Of all the words I learnt while doing my summer language course in Sibiu in central Romania, this one was by far the most important: îngheţată (ice-cream). Summers in Europe can be surprisingly hot at times, and when you are on the go, an ice-cream cone for 2 or 3 lei (that’s the plural of the local currency, the leu) is a quick refresher.
Îngheţată is a funny word, quite unlike its equivalents in the other major Romance languages:
- in French, ice-cream is glace,
- in Italian it is gelato,
- in Spanish it’s helado,
- in Portuguese it is gelado, although in Brazil they tend to use sorvete (prounced ‘sorvetchy’) which is possibly related to sorbet.
The Romanian word comes from the verb a îngheţa, meaning to freeze, and îngheţat and îngheţată are the masculine and feminine singular forms of the adjective frozen. A îngheţa de frig means, literally, to freeze of cold; in other words, to freeze to death.
On the streets of Sibiu, there were lots of ice-cream machines in the squares and pedestrian alleyways, staffed by often bored-looking teenagers. A local explained to me that Romanians had only recently discovered these machines, most of which were from Italy.
It seemed, though, that at the time Romania hadn’t yet discovered milkshakes. I’m convinced there’s a fortune to be made selling milkshakes during a hot summer. Just get the îngheţată and add lapte (milk). Sometimes ice-cream cones alone cannot quench a thirst.