Before France – The Early Days of Marriage

This page is about our family before we moved to France, and how we travelled with our children when they were little, renovated our home in Budapest, all while loving life to the fullest!

Travelling with little children
Travelling with little children

Our Love Affair with Budapest

Our ancestor’s spilled their blood and our families prospered in beautiful resilient Hungary. Our grandfathers fought in the wars: our grandmothers fought off the soldiers at home and held their families together during the harsh turmoil around them. Hungary is full of survivors, has seen better days but is becoming strong again. She always draws us near with her intriguing history, which we feel so connected too, after all it is our story too.

We would live permanently in Hungary if there were a way to raise our family and start a business. If only someone could put the country right, we would return to our roots, and take the road back to where our heritage began. Alfonz was born and raised in Törökbalint, just outside Budapest, Hungary and lived there until his family escaped communism in 1989. Queen Elizabeth Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC Canada is where I stumbled upon the love of my life wearing high top runners, a metal T-shirt with his shabby long hair and a smoke hanging out of his mouth.

We  lived in the same apartment building where my mother was the grounds manager on 128th and 96th Ave, a rough part of town where our families quickly became friends. Common background, common language and a common story of people leaving their country for a better life.

My father came over in 1956, escaped communism, a runaway during the revolution, who went back to Hungary in 1970 to a small town called Bakonysárkony where our family roots run deep. Here he met and married my beautiful mother and brought her over to Canada.

Our ties to Hungary are strong no matter how long we are apart. Hungary pulls at our heartstrings and when we think of our once strong country we wish to reclaim her, strengthen her and make her our home once again. Maybe in the future but now, I need to give my children a better start. We still often visit Budapest and show them our heritage, but living there would be very different, I am certain.

Our culture is with us each day in all we do. Cooking Hungarian traditional cuisine, thinking in the resourceful way Hungarians do and managing to hold on to the language even when it seems completely pointless living in Canada.

We always start our vacations to Europe in Budapest, charging our batteries in the company of our extended family and friends. We love waking each morning to the sound of the busy street below our 2nd story apartment window and walking to the market each afternoon to gather fresh food for lunch. Although we have a car, we walk throughout the city and take in the sites along the Danube River, the old buildings and the storefronts.

Our cousins in Hungary are like our immediate family; close and trusting, loving and affectionate and always have things planned for us.

Our life in Budapest is exciting, current and always moving. It is where people with the same background, same history as us live, move and breathe.

Although we are not picking Hungary as our permanent residence, it will always be our home in some way.


Almost There


The time here has gone by so fast! Alfonz said he’s looking forward to going back to work just to sit down a little. Yesterday Alfonz went with Akos, his cousin’s husband and our savior in the apartment purchase, to a very beautiful spa/gym. After sauna, hot tub, and workout, they went to an Irish Pub for a quick salad. My lovely husband, by the way, has lost 10 kilos since the beginning of summer leaving him so good looking, stylish and loving Europe! I am one lucky lady. The 13 flights of stairs, up and down getting the apartment furnished, does help in weight loss.

We picked out a warm yellow color for the walls of the Walnut Apartment. It is very ‘Europa’ with the dark furniture, white crown moldings and natural wood floors. I can’t wait for Alfonz to download the pictures. The ‘before’ is a little rough, but the ‘after’ is so lovely.

The painter is working around the clock and my cousin Zsolti came at 9:00am after a 24-hour shift at the parliament and left at 7:00 pm. He helping put together the IKEA furniture. The quality of this furniture sure has changed since I was a kid. It’s pretty solid stuff and space efficient, not to mention the colors are just perfect. Did I mention how much I love IKEA?

Today was the last run to the bank, then to the Piac (Market) to buy some home made paprika. That’s all I can afford for gifts my friends, we are officially out of money, two weeks early…. Oh well I guess it’s time to dip into credit if selling the kids off doesn’t work!

