Thanksgiving in Budapest

This whole week has been filled with all kinds of new foods for me, so I’ve been in rather a cheerful mood. Before Thanksgiving even poked its nose through the door, I’d been sampling the last of all the delicious Polish food that I’d come home with.

About five minutes before we’d crossed the border to Slovakia, our bus driver stopped at a rest station so that he could take a break before continuing to drive — you know, they have to log their hours because they’re only allowed to drive so long at once. Deciding that, after four days of searching in Poland, this rest stop may be my last chance, I dashed inside and scanned the candy shelf for a dessert I’d been on a journey to find from the moment I entered Krakow. Lo and behold, to my delighted amazement, that final rest stop had them!

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In Polish, ptasie mleczko means “bird’s milk,” meaning that the candy is so delicious that it must be made from something that’s impossible to get. It’s only sold in Poland, so I’m glad I nabbed some before crossing the border! I saved it for a few days after coming back, but it was one of the delicacies I munched on this week in preparation for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

There were two varieties — the one above, and then another in a blue wrapper. The one above was actually the one I tried second. The chocolate on the Waniliowe (vanilla) was not much to taste, as its flavor vanished almost instantly. The milk soufflé inside had the vague taste of rum and butterscotch, its texture a mix between the soft marshmallow found in Pinwheels and meringue. Very addicting.

After, I tried the Śmietankowe (cream); the chocolate on this was much more pleasing and much stronger than on the previous one, which nicely complimented the cream-flavored milk meringue as opposed to the stronger flavored inside of the other.

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I also devoured the rest of those Polish tarts so that they wouldn’t go stale, even though I wanted to save them and snack on them for weeks. There were quite a few left, but I paid special attention to each one so I’d never forget what they tasted like.

First was the babeczka  kukulka [kukulka bun]:

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Kukulka actually means “cuckoo,” so I’m not entirely sure what this tart was made out of. 😉 There were white chocolate shavings on top — very sweet shavings but not bold in flavor, they melted into the background. The flan was virtually tasteless, just waxy enough to hold it together but not too waxy. Pleasant texture. I ascribe a very very faint (almost unnoticeable) plum flavor to the flan only because I have to choose something. The lack of flavor was a bonus on this tart, as it brought out the presence of the faint white chocolate and buttery pastry very nicely. Impressive.

After that, I went for the poduszeczki waniliowe [vanilla shortbread]:

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It was permeated with the luxurious taste of butter, and the vanilla came through like a not-as-sweet sugar cookie. The vanilla filling was stringy and a bit like caramel.

I took a break for a little while so as not to eat them too fast, then went back for the babeczka z różą i marakują [bun with rose]:

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The jam was pleasantly sweet without being too sugared like jelly. The rose flavor came across strongly at first then faded into the taste of fruit jam before reemerging at the conclusion. Pleasant aftertaste, good ratio of jam to tart. It had a very deceiving smell – no rose scent.

Then, it was on to the babeczka marcepanowa [marzipan bun]:

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The chocolate topping had a unique aftertaste, relatively flavorless but with flat, bitter residual taste. There was a sweet smell resembling scented spice candles. The marzipan crème was thick and had the same texture as a normal ball of marzipan. The taste was also the same – very vaguely chalky, slightly sweet and with a satisfying flavor. A small dot of apricot at the bottom finished off the treat and made it pleasantly surprising.

After this, I couldn’t make up my mind on what I wanted to eat next. Eventually, I settled on the babeczka z karmelem i orzechami arachidowymi [bun with caramel and nuts]:

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The peanuts were soft and chewy, not crunchy, complimenting the overall texture of the tart. There was minimal caramel; only enough to hold the nuts together. It had a very tame taste, not at all sweet aside from the tart breading. I found it very “rustic” and pleasing.

Finally, the only thing I was left with was my pierniczki z różą [gingerbread with rose]:

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This one probably impressed me the most; the fragrant ginger smell had a very strong undertone of rose. The bread was soft and nicely textured, bursting with rose flavor. The ginger spice added a lively attitude to the tongue, but the rose dominated. The initial taste was vaguely like jelly, but it quickly gave way. There was some pleasant crackling crunches on ginger clusters. The thick chocolate coating added base supportive flavor. Excellent. I highly recommend these!

*****

After I’d finished my sweet treats, Thanksgiving day descended upon our dorm and everyone was hustling and bustling to make their own dishes. I helped Julia with some stuffing from scratch, since they don’t have stuffing over here. We also made some gravy, and we had to take it half way across the city for the actual feast. I grabbed some extra hair ties and fastened down the lid (with a funky knot on the way out but an actual sailor’s knot — a square knot — on the way back), then we all waited for good ol’ tram 47. Thankfully, there were a lot of seats open, so we were all able to sit down with our pots and pans. Trust me, people were staring. A lot.

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We’d reserved a church for a few hours so that we could have a bit of space for the twenty-ish people who’d be eating the meal. It was a nice church, although the acoustics were terrible. These Hungarian people don’t know how to do sound.

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Since many of us had brought our food already prepared, we spent a lot of time before the turkey was delivered playing card games to pass the time.

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Finally, two men walked into the church carrying a huge box, and we knew that our turkey must be inside!

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I’m not going to lie — I have never seen a turkey quite like this. Amazing. Thirty pounds of oh my gosh.

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Unfortunately, some logistical issues from some students had us waiting for an hour longer than we planned before all the food was ready, so I sat staring at the pies longingly, as I hadn’t had anything to eat all day.

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I was in and out of the dining room to help set the table, reveling in the fantastic smell of Josiah’s mulled wine.

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By the time everything had been prepared, this is what we had:

Sweet potatoes
Stuffing
Non-mashed potatoes
Green bean garlic dish
Candied pecan salad
Corn
Ice cream and apple pie
Wine
Cranbery sauce and rolls (Butter and ail)
Fruit salad and peanut butter dip
Green bean casserole and mashed potatoes with Gravy
Pumpkin pie
Turkey

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The food was delicious, and I certainly ate too much. Oh, and Josiah sprayed whipped cream on his glasses.

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It wasn’t too difficult to clean up, and we were back to the dorm by 7:30. It was a little frustrating to try to prepare dinner with so many people, some of whom have obviously never tried to do something like this before, but it was a good opportunity for them and I can be patient. Unfortunately, I did have to bring my headphones because the noise was quite bad, but what can I be thankful for?

That I have those expensive headphones.
That I don’t have the worse type of hyperacusis that could give me seizures and kill me.
That I do have a great roommate here who respects my need for quiet and loves the silence herself!
That I got to come to Hungary and take great classes, have great experiences, and meet great people.
That I have food I can eat, so many clothes that I shouldn’t have brought them all, and sturdy shoes that keep my feet protected. Not all are so fortunate.

The list could go on and on. Not too long now until I come home, but I’m going to enjoy every last moment here while at the same time looking forward (with great anticipation) to returning to the quiet family I have back in Meadville.

And by the way…you have a lobster on your head. See ya!

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