Korhelyleves – Hungarian Drunkard’s Soup!

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Happy New Year from Hungary! Last night, Budapestis rang in 2014 all over the city. I went down to the river to watch the fireworks show. It was packed. I should have brought my umbrella with me. So many people were spraying each other with bottles of Törley (Hungarian bubbly) that it seemed like it was raining champagne. Hungarians surely know how to celebrate. And yesterday I was Hungarian. When I finally waddled home I had quite the headache. It’s a good thing that the Magyars have something special for a Hungarian Hangover. It’s called Korhelyleves or Drunkard’s Soup. Nope, it’s not made of strong black coffee. It contains sauerkraut, sausage, and sour cream. Today, I made myself a giant pot. I needed it. I’ve included the recipe in case you need it, too. Happy New Year! Or as they say in Hungary - Boldog Új Évet Kívánok! Continue reading

Poppy Seeds, Witches, and Stools! Oh, My!

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I will never look at a stool in the same way again. Last week, I was having tea with my Hungarian friend Piroska when she told me about the Lucy Chair (Luca szék). The story sounded like something out of The Wizard of Oz. Many years ago in Hungary, when things like weather and illness couldn’t be explained, men would begin making stools on December 13, St. Lucy’s Day. They had to work on the chair each day up till Christmas Eve, use nine different types of wood, and the tools could only be made of wood. Continue reading

The Pickle Ornament – A Fake Cultural Tradition!

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When I was in fourth grade, I cried when mom sat me down and told me that there was no Santa Claus. My embarrassed older brother made her tell me. I probably would have gone on believing forever. That same year, Mom told me the Easter Bunny didn’t exist and that the money under my pillow didn’t come from the Tooth Fairy, either. It was a bad year.   Continue reading

Santa Claus is Coming to Town…Half Naked!

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Recently hundreds of men and women ran through the streets of Budapest dressed like Santa Claus. But they weren’t donned in fur. These St. Nicks wore swim trunks and bikinis! The skimpily-clad merry makers were participating in Budapest’s Santa Speedo Run, an annual event to help raise money for children’s charities. Continue reading

Silver and Gold in Hungary

photo by Lennart Guillet

When I was a kid, every December I waited anxiously for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to come on TV. My family had a black and white Zenith. So, I had to take Santa’s word for it when Rudolph’s nose turned red. Since then, I figured I’ve sung “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” over 10,000 times. It’s a job requirement for teaching third graders. Continue reading

The Wrapping Paper

photo by Lennart Guillet

Of all my Christmas memories, there is one that stands out among the rest. It happened in Budapest several years ago. The Boy Scouts from my school were going to throw a Christmas party at a local orphanage. I’d help chaperone. The children at the orphanage were all preschool age and had severe hearing disabilities. Our Scouts were one of the first groups of foreigners these children would meet. Continue reading

Photo Friday: Budapest’s Christmas Market!

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There’s nothing like a European Christmas Market to put you into the holiday spirit, and this week Budapest’s famed Christmas Market opened at Vörösmarty tér. Here, nestled under pompoms of lights and the branches of a giant Christmas tree, rows of wooden stalls offer traditional Hungarian foods and crafts. This afternoon, I visited the market for some sausage, roasted chestnuts, kürtőskalács, and forralt bor. As soon as I finish typing this post, I’m going to rush back. There’s only one thing better than a trip to the Christmas Market. Two trips! Happy Holidays from Budapest! Continue reading

Gesztenyepüré (Chestnut Purée)

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“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack frost nipping at your nose.” The man who penned those song lyrics could very well have been Hungarian. This time of year in Magyarland, noses certainly get nipped, and you’ll see lots of chestnuts roasting on open fires – especially at the Christmas markets. Chestnut purée, or gesztenyepüré, is a wildly popular wintertime dessert over here. In fact, it’s said that a winter without snow is possible in Hungary, but a winter without gesztenyepüré is inconceivable. Continue reading

Mézeskalács!

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what in the world to send my friends back in California for Christmas. I wanted to send them something Hungarian. Wine bottles would shatter. Salami would never make it through customs. And then I got it. I’ll send them gingerbread! Known as mézeskalács here, you’ll find it everywhere in Budapest this time of year. This week I went down the big Christmas Market in Pest and bought a dozen pieces to send back home. Before I put them in the mail, I decided to take some photos. Note to self: never photograph mézeskalács when hungry. The gingerbread you see in these shots don’t exist anymore. So, to all my friends back in the States, today you’re going to see what you would have gotten for Christmas. Continue reading

Beigli! Mmmm!

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Swirls. I’m a big fan of them. I like the swirl of park benches and chimney smoke. I’m fond of swirly signatures, too. When I doodle, I make swirlies. But my favorite swirl of all is a Hungarian one. And the best part is that you can eat it. This delectable swirl can be found in the center of the most famous Hungarian Christmas pastry called beigli. Beigli commonly comes in two types: poppy seed and walnut. Most Hungarians couldn’t imagine Christmas without it. Continue reading