Apartment News
Apartment News

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2007 Apartment news!!

Good morning! After spending loads of time when the kids are asleep scrubbing the grime and muck off: the floors, windows, kitchen and bathroom; a beautiful apartment reveals itself.

Four and half meter ceilings with the 100 year old original mouldings add an element of tradition and character to this beautiful home.  It needs work, lots of work but I think we can get it to rental quality over the next two weeks. A feat to say the least but Alfonz and I are determined or maybe closer to crazy? Whichever, I don’t care.

When you look down the stairwell at thirteen flights of stairs from my Grandmother’s apartment, one floor up from us to the ground floor, it is quite something. Black rod iron wraps around the stone floors, cathedral-like doorways welcome the courtyard, which smells of old. A mix between damp wet and dusty dirt, to me smells of rainfall. I love everything about this place. If these walls could talk, on the other hand I have come here since I was born, enjoying the pubs since I was a teen, travelling with my cousins up and down these stairs, getting into trouble. Maybe it would be better if they kept our secrets.

Today we search for the right property manager and buy the big-ticket items; the washing machine, fridge and TV. Then tomorrow the old owners need to get the last of their stuff out and then it is to IKEA (Swedish for common sense) to buy everything else from cup to couch. The anticipation mounts.

This week the painter starts and the window guy come to install iron safety bars on the windows. With so much to accomplish in such a short time, it is a challenge. Before and after pictures will be posted shortly.

That brings you up to date for today. I got to go and feed the kids before they start eating from the garbage.

Bakonysarkany Festivities

Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton

October 7th 2007,

WOW! Time flies when you work yourself senseless! I have not had a chance to update, either too tipsy and too many renovations under way.

We had a chance to head over to my family’s place in Bakonysarkany, then over to the Mor wine festivals. We left early Sunday morning, got to my Aunt Ili place in time for lunch, which was hand-raised organic free range duck.

When she called and asked if we could visit the day after next, the determining factor was, if it was enough time to kill a duck? For the record, it is exactly enough time. So if you come here and visit my Ili Neni, give an extra days notice for the best duck you have ever tasted in your life. There was other food too but I could not see past the bird and had my fill. The rest of the ducks in Bakonysarkany are hiding from me, probably fearing the worst.

At the Wine Festival, we got there in time for the parade, walked straight up to the town square where a huge church has been for hundreds of years with a statue of some famous dead guy, I did not catch his name. Little vendors sold Hungarian relics, home grown paprika and wood carved toys. Then on the main drag down to the city park, were stalls selling their homemade wine and Palinka.

Palinka is the Hungarian version of Finnish vodka. Comes in different flavors, like meggy (sour cherry), plum, apricot, gooseberry, honey and strawberry. It is not sweet and the burn is what relieves its flavor. It is good stuff. My cousin Peter poured the drink down our throats and treated us to one of my best adventures is Hungary to date. Thank god mom and my Aunt Ili were there to help us stagger home and not lose the kids.

We must have lost mom and Ili in the 10 thousand other drunken people at least 5 times. It is a miracle I did not lose Alfonz or the children.

Drunken generosity got the kids some fun too. Horseback riding, horse drawn carriage rides, snake charmers, fried bread called Langos, oven baked breads, bumper cars, trampoline jumping, huge slides, roller coaster and that is just what I remember.

From 3:30-10:00 we did not stop moving or drinking. We managed to get home, just to eat and then go out again to a real low-end bar around the corner. The walk was worth the fresh air then home again to eat and pass out.

Thank you Bakonysárkany, you never disappoint and are still my favourite place in the whole world.

Hello from Lake Balaton

Here is a picture of my lovelies in Tihany.  It is a beautiful village overlooking the North coast of the largest lake in Europe, Hungary’s Lake Balaton. Alfonz found a moment of calm and peace with the kids. Which was a rarity on this trip!

Lake Balaton for me has always been a relaxing place to stroll, a fabulous place to party or eat the catch of the day.

Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in central Europe and one of its foremost tourist destinations. As Hungary is landlocked, Lake Balaton is often called the “Hungarian Sea”. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalized Sio is the only outflow.

The mountainous region of the north shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region while the flat southern shore is known for its resort towns. Balatonfured and Heviz developed early as resorts for the wealthy, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that landowners, their vines destroyed by lice, began summer homes to rent out to the middle class.

IKEA furniture in our apartment 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2007 ? Ikea?

Good morning! Rested and ready to go, after two days of cleaning our new apartment, it is finally looking ready for furnishings. It looks like IKEA is the way to go around Budapest for price and convenience. One stop shop from couch to cup! I love it. Today we have about three more hours of scrubbing and we are making our way to IKEA.

The potential of this apartment is unbelievable. 4 1/2 meter ceilings and light travels straight through oversized windows that have old original shutters. At 125 year old, this building is a relic, with modern conveniences plus a great location. With courtyard and street views, makes we want to stay in Budapest forever.

Rental prices look pretty good in the area. Being so close to the walking strip and the Danube still bring many tourists into the city all year round. I think this is a place we will have for a long time. So if anyone comes to Budapest let us know.

Yesterday it was so nice to see my cousin Panni, who is freshly engaged to Paulko from Winnipeg, Canada. Congrats to you both and Paulko welcome to the family. Open invite to visit and I can not wait to meet you. Civil service in Canada next week and the big wedding will be here in Hungary in May. I will have my dancing shoes ready!

Also family news, Borika is in Calgary visiting her boyfriend Curtis but will be visiting us in White Rock shortly after we come home from Europe. I can not wait to see her. I miss and love you very much! I wish you were here.

Peti also visited yesterday and we will see him again at the big family dinner on Sunday to say our goodbyes.

Okay that is it for now, off to Torokbalint to visit Alfonz’s Nagymama, and see the family bakery, aunts and uncles and the rest of the Hamori clan.

Last Thoughts

Hungarian Wine Festival
Hungarian Wine Festival

Last thoughts on Budapest

My last few thoughts on our trip are mostly positive. If you asked me yesterday, they were negative  filled with crazy emotion. No kidding, after the amount of travelling we took on and the stress that goes along with renovations on our new apartment, plus throw in a two and four year old, it is a wonder we survived at all!

My mom needs to be thanked again for watching the kids our last evening in Budapest. We went one last time to the Szechenyi Baths. The therapeutic waters with jets, the open air relaxation pools and lastly the half naked people making out all around us, is exactly what we needed to disconnect from the stress. Thanks Mom. Thanks for watching the kids when we were busy putting everything together downstairs too. It was a crazy few weeks.

After the baths, we went to our favorite little restaurant across from our apartment, called ‘Bastya’. It is more a formal sit down place with cutlery and set tables, a waiter, catering to an older clientele or couples and families looking for a restful meal. They have got to know us over the last few weeks and we got to know their staff in return, especially Sanyi, their main waiter. This big guy loves food and sports, and knew the menu inside out. The traditional food is very reasonable priced. In the summer they have an outdoor terrace on Racotcsi St. to people watch.

A view of a little yellow Catholic church can be seen from the restaurant window, and also happens to be where my parents were married. Electric trains, buses and cars drive by, along with beautifully well dressed people making their way to and from work during the day or clubbing in the night.

At heart I must be a big city girl for I feel alive when life rushes by and a feeling to jump up and join them takes over. There is always something to do. Theatres, festivals, wine tasting, tourist sites, history, whatever you fancy, can be found within walking distance from the Walnut Apartment. I love Europe and in the heart of this continent lies is a little country, once not so little, home to the Magyar’s: Hungary.

