Alina Piloiu preserves a life she was forced to leave behind

Hannah Sparks 2 November 2021 24
Alina, Raoul and Sarah Piloiu

Romanian Delights founder Alina Piloiu with her children, Raoul, 5, and Sarah, 2. Photo: Supplied.

In 2015, Alina Piloiu and her husband, Dani, moved to Australia with two pieces of luggage.

The young couple had met in Sibiu, Romania, in 2012, while Alina was studying to become a translator.

Soon after, she received a scholarship for a traineeship in Luxembourg, and from there, they took what money was left – enough for a one-way ticket – and decided to seek a better life Down Under.

“Romania was in a bad economic state at the time – a lot of unemployment,” says Alina.

Most new arrivals can’t wait to experience Queensland’s tropical climate, or Sydney’s iconic sites, but not this couple.

“We met a couple online who ran a cattle farm in Binda, NSW,” says Alina. “My husband had worked for a dairy farm when he was younger and he wanted to learn about beef cattle so we decided to head there and stay in their cottage.”

Binda is situated in the NSW Southern Tablelands, west of Crookwell, and is home to 280 people. It’s classified as regional Australia and is remote if you don’t drive.

“It was a huge change from the city life both of us grew up with and knew in Romania,” says Alina. “And I didn’t have a licence so I had to rely on my husband to take me anywhere and everywhere.”

Within a year, Alina was pregnant with their son, Raoul, which made living remotely even more challenging.

“I was stuck at home all day and not able to go anywhere,” she says. “I’d be dying for Dani to come home for lunch or finish work.”

Raoul and Sarah Piloiu eating zacusca

Raoul and Sarah Piloiu can’t get enough of mum’s zacusca. Photo: Supplied.

It’s a notion most farmer’s wives and stay-at-home mums can relate to, and it only grew worse as Alina longed for her parents and in-laws to be around her and the couple’s newborn child.

But as the economic situation in Romania worsened, the chances of family visiting dwindled.

In the absence of family, Alina leant on her friends and turned to the home cooking she’d always loved. This provided her with a sense of comfort.

“We were having a get-together and I brought a platter with my zacusca, crackers and cheese,” she says. “I said, ‘This is a Romanian thing we make.’ My friends thought it was so amazing they told me to bottle it.”


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Romanians make zacusca at the end of summer as a way to preserve vegetables to eat during their long, harsh winters, which can last up to five months.

Alina had learnt how to make a traditional eggplant zacusca from her mother and grandmother, who she grew up with, and knew how to make it preservative, sugar and gluten-free, and vegan.

She began by making a few jars from her home kitchen to test at the Rotary markets in Goulburn, which were almost a disaster.

“We only had a tiny table that had been lent to us by a friend,” says Alina. “It was about 1.2 metres by 60 centimetres wide; an old tablecloth lent to us by the people who owned the cottage we were living in; and the jars and handmade labels were stuck on with glue.

Alina, Sarah, Dani and Raoul Piloiu in canola field

The Piloiu family now lives in Cowra and say they will never leave regional Australia. Photo: Supplied.

“That day it rained and we didn’t have a gazebo. We had no idea what a stall at an Australian market should look like and all the people around us had fancy gazebos. But by the end of the day, I’d sold out.

“People didn’t care how it looked; they cared how it tasted and that’s how I realised I had a good product.”

The more markets Alina and Dani visited, the more people requested new flavours.

Alina has since added a beetroot, chilli and mushroom zacusca to the range that is now professionally packaged as Romanian Delights.

Alina makes her products in a commercial kitchen in Cowra – where she, Dani, Raoul and their two-year-old daughter, Sarah, now live – and are sold in IGA supermarkets in Crookwell, Young and Bathurst.

Dani is still farming and Alina is growing the business, with hopes to go nationwide and leave it as a legacy for her children.

Original Article published by Hannah Sparks on About Regional.


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24 Responses to Alina Piloiu preserves a life she was forced to leave behind
Maria Mia Piloiu Maria Mia Piloiu 1:42 am 08 Nov 21

Felicitări!

Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 4:57 pm 07 Nov 21

Here’s our website for anyone who would like to have a look at our Zacusca: www.romaniandelights.com.au

    Kerrie Buitendam Kerrie Buitendam 10:00 pm 07 Nov 21

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu thank you for sharing

    Congratulations and well done wishing you continuing success

    Would love to be able to buy in Canberra

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 10:01 pm 07 Nov 21

    Kerrie Buitendam thanks so much for your kind words! Any particular store you’d like to see it in?

    Kerrie Buitendam Kerrie Buitendam 10:07 pm 07 Nov 21

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu

    Thank you

    Would be lovely at IGA Kambah ACT

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 10:09 pm 07 Nov 21

    Kerrie Buitendam no worries, thank you, I’ll enquire. If you have a trip into Goulburn, it’s currently stocked at Bradfordville Friendly Grocer.

Robyne Mitchell Robyne Mitchell 2:30 pm 07 Nov 21

Such a pity that Secret Ingredient had none!

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 4:53 pm 07 Nov 21

    Robyne Mitchell thanks for letting us know! I’ll contact them and ask if they’d like to stock some.

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 5:10 pm 07 Nov 21

    Robyne Mitchell did you mean The Essential Ingredient in Kingston?

    Robyne Mitchell Robyne Mitchell 5:11 pm 07 Nov 21

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Yes, sorry

Wendy Stokes Wendy Stokes 12:16 pm 07 Nov 21

Great storyline

Sue Steve Mil Sue Steve Mil 9:24 am 07 Nov 21

Good on you

As most people come to this country to ADD value to it, as your doing

Hope it all works out for your family

Gail Noakes Gail Noakes 8:48 am 07 Nov 21

Wonderful story, well done

Lauren Vest Lauren Vest 8:34 am 07 Nov 21

Alina and Danny are such lovely people - and can highly recommend their zacusca, goes excellent with eggs for breakfast.

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 4:55 pm 07 Nov 21

    Lauren Vest thanks so much beautiful! Really glad you’re enjoying it.

Ann Tainsh Ann Tainsh 8:32 am 07 Nov 21

Fantastic

Christian Greten Christian Greten 7:54 am 07 Nov 21

Good to learn about the success stories that are all around us. Congratulations Alina and Dani for carving out your niche in a new country.

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 4:56 pm 07 Nov 21

    Christian Greten thanks so much! Beginnings are never easy, but if there’s a will there’s a way right? 😀

    Christian Greten Christian Greten 5:03 pm 07 Nov 21

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Correct. I've long maintained that Australia provides loads of opportunity if you're prepared to step out and work hard. You've just done that. It makes me happy to see it's still possible. I'll send you a FB message in a moment.

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Alina Alexandra Piloiu 5:04 pm 07 Nov 21

    Christian Greten much appreciated! Yes, most welcome to

    Christian Greten Christian Greten 5:18 pm 07 Nov 21

    Alina Alexandra Piloiu Message sent, you'll have to look in the New Message Requests.

    Tina Pascu Tina Pascu 5:51 pm 07 Nov 21

    Congratulations dear Alina. We are Romanian and enjoy the "zacusca" we make at home from eggplants. We wish you success in the new venture.

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