Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brotherly cook-off

As I was typing in "" I was thinking it had been a while since I posted.  Yes, actually it's been a month to the day.  Life has been happening here, and I should probably be sharing more of life's moments.  Take yesterday, for example:

Cooking/baking is not a strong skill of mine.  I can help in the kitchen, I can do the basics, but my experience is lacking. When I'm at home in the US I have two parents who are great and adventurous cooks, uncles who are great grill masters, aunts who are also fantastic cooks, and a grandma who, in her earlier years, could whip out 4 dozen cookies, a hot dish and 4 side dishes, and some caramel rolls in her sleep. When I was in college, I was usually too stingy to buy good ingredients and too "busy" to spend time cooking. The point is, cooking/baking is not something I usually do.

Here in Göröszállás, my host mom is the kitchen engineer and darn good one.  Cooking and baking here are simpler. In some ways its healthier because many of the ingredients are basic and don't include processed, high fructose corn syrup additives. While household incomes in Hungary are significantly lower than the US, food prices are comparable. Add the fact that the village doesn't have a store, and the spectrum of ingredients and food in the pantry because more limited. 

While I've helped my host-mom in the kitchen at various times throughout the year, I didn't really get the itch to cook anything on my own until a colleague came to visit in early May.  We cooked hamburger patties made with beef, which is not overly common in Hungary.  They were a success! My host dad and brother especially enjoyed them.

Hungarians make darn good pancakes--called palacsintas (pawl-aw-chintas). We've made them in the village a few times and I'm tried them at other markets and festivals.  They're like a crepe and similarly filled with jam, nutella, or other sweet filling.  

Last night I decided to make "American" pancakes which are unique to Hungarians because they're much thicker and more substantive.  I checked with my host mom to make sure they had the ingredients in the house.  No oil! No butter! I assumed we had these things, and usually they do. But for the time being, we had a vat of pig fat. Maybe some of you foodies would shrug and say this is the same thing as oil or butter. To me, the idea of it seems like it would have a different taste and be more...fatty. But, because it's not everyday I get to cook with pig fat I decided to forge on.  And the pancakes turned out to be a smash hit! I didn't make very many because I didn't know how they would go over.  Also, cooking with gas was a new experience.

I think my host brother still had room in his stomach afterwards. He said, "now (9:30pm) we make Hungarian pancakes."  

This turned out to be one of the best nights of brotherly bonding we've had all year.  We made a huge stack of palacsintas taking turns at the griddle and spreading jam and nutella on the steaming cakes.  We spoke in our usual Hunglish and had a fascinating conversation about life in the village and his plans for the future. 

In the end, it was a great night, and I'm glad I said yes to cooking with pig fat.  

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