Looking for a rental in Budapest?
When we are not living here our apartment is rented out. I love the old feel of this home, the high ceilings, the low windows. One of my favorite things is to sit in the windowsill as I drink a my morning cup of coffee. The sounds of the rushing daily life below carry to my window. I smell diesel fuel and hot pavement and the smell of bread hot out of the oven swirl to my nose. To me it smells like home.

Our apartment is on Airbnb under The Walnut Apartment.

Experience the pulse of Hungary’s heartland in the comfort of your own private & full amenity suite. The historic Walnut Apartment is centrally located in the heart of Budapest. The suite is simple and fresh, yet elegant with welcoming 14′ ceilings and grand 9′ French doors. This little treasure is fully furnished including a kitchen and a bathroom with washer. Oversized bay windows brighten this home and lets light flow across the dining and living areas with courtyard and street views. With cable TV, DVD player and Wi-Fi Internet, this 100-year-old building is ready for families or businessmen alike. Original moldings and hardwood floors add to its charm. Just blocks away from popular tourist sites, The Walnut Apartment is the perfect getaway for anyone who is curious to discover all Budapest has to offer.

There is so much to see in the neighborhood of The Walnut Apartment, including Europe’s biggest Synagogue, Hungarian National Museum, the Tower of New York Palace, the historic Keleti Palyaudvar (train station) and of course, the legendary Danube River. Shops, restaurants, and cafes line the borders of your block and the closest subway station is a 5-minute walk. Vaci Street (the “Champs Elysee” of Budapest) is only a 15-minute walk or two bus stops from all your shopping desires. Click here to see nearby attractions and services.

Come stay with us at The Walnut Apartment by the night, week or the month.  We can accommodate up to eight people at a time and are certain you will enjoy every moment of your stay.

On October 15th, we were on the M7, stuck in traffic, with no movement in sight. Not out of Hungary yet and still have four hours once through the border. I just do not get why they do not push everything off to the side and let people get through, unless it is  a huge 6-car accident for all we know. Last time through Austria, the traffic backed up for miles and it ended up being the highway repair trucks. It does add time to our trip but happily we got through safely.

Before we left Hungary we stopped off quickly to drop a phone we borrowed from Akos at their bakery. Gabor, Alfonz’s cousin, also a master baker, loaded us up for the road with his specialties from organically grown ingredients. Chocolate dipped coconut and walnut cookies, puff pastries with mild sausage inside and for the kid’s pizza buns. The store also carries a brand of no salt seasonings and soda syrups. Gabor stalked us for another year. Thanks Gabi!! Can not wait to see you here in Canada next November. We said our goodbyes to Alfonz’s Grandmother; Mama and Gabor and off we went.

We are in Austria now and the warm weather is definitely changing. We brought the heat with us to Budapest and now it has turned cool as we leave. Angelina and I just woke from our naps to find ourselves in an Austrian gas station with the boys nowhere in sight. I noticed that most of the workers stopping to refuel and cut the grass on the outskirts of the highway still spoke Hungarian not German. Alfonz reappeared with coffee to go with Gabor’s cookies. On the road again… the M7 out of Hungary

Hungarian Hot Spring Baths
Hungarian Hot Spring Baths

Szechenyi Baths

Good morning from my kitchen window overlooking the courtyard, our little windows facing Angelina and I as we drink espresso and chocolate milk waiting for the boys to wake up. It has been an exhausting vacation, but worth it.
Alfonz and I got an evening off, and went to the Baths, Hungary’s natural healing spas, that smell a little like eggs, offering visitors 40 degrees of heaven. We were there from 7:00 until 10:00, shifting from hot to sauna to cool to cold. They have jets and bubble pools, and is a very well-known tourist attraction. Located mostly outside in the open air with the stars shining down at you. The whole structure is Roman design, pillars and cathedral domes. It is beautiful to say the least. Afterwards we treated ourselves for a quick bite to eat and took advantage of my mother babysitting. Sorry mom for being so late, but it was our second time alone since we started the apartment renovations. We love you mom.

