3 tiny stories about Hungary

One.

Spring and summer in Hungary aren’t tracked by time. (How could they be when the heat leaves you so sluggish, minutes take hours . . .unless you’re swimming in the lake or visiting with friends, in which case hours take minutes.) Instead days move through blossoming trees and changing appetites. With each passing week another fruit comes into season and the previous fruit goes out. So for instance, last year I arrived here at the start of cherry season. That meant my mouth was permanently stained with the sweet dark juice of cherries, which essentially explode as you pop them into your mouth. Until I started finding the bugs. Then I couldn’t bring myself to ‘pop’ any more cherries, no matter how tempting. Those little white worms are everywhere. However, not a single other person in Hungary seems to mind.  Now we’re in peach season, which is my favourite (mostly bug-free), and watermelon season. Before we leave for Canada, it will just be creeping into apple-picking-time. Fruit litters the street, suburbs and gardens. Free, juicy, organic fruit.

I love idea of tracking time with food. From pig killing season, bread making day, to the growing of ripe produce across the year – it’s all about the food.

 Two.

A long time ago the Turkish made a play for Europe. They essentially invaded the region – them and every other culture, it seems to me. Anyhow, during this time of the Turkish invasion (lasting a way long time), the Hungarian fighters managed to beat them back. There is a man on a horse (statue) here in Pecs in the main square. He is accredited for pushing back the Turkish.

Anyhow, the Hungarian win was a win for Christianity (I’m not purposely mixing religion and storytelling, but it’s true – that’s just how it was perceived at the time). And the pope declared that churches everywhere would ring their bells at noon to honour the Hungarians who fought for Europe.  Now all across the world, not only in Europe, church bells ring at noon – signalling lunch for many, but for those in Hungary who keep it in mind, also signalling respect and memorial.

The other day Zsolt and I were working in the garden when the bells began to ring, and it made Zsolt recount that story. Who doesn’t love listening to church bells ring over a city? These traditional markers of the day are so familiar that I don’t even think to ‘expect’ them. And yet once the bells are tolling, I can’t help but stop my work and listen.

 

Three.

There is an excellent culinary dish in Hungary that’s familiar in all the homes. It’s called Kaposta. I almost 100%  for sure spelt that word wrong. Basically it’s stewed sour cabbage with pork meat balls mixed with rice and wrapped in cabbage leaves, plus the addition of fried onions, smoked sausage, possibly bacon and of course paprika. (And salt.) It is thick, tasty and one of my favourite meals. Served with a heaping of sour cream with Eros Pista on the top (a puree of hot pepper) and you’ve just entered home-cooked paradise.

Yesterday while we were eating this meal, Zsolt’s mother remarked that it’s really good for hangovers. Apparently weddings in Hungary will always make available kaposta to their guests after midnight has passed, in order to ease the following day’s hangover. Looking back on a friend’s wedding we attending, this is true. We ate the awesome cabbage stew after midnight. This tells you two things about the Hungarians: they like their liquor in times of celebration, and they really know how to please a guest.

 

And there you have it. Three stories about Hungary, my home away from home.

Even lovers need a holiday

Sitting here on the red chaise in my parents room with the front windows cracked open. Outside there’s are two crows calling (squawking) to one another. One of them is picking around on the front yard where we had throw some seeds over the winter, but it can’t see me staring at it from inside. This morning I woke up, exercised on the elliptical, read the news, made a cup of tea, and now I am here writing this out.

Last night we took Zsolt to the airport and he flew off to Hungary. Actually, he’s still in the process of flying to Hungary and I can only imagine his state of exhaustion. By the time he makes it to his sister’s home in Erd, he’ll have been travelling for about 24 hours on very little sleep.

This morning I woke up, exercised, made a cup of tea . . . had some yogurt, fixed the bed, read the news . . . and now I’m here writing.

Make a plan: so this is my plan. Morning will be for writing, as it should always be but often is not, and this afternoon I’ll be reading up on NLP in order to better write around the topic of coaching, mentoring and leadership. This evening I’ll gorge myself on reality television and maybe help my dad with making dinner.

