Second Homes

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Saturday was our monthly trip to Szeged, but for the first time since going back each month, we stayed at Györgyi’s dad, Árpád’s weekend house right on the Tisza River. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, her Dad’s partner, Katica, had made us a really delicious and meaty casserole. I realized that the highest viewed postings on this site are when I write about food, so I really screwed up by not taking pictures this weekend, but I promise it’s not going to happen again.

Even before we ate, Árpád was pouring glasses of Russian vodka. In addition, Sunday was international women’s day, so he had bought us some flowers, which we received right after we opened the jewelry he and Katica brought us from their recent trip to Cuba. The weekend house was really adorable. Not many people live right on the river for several reasons, but the most significant reason is because the river floods. And when it really floods, it really floods. A few years ago, the water went all the way up to the weekend house’s balcony. At that time, Árpád, who has won a gold medal for wrestling, thought it would be a terrific idea to jump into the water from the second floor. He hurt his leg when he landed on the lower fence. But nothing a little paprika pálinka couldn’t fix.

There are two permanent residents of the weekend house. A cat named Manó, who acts just like a dog, and a yellow lab, Alfi.

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On Sunday, Györgyi’s dad brought us fried fish that he had picked up in the market. Again, no pictures. I feel so guilty. But the fish was so incredible. It’s amazing how something so simple can taste so good. The fish, which looked like a giant, thick wishbone, and which still had bones pocking through, was strangely delicious for breakfast. After my first bite Györgyi kind of looked at me strangely, knowing that the American palate is really not used to fish in the morning. But I think that I’ve really gotten used to these things. Now it’s not strange at all, just delicious.

If the fish wasn’t enough, when we finally went back to her dad’s apartment, Katica had prepared a Hungarian classic: gulyás leves. I think that most people who are not from central/eastern Europe think that goulash is really thick, like a stew. But it’s not. It’s thin, though slow cooked to imbibe really incredible flavor. It’s a dish that originated in the Great Plain, where the Hungarian cowboys would cook it in a cast iron pot hanging over an open flame. After we finished the soup and were totally stuffed and were about to leave the kitchen, Katica breezed in to announce that it was time for our main course: pork chops and potatoes. I had to say a tiny prayer to myself because I didn’t think I would be even to eat a bitefull since I was so full. But once I tasted the perfectly cooked pork on the bone with a little layer of fat, I was ready for a whole course. I haven’t had a pork chop cooked like that in I can’t remember the time actually, but probably not since I was in high school. And my heart had grown fonder for it, that’s for sure.

Even though the sun didn’t really come out during our trip there, the combination of the cute, sleepy town and the generosity of Árpád’s and Katica made the weekend another fantastic one. And though I adore Budapest, and am strangely comforted by the sounds of the city when we finally get back, I can really see myself in Szeged. It’s a little bit like home. It’s a little bit like the quiet Europe most people dream about.

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