Today is gonna be very busy. The apartment is finally done, pictures for the website, then taking the kids to the Circus and a soccer game!

Hungarian Hot Spring Baths
Hungarian Hot Spring Baths
yellow church
My parents were married in the little yellow church in the background

Yellow Church

My parents were married in 1970, mom just 18, across the street from our Hungarian apartment in the little yellow church. You can see it behind Angelina and Mom in this picture, during their walk on the sidewalk towards the Danube River.

Countless times we have made this trip and walked along the same worn path past Mom’s church, down to the Markets and the famous Vaci street. I can not help but think, thank god Mom went to Canada and married my dad. Even though it did not work out for them, at least George and I are here to talk about it.

Fate is a funny thing. Luck and destiny. Our lives are all delicately in the balance.

Germany with kids
Germany with kids

Germany With Kids

Here we are!!

Good afternoon, our first entry, better late than never…

Here we are, leaving Hassmersheim, after a couple of days of recouping from the 10-hour flight, a two-hour luggage escapade followed by a two-hour drive. Kids are changing over to the time zone rather quickly. Yes my kids…

Daniel met a little girl on the plane and played the whole time they were awake. And, well Angelina only had one complete melt down, with blood curdling screams that woke up most of the passengers. A medical doctor next to us asked if we brought Gravol. I said why yes? He said, now would be the time to give it to her. I did and she was a dream after that!

From there, we picked up our car, fully loaded to the top with bags and a wakeboard and started down south towards Heidelberg. Then from there we travelled Southwest towards Mosbach and then finally the next town of Hasserheim.  We met up with Alfonz’s family and ate a traditional meal of cabbage, roast smoked pork and mashed potatoes. It was very tasty after a long day of travelling with Daniel and Angelina.

We stayed at a local B&B along the Neckar River, with a view of the swans swimming along the shore. It was a picturesque Germany view. And the food here is very European; cheeses and cold cuts, fresh breads and boiled eggs, loads of fruit and strong espresso. We spent time with Alfonz’s Aunt and Uncle, who live in a typical German two-story home, all paneled wood inside with carved pictures of folk stories. It smells of wood and Zsuzsa Neni’s cooking, that happens to give my mom’s cooking a run for her money.

Heidelberg yesterday was fun. We shopped in designer stores, among old buildings that were never touched during the war. It is perfectly preserved like travelling back in time. We saw beautifully dressed students, tourist and businessmen enjoying the fall day. Everyone seemed to be snacking on ice cream or bakery buns. We had Starbucks lattes and the kids ate cookies as we looked for a new pair of glasses for Alfonz. (He left his at home along with my black vest on the table. No worries, a reason to shop.) I ended up with a new purse from AunteandUncles that goes over my shoulder. I feel like a Sherpa carrying kid’s stuff all the time. At least now I look more fashionable while doing it.

We skipped lunch and ended up back home early enough to enjoy some more homemade food at Zsuzsa Neni’s. This time she made Nokedli, the kid’s favorite. We ended up drinking a bit with them and told jokes until the kids asked to leave. So tired, off we went to bed.

Up the next day later than usual, after another lovely breakfast at the hotel, we made time and took the ducks and swans some bread. Hearing them squawk as we threw them stolen buns from the hotel, a light breeze rippled the water. We spent an hour walking and playing with the kids, a well deserved break for the children.

I can not believe how green Germany is. There are so many different shades of green, lush bushes and trees along every road and riverside. They seem to put people living first, not working. Each township has walking paths and parks. Germany is very welcoming at every turn. Cobblestone walkways, traditional German store fronts just as I remember with great shopping streets for pedestrians, full of local treats. So far so good, we have not killed each other yet. As tired as we were it is a miracle. From here we are going east on Hwy 6 to Nurnberg, then from there Hwy 3 to Passau. We may stay there for a night, depending on accommodations. It borders Austria, a good head start to get to Vienna tomorrow. The kids were watching a DVD in the back of the Toyota Verso station wagon TDI and when I looked back Angelina was out like a light, her little head tilted to one side and her mouth slightly open.

