70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel
Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll
There is one Hungarian word contained in all the languages of the world – also in Hebrew: the goulash. It means pörkölt [Hungarian stew]. Provided we are lucky.
“So, what did you have?” my husband asks, after I say good-bye to my aunt. He was standing at a safe distance, three meters away from me during the conversation and was playing with his phone. “Rakott krumpli,” I say. [Potato casserole]
From this he can tell that the aunt was of Hungarian origin. Rakott krumpli - because such a high level of hungaroculinary sophistication can only be achieved by those who have ties to Hungary - parents, grandparents (most likely Transylvanian) – that sort of thing.
All others are content with the "goulash" category. They are the ones who know that there is such a thing as Hungarian, but their knowledge of things Hungarian is exhausted by this one incredible international success. As usual with superstars, it is misunderstood by the public, having no clue that it should be cooked, instead of tomato puree, with an ungodly amount of high quality Hungarian red pepper, and with red wine instead of water. And as many onions as one can put in it without indignity. But it also needs potatoes, cooked with the goulash. Or, of course, dumplings. Not ptitim [pearly couscous]. Nor pasta - chas v'shalom [God forbid]
This is goulash. Or what am I saying - this is pörkölt. For this level, however, one must belong to the hard-core first generation; this information will not impress most of the population - I tried. With the first ‘ö’, the pörkölt (though an interesting exoticum) loses its Eastern European linguistic charm, and thanks to this, the goulash suddenly becomes misappropriated. In other words, it becomes an unfaithful bigamist, with a double life: it is both Israeli and Hungarian, with red paprika and tomato paste. Water and wine. Pasta and potatoes.
“Well, is it good?” my Izraeli father-in-law worries. “We’ve made goulash just for you.” “Oh!” I let it slip out. Oh, really. I stare into the pot: carefully cut pieces of meat swim in brown sauce. Offered with rice. “It's just like back home,” I lie.
Actually, it's just like here, at home.
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