Our trip to Hungary was amazing! We stayed with my grandmother, who lives about an hour outside of Budapest, for 10 days. It was 10 days of eating, cooking, washing dishes, and repeat, until bedtime. Preparing food and cleaning up is a little different when you have a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher. My grandmother is 84 years old and has been doing things her own particular way for a long time. Like me, she likes order and cleanliness to the extreme. Because she can no longer stand for a long time, or get around very easily, she directed me around the kitchen, which made for a great learning experience, but also some funny frustration at times. I didn’t get as many photos of us making the kürtős as I would have liked, because she kept yelling at me to “pay attention and put my phone away” while we were cooking.
Everyday we got up early and stayed up late chatting, it is amazing how we never run out of things to talk about, and she always has funny and interesting stories to tell. She told me a lot about when she started her business and we even searched for some photos, but unfortunately we couldn’t find any. Her set up was a more permanent location, in a rural market, during communist times. In addition to experimenting at home, she tried and practiced onsite for 2 weeks to perfect the recipe and process. Her and her husband even became frustrated at one point, because the recipe wasn’t working, and she said her husband threw the whole batch on the ground and said they were done with this business, in front of the other vendors! Imagine all the wasted dessert!!
The most difficult part of this process for me, has been the legal paperwork, permitting and dealing with the department of agriculture. I asked her how all that worked back in communist Hungary, assuming it was much easier. But apparently, during those times, all the permitting, health inspections and tax auditing was very intense, and you had to be very careful with every aspect. She said undercover auditors would come count how many you sold in one day, a couple times a year, to get an average, in order make sure you were claiming the correct amount of money each year! One of the most important realizations I came to on this trip is that everyone goes through a learning curve when starting a business, and I need to remember to be patient.
Because the basic yeast dough that kürtős is made from is very common in Hungarian cooking, grandma thought that it was “too easy to practice more than 3-4 times”. So, in addition to a couple rounds of making kürtős, she taught me how to make a few other things. Pörkölt with nokedli, túrós csusza, pogácsa, somlói galuska, meggyleves, madártej, gesztenyepüré, and beigli, were just a few of the dishes I learned. If you aren’t Hungarian and want to know what these are, feel free to ask!! I am happy to share the deliciousness with the world.
In addition to tons of discussions and practicing with my grandma, we visited (and sampled of course) a couple other street vendors in Hungary and Austria. We were able to watch their process and ask a few questions, like thickness on the roller, time in the oven, etc. People were actually very helpful and excited that kürtős was going across the pond!
I am happy to say that after all that, we did perfect the recipe, and even came up with some exiting menu items! Next step is going to New York next weekend to pick up my equipment. The gentlemen selling everything to me are kind enough to show me the process with the actual equipment I am purchasing, to help ease some of that learning curve. I can’t wait to bring everything home and get things really started!
On another note- check out how beautiful her garden is- she can barely walk and she still does this all herself!!