Bite your teeth into this: Dinner with Dracula

Event includes dishes from Romania

Event includes dishes from Romania

October 21, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Whether it has been history, myth or legend, the tales of Vlad III the Impaler and his bloody reign have been part of Katherine Walsh Ryan's life.

Ryan can trace her roots to Romania, the same homeland of Vlad III the Impaler, or whom Bram Stoker has forever dubbed Count Dracula. Ryan's grandparents were from Transylvania, and her mother was born in the same citadel as Vlad III the Impaler

"They were born 500 years apart," Ryan says of Dracula and her mother. "Are we related? Who knows?"

Ryan has always been fascinated by the true tales of Vlad III and the mythology that has followed him for centuries.

"In sixth grade my first book report was on Vlad the Impaler," she said. "So my interest in this has been for many, many decades."


To celebrate her Romanian heritage as well as raise money for something else dear to her, the Ryan Film Institute Teen Filmmakers Workshop, Ryan is hosting the fourth annual Dinner with Dracula. The dinner is from 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, at Corleone by Danny Ray in downtown Martinsburg.

The evening features a dinner filled with Romanian-inspired dishes. Three of the recipes come from Ryan's grandmother's cookbook: Ghivetch, a multi-vegetable and fruit dish; Mamaliga layered with butter and cheese, which is a cheese polenta; and chicken paprikash tocana, which is a chicken stew with paprika. All of the dishes, Ryan calls gourmet "peasant foods."

To translate those recipes to share with Herald-Mail readers, Ryan admits it was a bit of a challenge. She said many Romanian women were used to cooking over an open flame, and her grandmother was no exception.

"My grandmother would say, 'Make flame this high,'" Ryan said with an imitation of her grandmother's accent. "How long do I cook it grandma? 'Stay in kitchen. Don't burn.'"

Many of the dishes incorporated in the evening would have been found in Romania during the time, Ryan said. Meals such as roast pork loin would have been served in most peasant homes in the fall, coinciding with butchering. The beef tenderloin, however, is something that would probably would have only been found on the table of royalty, Ryan said.

Even the spice apple dish would have found its way on a Romanian dinner tables. Ryan, who visited her grandparents' homeland two years ago, said in the backyards of most Romanians, every inch is used.

"There's no grass in their backyards," she said. "They don't cultivate lawns there, every square foot is productive."

From a vegetable garden and herb garden, to pig pen, chicken coop, and fruit trees, Ryan said the average Romanian grows or raises a large percentage of the food the family consumes right in their own backyard.

That trip to Romania inspired Ryan to six months ago rewrite "Dinner with Dracula" play she produces every year as part of event. This year theme is "Wedding in Wallachia" is an international wedding reception for Vlad III and his new bride, Ilona Szilagy. Ryan's real life husband, Dr. Phillip J.A. Ryan, is Dracula, while she plays his new wife.

Ryan said she made a point to weave historical fact with historical fantasy. But it's not all serious, there are a lot of laughs.

"The cast calls this 'hysterical historical comedy' or 'fratured fairy tales,'" she said.

Dining with Vlad and his new bride are many historical and literary figures such as Mary Queen of Scots (Marianne Tomasi), Lord Darnley (Dr. Philip Grove), Henry VIII and his daughter the future Queen Elizabeth, as well as Sultan Mehmed II (Dr. Larry Brack).

Historically, Vlad III's father, Vlad II, sent Vlad III and his younger brother, Radu, to live with the Sultan when they were boys. Vlad II thought he could use his sons to insure that the Turks wouldn't attack Romania. Eventually, Vlad II was assassinated and his oldest son was also killed. After discovering their deaths, Vlad III worked hard, some say bloody hard, to recapture his throne.

Ryan said historically the figures she portrays in "Wedding in Wallachia" would have probably never sat at the same table. And in some cases, they are the wrong time period. "It's really a historical fantasy," she said.

In addition to the live show, there will be fortune tellers, belly dancers, Romanian music and a silent auction. There might be some visits from vampires, gypsies and witches as well.

Ryan wants people to leave with a sense of place and time.

"I want them to have a taste of Transylvania," she said.

Dinner with Dracula menu

Tossed salad with lightly herbed vinaigrette

Warm bread and butter

Chicken paprikash tocana (Chicken stew with paprika)

Mamaliga layered with butter and cheese (corn meal polenta)

Roast pork Loin

Spiced apples

Beef tenderloin

Ghivetch (multi-vegetable and fruit dish cooked stovetop then baked in oven)

Cheese strudel

Sweet Inspirations specialty - red velvet cake in a Dinner with Dracula-themed shape

Chicken paprikash tocana (chicken stew with paprika)

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