The road is long but there is loads to see as we wiz by. Rolling hills, countryside and great European cars everywhere. I like it here. If only the weather were better all year round, we would move here.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2008?Passau

Okay so here we are again, at a gas station somewhere off the main highway going through Austria, paying for the potty and having a very expensive bite before back to the grind of driving. Last night we stayed at Passau, a small city on the Danube River. The German town boasts a view that would make angels cry. We arrived late and tried to find a B&B before the sun went down. Alfonz went in to a few places and everyone was booked, (early beer festers?) So, after looking as the sun slowly went over the horizon, he finally found one. Older, along the water with a view, big, dated to say the least but we both had stayed in worse. Plus the kids were done by this point and with no other alternative  the expensive price tag of 139€/per night seemed fine. Hassmersheim was off the beaten track and now seems we got a good deal at 74 Euros/night for a brand spanking’ new hotel with river view and an extra bed even thrown in for good measure.

We parked in the dives labyrinth parking lot, got lost for 20 minutes, carrying the kids and bags up the stairs. We finally managed to find smeared with dirt door, opened it to put our stuff away and then went in search of food.  Alfonz spotted a tiny pub on the main drag with a flashing neon beer sign. We sat down and I mentioned, you know we do not have to stay here. We could get our bags, and take off to the next town. I just got a really bad vibe from the room, plus they wanted cash up front and key deposit before we even looked at the room. So when the waitress came to our table to take the order we asked her what she thought about the hotel we are staying at. She said don’t do it, it’s a really bad place, your stuff won’t be safe, the owner’s crazy…no sooner did she finish her sentence did Alfonz run out the door, leaving me with the screaming tired kids. As fast as he could muster, he loaded up the car and returned the key.

Mary-Louise, our waitress from the pub happened to work in a Hotel called ‘The Atrium’ on the other side of the Danube. She called over for us and asked if they had anything available. It was late and the kids were so tired by 8:30 with the time change over, no naps as of yet and no food either. Our lovely waitress saved us! She felt sorry for the ragged travels the wind blew in to her work and put the last room on hold.

When we finished the meal, we left her a big tip and drove around, but first we got lost. I thought Alfonz would snap at that point (not until today) but he held up and when we found it, it looked like an oasis in the middles of a sandstorm. Beautifully finished room, done with floor to ceiling windows, light flowing through and clean comfy furnishings. Thank the lord above. Oh god, I thought Mary-Louise said it was $95 Euros, this looks like much more. But Alfonz had high hopes, as often he does, walked in and came back nearly shitting. We not only got a room for the night but the last one available was the 2-story suite!! It had two baths, 2 beds, stunning windows, all brand new and plush…lucky man of mine- with horse shoes up his bum!

If he didn’t pick that hole to eat in we never would have talked to the girl who passed us along. (A quick side note do not ever order duck in a German pub. I think it was deep-fried! And dumplings there are one giant boiled ball of dough soaked in gravy, not so good. The rest of us ate Schnitzel. Another side note; it is always good in Germany no matter where you eat it. If it’s a gas station or a fancy restaurant, Schnitzel is all the same.)

Anyways the room was something out of a dream and normally would have cost more than three times the price. And they threw in a buffet breakfast.

Angelina decided to wake us up in the wee hours, so wake up time for us today was 3:45. Daniel miraculously slept on until 6:00. No rest for the wicked. Mary-Louise, our new friend, was the one who serving us breakfast in the morning. When we told her which room we were in she nearly had a heart attack. She was very pleased for us.

With directions in hand I was now determined to see this beautiful city by foot. We tried, a few different ways, but my lovely husband, with little sleep, the kids crazy from little sleep or, we started driving out of the city. I guess this city is not for us after all. Or maybe we could book a B&B on the way back and see it then. Wish me luck on that one.

