A FEW WRITINGS OF MINE:1.
- My friend and co-author of the Tastes and Tales Cookbook: Dr. Renata Rustyak
Hungarians love to be different, even better they love to be unique.
And guess what! They are! They are a bunch of Asians or at least people with
Asian bloodline in the centre of Europe. Even their name is different from
the name we know them by. Most of the world thinks of them as Hungarians
which simply means they are descendants of the Huns. However, this is not
true. When the Magyars (the way Hungarians call themselves) arrived to
Europe from roughly where today’s Mongolia can be found, the Europeans
for whom every Asian looked the same anyway, thought: since these people
look like the Huns, fight like the Huns, smell like the Huns, they must be the
descendants of the Huns and therefore be called Hungarians.
That said, we have to recognize that they truly enjoy being different, they love
to be different, even better, unique. They even invented a special word from
the marriage of the words: Hungarian and unique (in Hungarian unicum).
From this union the word Hungaricum was born. Any number of objects, dishes
and even ideas might be called Hungaricums, things which the Hungarians
consider their very own. Some are really unique and only existing in Hungary,
some others obtained this rank through an oversight of the ever so proud
and patriotic Hungarians. Good examples of this could be the marzipan, the
strudel and even the famous stuffed cabbage.
A piece of advice: If you don’t want to lose your Hungarian friends, never let
them know that you suspect their Hungaricums to be less than authentically
Hungarian. Don’t tell them you had great fois-gras in France, an excellent
strudel in Austria or that stuffed cabbage was actually invented by the Arabs.
Magyars may not like to hear it…
The best parts of Hungarian cuisine are undoubtedly the soups and desserts.
A poor agricultural country, Hungary taught her sons and especially her
daughters the importance of making the most of what little they had. If you
don’t have all that much to work from in the kitchen, the limited amount
of raw materials go the longest way if you use them to make a soup. Most
Hungarians consider even the richest meal insufficient if there is no soup in
On the other hand if there is nothing else to eat only a bowl of heart-warming
soup, Hungarians will happily accept that as a satisfactory meal. Hungarians
can make a soup of practically nothing. Give them a shoe-sole and two shoelaces
and they will probably come up with an unbelievably tasty soup using
them. On second thought maybe even the shoe-laces are redundant… The
shoe-sole alone would be enough
The Little Swimming Champion
Lucy hated PE. She also hated the line there, where she had to stand last in the line again, in spite of her Uncle Sali remarking how much this little girl had grown this summer, she will outgrow her mom one of these days .Not that it is such a big deal, for Lucy’s mom was tiny, and as things stood, Lucy didn’t seem to grow much taller than her. That’s why Daddy and uncle Sali insisted she goes to swim.
– She will get stronger there- they said. Lucy hoped they were right, the thought was consoling, and she was thinking of the funny smell of the pool, and how much she likes that smell, and the echoing large hall, but even better than that the outside pool, that was accessible through a little secret corridor, and where the water could only be seen when a sudden gust of wind has lifted the white cloud of mist from the pool .Yes I am strong. I am the best in my age group, and maybe this year I will be in the junior contest .I shall win, and on the top of the stand I will be the tallest. Then it won’t hurt anymore, that Zsuzsi Klein grew so much that she is now three places ahead of her in the line, so far, that even the teacher has heard when she whispered back to her comfortingly:
-Don’t cry, next year you will grow more too!
Of course she will grow more. And she will win all the races. And she will be a swim champ. And Daddy and uncle Sali will be proud of her. But this, like everything else these days has also turned out different.
She hasn’t seen Daddy and uncle Sali for months now, because they were drafted, and taken somewhere far, to work, to a nice place where they obviously liked to be, as they have written twice already, and both times they wrote the same, that they were healthy, and they were in a nice place, among the mountains with clear air. Lucy would have preferred them to be home, even if the air was not so clear. She has swiped one of the postcards, hiding it in her coat’s lining, so Daddy would be with her at all times. So she had Daddy with her when they had to move to the new place. She didn’t think Daddy would have liked the new place much, because they could not bring the books with them and a lot of other things had to be left behind too. Lucy managed to bring her doll , Piri with her, but the doll house made by uncle Sali , which had a real kitchen in it with a real cooking stove that could be heated up, well…it had to be left behind in the old flat, along with the books. There were a lot of people here, and they were not very nice to each other, and the little ones were crying, but the worst part was, that you could not go to the swimming pool from here, and how can you become a swim champ like this? Lucy didn’t much care about the school, but the swimming pool she really did miss.
That morning was very cold. It was cold when the arrowcross came, and it was cold when they started towards the Danube. The women were silent, and the children were cold too .Lucy was happy she had run back for her coat, not only because of the cold, but this way she had Daddy’s card with her too. She hugged the doll Piri to her, and hoped the doll was not too cold. Mommy had promised to knit a red pom- pom hat for Piri , but the needles and the yarn had been left behind in the old flat.
– Don’t cry Piri, I shall put you under my coat if you are cold…
Then everything happened so fast. They had to take their shoes off, and had to line up at the edge of the riverbank.
Turn to face the water!-commandeered a young boy
They did turn. Mommy held Lucy’s hand tightly, and asked her in a whisper:
-You still know how to swim don’t you? Underwater?
– Of course I do ! I can swim the farthest in my age group.
-All right- said Mommy- Show me!
In that moment the shots started to pop. The people fell into the icy water. But just before the shots reached them Mommy said –NOW!- and kicked her feet out from under Lucy.
Icy water. Among floating ice blocks and dead bodies she came up for a long breath, and dived down deep into the water, just like the trainer had taught her how. She just swam and swam as far as she only could. She came up to the surface far beyond the bridge. The water was freezing cold, and she was far from the embankment but she made it to the shore somehow. .
She never saw Mommy again. Or Daddy, or uncle Sali. She had nothing remaining from her old life, only the postcard washed empty, and the Piri doll. The doll somehow got entangled in the lining of her coat. A small miracle, a tiny piece of the old Lucy. The little girl whose biggest sorrow was that she was the last in the line, and who would have given anything to become a swim champ.