I want to make another traditional product, sarmale (minced meat cabbage rolls) with pisatura. The “pisatura” is slightly smoked, minced lard, with onion in it, turned into a mush, it is put in the sarmale, in the meat composition and it is also placed at the bottom of the pan. At the end of Lent I will organize something traditional at the gastronomic point in Novaci, I want to mobilize the community, to serve eggs, cheese, bread, doughnuts, to make a fire, to shout from one hill to another, as it was done in the past,” reveals Marioara.