I’m in the States on vacation, making sure my kids are not only bilingual, but bicultural. That means introducing them to American food culture, right? Here are some American culinary delights I’ve indulged my children with, and some that I’ve already introduced to Hungarians – well, not all Hungarians yet, but I’m working on it.
1. Root Beer Floats. My kids had their first today. While my Hungarian husband thinks root beer is one of the most vile beverages in the world, we Americans think otherwise. Root beer, if you’re not in the know, is a non-alcoholic carbonated beverage originally made with the root of the sassafras tree, and contains almost as many herbs as Unicum (see the Wiki entry). You make a “float” out of it by adding vanilla ice cream. Yum. Nice and spicy, but usually too sweet for the Hungarian palate. My kids liked it a lot – I guess they’ve got enough American blood. Meanwhile, I can absolve myself of responsibility since it wasn’t me who offered it to them, it was friends who had had no idea what a brilliant new experience they were about to provide.
2. Donuts. Hungarian “fank” are fabulous, but you only get these freshly fried delectables (best with apricot jam inside) in February at farsang. The rest of the year they are tired, dried-out pastries at your corner Fornetti franchise. In America, you can get fresh(ish) donuts at any moment of the day or night. When here, I indulge in a glazed one (light fried dough with a sugar glaze, never the “cake” kind), a French cruller (the dough has more eggs in it, same sugar glaze) or an apple fritter (same as glazed but with apple pie filling throughout).
3. Veggies and Dip. A banal, ho-hum party food standard here in America, this was nothing short of revolutionary the first time I served it in Hungary. “Are you sure it’s okay to eat raw broccoli?” someone whispered to me as I set out my colorful array of beautifully arranged vegetables, onion dip in the center. I assured her that millions of Americans eat all kinds of raw vegetables in this manner on a daily basis. In addition to enlightening her on that, I was one step closer to convincing foreigners that Americans do eat things other than burgers, steaks and hot dogs. Here in the land of enormous portions and a plethora of pre-prepared platters, at the store I was confronted with the question of how many pounds of veggies and dip I would like! It was lovely to skip the chopping and arranging, for once. Though Hungarian vegetables, of course, are much yummier. All the more reason to eat them raw…
4. Corn Dogs. This is a hot dog (I mean, a frankfurter, no bun) covered in cornmeal batter and fried. Served on a stick, this is beach food along the lines of the legendary langos in Hungary. We indulged in many of these while at the Jersey Shore, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law, who bought at least 100 of them at the huge Costco wholesale store. We merely had to bake them in the oven, dip them in ketchup or mustard, and yum. Maybe they have some artificial stuff in them, but at least we can say they’re gluten-free. Can’t we?
5. Brownies. I make these on an almost weekly basis back in Budapest – never for my own family, but requested by others. I’ve considered going into business. I recently made a quadruple batch (requiring 12 eggs – nearly industrial quantity, no?) for a big party. In fact, I once got so tired of being such a one-hit wonder in the kitchen, I brazenly took something else to a party, and the hostess was visibly shaken to see that the brownies had not arrived. It was irrelevant that the brownie-baker had indeed arrived, bearing a lovely honey-poppy seed cake.
Anyway, here in Michigan I was recently treated to a whole batch just for me, Mom and the kids, baked by the lovely neighbor who gave me the recipe I still use. By baking these in Budapest, I’ve introduced Hungarians to the following, apparently mind-blowing concepts: 1) desserts do not have to be as beautiful as an Eszterhazy torta to be yummy and 2) anyone can bake. Hungarians are still unsure about #2, since they are brought up to think one must be a grandmother or go to patisserie school to bake, or they are baffled by my cup-and-tablespoon measurements. Well, they can either learn, or order from me.
That is my culinary update from the land of plenty. Of calories, as well as everything else. Let me go find that 5-pound veggie-and-dip tray…