So I’m in Budapest. I’m not knowing much about the place because oblivion is how I roll. As I’m starting to take in the culture, I’m noticing something… familiar.
I grew up in Norfolk County in Ontario, Canada AKA the baked goods capital of the country. Oh yeah, you want a cookie? I’ll make you a cookie that you’ll never forget… or rather, I’ll have one of my sisters bake you a cookie that you’ll never forget, because delegation is also how I roll. The county, like the rest in Canada, is made up of immigrants. My community has a healthy mix of Belgians, Germans, Poles and Hungarians.
So at the cultural events of my youth, like my favorite social event of the season, the Catholic Woman’s League Bazaar, there is a mash-up of the cuisines of various eastern-veering European countries. And that means a lot of savory (but slightly bland) food. So I generally gravitate toward one particular culinary delight: Cabbage rolls.
Long ago, my mom gave up making cabbage rolls. Thank goodness.
Toothpicks don’t taste good. She delegated the cabbage roll job to a lady named Liz who runs a cabbage roll making business. I suspect she makes nearly all the cabbage rolls in Norfolk County.
She’s often seen sitting in her car in the church parking lot. Another car rolls up. They hand out cash. She hands back a bag wafting of cooked cabbage. On occasion, my mom has gotten a call from one of my aunts early on a Sunday morning, “You going to church today? Liz is ready with my order.” And there I am, leaning into Liz’ car like a seasoned traffiker, hauling out the loot and carrying it away under my arm. Salivating.
Back to Hungary. I tried an authentic cabbage roll to see how it measures up against those of my youth. And get this: They taste EXACTLY the SAME as the cabbage rolls of Norfolk County.
A world away. The same. Astonishing.
The mild tang of the cabbage, the savory meaty filling, the overall aroma of stewed tomatoes. And a mysterious concoction of spices. Bravo Hungary! Bravo Liz!
Liz and her cabbage rolling is… pure magic. She’s got a gift. So while I was traipsing around Budapest with a cabbage roll sloshing around in my belly, I couldn’t help but feel, that though I was half a world away, I was at home.