After many blowouts and failed attempts at compromise we are very close to the Hungarian border. Austria for me was a blur of green patchwork out my window and gas station food that is stinking up the car. No not me, it was Alfonz. Maybe on the way home we can stop somewhere. I am dreaming of my Nagymama’s spare room, some sleep and some firm ground to plant my feet on.

I guess next time we need to do less than three hours of driving each day. it proves to be too hard on the kids. Travel slow when kids in tow, is the best advice I have ever received.

Budapest is peeking over the horizon just as the fatigue sets in. We are totally done for the night.

Travel, eat, repeat begins
Travel, eat, repeat begins

Cooking Across Europe – Travel, Eat Repeat

In a perfect world, each of my hobbies would have the same amount of devoted time. However, life with two kids and a husband is busy. I regret to inform, that occasionally I prepare quick meals, never prepared foods, but a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich or a reheated frozen soup has passed over our dinner table while travelling and assimilating to a new country.

My parents taught me to cook at a very young and their traditional Hungarian food recipes that have been passed down generation to generation and are floating around inside my head. Never do we use a recipe making every time I prepare a dish slightly different.

It is high time we write them down, my new hobby. Having only one grandparent left, these recipes need a hard copy.

Under the ‘Food’ header you can find some of my grandmother’s recipes. I hope my website will eventually look like Rachel Ray’s with me behind a stove, slicing up ingredients and showing people how to cook the recipes accumulated over the past two decades of my travels.

For now, we post the recipes that travelling makes difficult to remind my girlfriends back home when they call to ask, “How do you make “….” again?

Once in France, I hope to share some of these recipes to other travellers and try to master the French cuisine.

For the love of cooking

Hungarian Ingredients
Hungarian Ingredients

Start off by browning some onions and maybe a little garlic, a fresh tomato, a bell pepper, add salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika, stir the entire time, add your chicken, pork or beef cover and turn down to med-low for one hour and you have the base for Hungarian stew, goulash or soup. Hungarian stew add sour cream and serve over nokedli (spaetzle) with cucumber salad on the side, or add carrots, celery raise water and once cooked add hand-made dumplings (csipetke) and its Hungarian goulash, add more water and whatever veggies you like and make a quick soup.
Simple ingredients, simply good food!

We like our meat with meat please and bring bread. I met a nice family here in Canada from Hungary years ago now, and I was going through a vegetarian stage for a few years which had left me skinny and extremely moody. And she said she was a vegetarian also. I said really not too many in Hungary are vegetarians that is for sure. Yes she said I only eat fish and chicken! It is so foreign a concept that a vegetarian only cuts back on red meat. Comical, no? It is probably caught on by now.

If most people ate the way our central European country does, they would have high cholesterol and definitely be overweight. Add in some Palinka, our traditional white lightning moonshine and you would be in full-blown heart failure, diabetes and liver failure. Grow up on rich foods like these, and do so for hundreds of generations and the people get used to the fried meats, heavy potato bread, retes – filled pastry, sipping wine since small with our parents and it doesn’t affect your health as much. Our people had to go long days and nights on little more than bread, fat, and an onion, roasted over an open fire, dripping the fat on the bread, and eating the onion raw.  Imagine them keeping warm shooting Palinka before bed.

I love to cook for people and my dream life would incorporate serving people yummy dishes. My family and friends gather in the kitchen as I cook, we sip wine or beer and laugh as I prepare and once done we feast. It must be deeply rooted in me to serve and watching people eat my cooking is very rewarding. Almost selfish I get so much joy from it.

Have I loved you? Have I fed you?

Garden Love - Daisies
Garden Love – Daisies

Garden Love

With many different types of love in this world, there should be a separate word for the love we feel about our garden. Garden-love.