Zsolt and I often separate for long periods of time. He’s from Hungary, I’m from Canada . . . so when the holidays roll around, (and considering we currently have no children) one of us generally takes off to visit family for three to four weeks at a time. And when I say, ‘one of us’ that really means I take off to visit family, and leave Zsolt alone to fend for himself.

So I cannot hold a grudge against his going away for so long this time. Particularly since he’ll be attending his grandmother’s funeral and, I imagine, helping sort out things that need sorting.

But I guess it’s been a while since we split like this . . . about 14 months since our last separation (Christmas to Canada, which lasted for five weeks.)

Zsolt is a man full of wise words. This is largely because as a child he had a book of proverbs, and tried to memorize as many as possible. And while they don’t always make sense after he translated the Hungarian version to English, this particularl expression (something, I think, that came from a movie) works well. He says to me, “Even lovers need a holiday.”

And so he is right.

This month will be focused on my world, and my projects, and my wonderful work. It’s nice to have this time, even if being away from Zsolt does feel rather bizarre.

Even lovers need a holiday. It’s okay to be away from one another, and turn the focus onto yourself. And I like that that’s okay.

But geez, I do miss him. After being together so long, I think I may have forgotten how to be alone. However, I reckon it starts with routine.

This morning I woke up, fixed the bed, made tea, had some yogurt, checked my emails, read the news, and now I’m here writing . . . and it’s going to be a lovely day.

Living in a fruit salad

“Catherine, it’s so delicious. Oh, it’s so sweet! Finom, ez finom!

This is Anna the fruit pusher (aka Zsolt’s mother) trying to convince me to eat a piece of the orange coloured melon she’s just sliced. The table is covered with fruit – melon, apple, pear, peach . . . this morning there were raspberries, now finished off, and a few weeks earlier there were cherries too.

Hungary in the summer has a never ending parade of fruit. Organic, locally grown (aka the backyard), sweet, juicy, fruit.

 But I’m no fan of melons, with the exception of watermelons.

“Oh de jo,” she says, meaning ‘how good’ and looking earnestly at my face. You know, there’s something about her lovely blue eyes and absolutely eager expression that almost temps me to try the melon piece. But that would open flood gates. First comes one piece, then suddenly a slice, and then, of course, a whole half of the melon she’s trying to have finished.

“Lots of vitamins,” Zsolt reminds me. That’s the ultimate argument around here: lot’s of vitamins.

So I say to Zsolt, “how come your Dad isn’t eating fruit?” Laszlo is finishing off an ice cream (I also don’t want an ice cream; it’s too sweet for this hot weather. And I do not want a melon. Instead, as all this transpires, I’m slicing into peach after peach – recently picked from Zsolt’s grandmother’s peach tree in Pecs.)

“We’re all thinking of you,” replies Zsolt. “You’re the one who got sick.”

And it’s so freaking true too. For years I was saying his family eats too much bread, too much sugar – actually, I think too much anything is probably too much. And then I go and get the cancer. So there’s egg on my face. But nevertheless, I’m not eating an ice cream when fruit will do just as well; mind you, I’m also not eating that melon.

Jo borat, finom.” I comment – nice peach, tasty. And the conversation is deflected into peaches. Ground has been held, no melon has passed my lips.

Next up in the fruit parade will Hungarian-grown watermelons. I’m looking forward to this stage of the summer, because unlike those other melons – watermelons are wonderful.

Now Anna has turned toward her husband, Laszlo, and is trying to sell him the melon. He’s not budging either, though his ice cream is nearly finished. I feel like he and I are allies in our dislike toward melons (just ignore that I tried to throw him under the wheels in an effort to deflect attention from myself – we’re allies now. It’s all okay.)

This is a fruit salad summer. Lots of vitamins. Lots of juice. Lots of natural sugar. I’m not sure if so much fruit is or isn’t cancer fighting (I’d say all those raspberries were probably quite helpful), but they are certainly delicious.

Anyhow, no melon for me, thanks very much. But I’ll certainly have another peach.