Saturday, October 9, 2010


Food!  Let's discuss the basic importance of food in our everyday lives without getting too philosophical.

If you look up the word food in Wikipedia you'll see the basic definition: the intake of any substance or materials eaten or drunk to provide nutritional support for the body or for PLEASURE.  My interest is clearly in the last part of the sentence.  I didn't accidentally hit the caps lock key on my keyboard before writing down the word pleasure.  I happily admit I am in the group of people that "live to eat" instead of just "eat to live".  I'm not saying that the nutritional value of food is not important, or that we shouldn't all think about what we are putting into our bodies on a daily basis, counting calories and looking up the amount of sugar on the back of every packaged good.  It's all good and useful and I will definitely get into the matter later on, but first and foremost I have to talk about the absolute and pure pleasure of food.  I mean any kind of food from appetizers, salads, veggies, pork fat, sweets and delicious fruits to meat dishes, pickles, fish, pasta al dente, the fantastic and never ever replaceable bread.  We all secretly love bread.  It's one of the few food item that we all share in our culture, let it be pita, nan, pumpernickel or my all time favorite crispy, freshly baked white bread).

Unfortunately I can't recall my first experience with food, which was probably some mashed up carrots or random baby food (which actually is very tasty and I remember really getting into it at a later age when some relative around me had a baby and I took a bite out of curiosity).  In Hungary food is a very interesting, exciting, and often quite frightening experience.  The hardships of war and history is truly embedded in our culinary culture, with 'easy to cook in bulk' items such as potato, bean and of course lots of white bread, with the occasional meat.  Which back then was only eaten on holidays or very special occasions, as food wasn't an option more like a necessity, let alone luxury like it is today in some places.  I'm extremely proud to belong to a nation with such a huge variety of dishes, in fact I'm not afraid to say that my mother can cook a different meal every day for a year and still not run out of options.

Needless to say this is one of the reasons why there is no real need to eat other type of food while living in Hungary, as there is very little chance you'll ever get bored of it.  I - for example - didn't really eat anything else other then Hungarian cuisine until I was about 17 years old.  I occasionally had tried Greek, Italian, and German food while vacationing with my family, but on an everyday basis really just eat my mom's and grandma's home cooking.

I remember I was 18 when I had the fortune of traveling to Japan for the first time.  I was absolutely shocked when walking around the supermarket and not finding a single item I could recognize by it's appearance or ingredients.  Eventually I bought a giant apple (btw they have the biggest apples ever, with the cute individual wrapping on them) and some weird packaged pastry.  I had tried sushi and I hated it.  I could not imagine how raw fish can be appetizing for anybody, it looked and tasted disgusting to me at that point.  Of course little did I know that very soon it would become one of my favorite cuisines.

It always amazes me how taste can change with time.  When I was little I used to hate certain things that now I absolutely love.  It wasn't really that I didn't try it, I just didn't like the way it tasted.  Other times it wasn't my preference that changed, more the fact that the cuisine was way too unfamiliar and alien to me.   Trying it several times I'd discover the new flavor and often would become obsessed with it.

I'm sure we all went through that with many dishes.   This makes me realize that loving some food and not others is sometimes not about taste and the question of 'like it or not', but more about how adventurous one is willing to be when it comes to trying new cuisines.  I can gladly say that I'm definitely the adventurous type, not only willing to try new stuff but even go and travel in search of interesting flavors.  Needless to say that I'm obsessed with Andrew Zimmern and his Bizzare Foods around the World, and would love to see him come to Hungary and check out the weird cuisine we have, cuz I'm telling you, some of the stuff we eat you wouldn't even wanna look at, that's how funky our food is.

I say I will taste anything once, and if I can't keep it down I give up.  At least I can say I tried it, and know how it tastes.  I had the same adventurous thought in mind when I traveled through Tokyo with my boyfriend Jason last December. A type of fish caught his attention at the first class lounge at Narita Airport called marinated cod roe, he immediately urged me to have a bite as he was placing a piece on his plate already.  I took it, I put a whole piece in my mouth and after the first chew I spit it out into my napkin.  Marinated cod roe is basically a piece of sushi made of the eggs from mature female fish, which one might think is not a big deal as we eat caviar, but I'm telling you this was the fishiest most disgusting thing I've eaten so far, which is to me a big deal, as I can take down pretty much anything.  This I couldn't.  The fermented fishy flavor of the cod roe made my eyes tear up, and left an awful taste in my mouth for hours, while Japanese business men - and Jason - were eating it away for BREAKFAST.

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