Feet stained brown from dirt that does not come off from days of washing, dirt under nails that reminds me of Halloween, and grass stained knees. Sunburned backs and necks from weeding and the fashion to wear big funny hats to keep the rain and sun away. All endured for garden love. The payoff in the end is always worth it.

The idea is charming. Plant seeds, watch them grown and feed your family.

Truth told, it is a great deal of work.

Double digging the garden is a concept of digging twice as far down to ensure long roots that make their way easily to a water source. This creates fruit and veggies that endure longer stints without water and stronger roots force downward and are not reliant on us to bring them the water supply. This was especially a labour of love.

Conveniently, I threw out my back during day three of making our garden and mom saved the day, as she made her way through stone, plastic waste and clay. Our little 20ft by 10ft plot took her about a week to complete. My job was to take care of the kids and bring her water and food at intervals.

One truckload of organic soil from a local farmer was added to level our future vegetable garden. We mixed in our compost from our composter made from years of saved kitchen and garden waste. We have three basic composters scattered throughout the yard, and it takes about a year for each to break down to produce the rich nutrient filled black soil we desire. Each one is at a different stage.

This is very rewarding in our ‘green’ lifestyle and knowing that our clean food waste does not end up in a landfill, makes me very happy.

Next, we started the plants inside the house from seed, placing each one lovingly in to tiny containers made from peat. We watched and waited for the magic to begin. The children learned about plant life-cycles. We taught them to plant the seeds and care for them. The biggest lesson was stressed on how plants naturally produce seeds to continue the circle of life and in the process, give us food. Fruit and vegetables without seeds, are not natural and eventually we cut our own food supply if we eat GMO or Genetically Modified Organism.

Disappointed, we lost our fist seedlings. I paid a fortune for them via the Internet, ensuring them organic and seed producing. The second round did much better. By next year, we will have it down to an art. Mom said we were too ambitious and should start our first crop from pre-bought plants. I have to agree.

Alfonz made cold frames to keep the small plants warm once they got too big for the deck stand-up hothouse. The cold frames are made by attaching wood together in squares or in our case also a triangle to cover our garden beds. With plastic nailed or stapled in place to cover the frames and placed on top to the plants to keep them warm. The stand up hothouse, is a metal framed shelving unit with a plastic cover to extend our spring season by about 6 weeks. You simply place in the sun, giving the plants the proper conditions to thrive.

During the long weekend in May is usually the gage in BC to plant in uncover your plants. This year it was still too cold to risk frost and kill our crop and we tucked them in for another week.

A few weeks later, our first crops were a success and we were eating from our tomatoes and lettuce planted along the side of the house next to the water barrel. The water container collects rainwater off the roof to supply the garden over the summer when we have water restrictions.

Our largest plot, that mom created, produced an abundance of beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, a variety of squash, gourds and a pumpkins, spinach, strawberries, dill, and cucumbers. Each strategically placed next to the ones that help the others survive. Marigolds in between for a natural slug lure, basil next to tomatoes to produce a different flavour…and so on. In a bio-intensive garden, you can have many plants closer together, as they do not spread but reach down. Water every three days not each day – little tricks to get it all sorted.

Our herb garden is in a triangle shape garden Alfonz created to utilize a useless space in our yard. Here I planted Hungarian wax peppers, hot to mild, four kinds of oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, chives, lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, chervil and a few others I cannot recall.

It is exciting to see the garden take form and eventually harvest. The children and I take a large bowl each day while I am preparing dinner and walk through the garden to see what we can add to the meal. We have enjoyed salad each night for about three weeks in early spring from a mix of herbs and lettuce. I look forward to the dozens of squash and gourds in the fall.

I hope this becomes a family tradition. My grandparents from Hungary planted their fields and never wasting a seed. My parents in the 70’s had beautiful gardens for the course of my childhood on Vancouver Island.

I remember picking sun-warmed tomatoes off the vine, sitting cross-legged on the grass to eat them as the juices pouring down my neck. Sweet bliss!