The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Dec 21, 2010

Hungry in Hungary

In the late 1980s, Stephen Brook hung out in Budapest and noted that there was no other part of Eastern Europe where the food was as plentiful and of as good quality. In his excellent (simply excellent!) account of his time in three capitals along the Danube, The Double Eagle: Vienna, Budapest, Prague, he writes:
The shops are well-stocked, and good quality meat and fish are readily available. A visit to the huge covered market at Dimitrov tér is a revelation to those who assume that all Eastern Europe is a land of unmoving queues and perpetual shortages... The most attractive stalls were those selling peppers. Masses of cherry-red and yellow paprika pods, strung into wreaths and other elaborations, were hanging form the beams and walls framing the stalls, while on trays below were scattered hundreds of shiny pale green sweet peppers. Beans and nuts and herbs were abundantly available, and in a far corner of the market a few stalls specialized in whole goose livers. Not cheap, of course, at 900 forints, but probably a tenth of the price you would have to pay in a Périgord town square. The market is spacious enough to accommodate bakeries, clothes shops, sausage and lángos stands, peasants behind trestle tables selling locally produced honeys and jams and orchids boxed in transparent plastic. I bought some lángos, a lump of pale dough that is slung into hot fat, where it writhes until golden and dimpled; in the mouth it is soft, juicy and delicious, a kind of extrem doughnut that regrettably leaves a nasty oily taste in the mouth, no doubt an honest reflection of nasty oil in which it attained its succulence.


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