“Why do you need an occasion to drink? Any good Thursday will work”- Head of the Lab when I told him that Halloween is a good excuse for Americans to get trashed.
It is always interesting to experience different food cultures, because even though Americans are incredibly similar and often historical descendents of Europeans, their food habits can still be wildly different from our own.
One of the major differences I noticed in this past week is the American habit of preferring to not eat the same meals day after day, whereas many Hungarians do not seem to mind. (This may be an adaptation to living in a much less comsumer based community.) I discovered this when I was asking my coworkers what they ate for dinner. Much to my surprise they all said sandwiches (literally every single one), which is what they eat for dinner every night. The idea was wild to me because I grumble when I have to eat the same thing for more than two meals (Variety is life.)
Another crazy thing I’ve discovered is that they have a different palate when is comes to the makeup of the meal. They like cheese, pork, and breaded things, mostly on rice or noodles. They have different combinations of flavors that we consider out of the norm in the States. One of the best dishes I can point to to explain this is a popular noodle one. This dish contains poppy seeds, sour cream, and plain noodles, to me (and probably many others who hail from my area) seems like an odd combination with no sauce. (But they love it!).
Aside from all of the comparisons, which I do because it’s one of the easiest ways to deal with culture shock and the feeling of isolation from normality, there were a few other cool happening sin the food world this week!
First and foremost we went to a chocolate festival this weekend, and it was literally the greatest thing EVER. (Because chocolate, duh). And I ate my weight in everything sweet and wonderful I could. (And then had an existential crisis about gaining weight about two days later). The pictures above are considered the art of the week because these connoisseurs of confections deserve it.
Directly after the festival I made encouragement brownies for one of my labmates who took her PhD qualifying exam (not the fun kind, don’t worry), and they loved them! Mostly because their brownies here are complete posers (chocolate cake in reality), not because I have extremely awesome cooking skills (I didn’t measure anything.) Overall however, with the limited resources I have they were delightfully gooey and reminded me of home.
My final experience for the week that directly relates to food is supermarket shopping, which has been one of the most entertaining aspect of my day to day life. On one hand, my wonderful partner does a lot of the shopping, however, I usually am the list maker, which creates a really interesting predicament. I leave the house with a set idea of what I will encounter when I get home, and I am never correct in my assumption (It’s like a fun grab bag of food). Nate often brings home at least one item that makes me question what exactly I wrote incorrectly that brings us to this reality, but it usually is the result of the supermarket not carrying the item or not having an easily recognizable packaging. So, usually in a moment of panic Nate grabs whatever he thinks will be a good substitute, to varying levels of success (Think asking for a potato and getting a chocolate bar). I’M KIDDING. (kinda). But I honestly understand how hard it can be. Imagine standing at a spice wall and trying to pick what you want based off of the package picture. (Which is sometimes a boat and nothing else.) It’s juat another one of those idiosncrasies of living abroad in a country with a language that looks like gibberish to you.
On that note it is time for me to go open that grab bag for the night and help with dinner. As a parting thought let me tell you that the most important phrase in Hungarian involves food: Szeretnék egy sőrt. (I would like a beer). (A phrase that one of the people over me ensured I knew.)