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
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
“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
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
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
I thought I knew how to do Christmas: decorate some cookies, write a few cards, sing along with Bing Crosby, hold back tears when nearly all of Bedford Falls packs into Jimmy Stewart’s house at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. That is until I moved to Hungary. Hungarians take Christmastime to an entirely new level. And they have a couple of wintertime pleasures that just might keep me in Hungary forever.
I have been to a local buffet here in Budapest three times, and each time I visited the dessert table, I had the same experience. They were out of Somlói Galuska! This decadent dessert with a jelly roll base is drenched in rum, covered with custard, swimming in chocolate, topped with apricot jam, sprinkled with cocoa, and capped with mountains of whipped cream. The first time I tried Somlói Galuska, my taste buds went into cardiac arrest. Continue reading
It’s chilly in Budapest now, time for wearing layers. But it’s time for eating layers, too. Layered dishes are extremely popular in Hungary, and my absolute favorite is Rakott Krumpli (layered potatoes). Made with potatoes, sausage, bacon, and gobs of sour cream, it’s quintessential Hungarian comfort food. My first year in Budapest, Elizabeth, my cleaning lady, would bake a big casserole dish full of it for me every week and leave it in the oven. One day, I had to ask her to stop. My pants wouldn’t fit. Continue reading
Yesterday, my Hungarian friend Piroska came up to me at work, reached her hand out, and pulled my earlobe. “Why did you do that?” I asked, surprised. “Because today’s your birthday,” she replied. “In Hungary, if it’s your birthday, you get your ear pulled.” Then she spoke in Hungarian. “Isten éltessen sokáig, füled érjen bokádig!” “What does that mean?” I asked. “God bless you, and may your ears reach your ankles,” Piroska translated. “The reasoning is that if you pull someone’s ear on every birthday, each year his ear will droop a little lower. By wishing him ears that touch his ankles, you’re wishing him a long life.” Darling.
In Gyula Krúdy’s The Cookery Book and the Toy Shop, Sindbad says, “Since I find it impossible to eat the local fare, I carry a Hungarian cookery book about with me and satisfy my appetite by browsing through it everyday. It is written by everyone’s Aunti Rézi, but from this book I can lunch and dine to my liking.” I, like Sindbad, like to look through cookery books, too. And I agree with Krúdy who also writes, “a cookery book such as this is your best friend abroad.” Continue reading