Budapest introduction: food first!

Late in August 2013, we started our journey to Budapest. Our first stop was Houston where we learned that our son’s luggage was going to Budapest but ours would not! We had to fix this in Frankfurt. Between Houston and Frankfurt our son was upgraded to business, we were not! At this point our dog decided to literally do what we thought … although I had taken her out to relieve herself she decided to let it go (all of it) only once we were back inside the airport. Right there, on the smooth marble floor.

We arrived in Budapest one plane later than planned and a very cold rain greeted us that Thursday night. Guess what our first introduction to our new home city was? Tesco!!! A British supermarket. Our house had furniture and was supplied with a welcome kit (sheets, towels, kitchen appliances) but the fridge was empty so the colleague who came to greet us took us to the supermarket.

It was actually a good introduction to the language. The vegetable and fruit section is like a children’s book: an image with a tag describing what it is. Everything was written in Hungarian only. Obviously. We were glad to discover that a zucchini is a cukkini and a lemon is a citrom. Almost the same. Alma means apple. Simple enough. It became trickier when we had to name the garlic: fokhagyma – pronounced fokhojmo. I immediately liked the tomato word because it sounds like paradise: paradicsom. Butter is vaj (pronounced voy), milk is tej (tey). Some things ended up in the caddy on the basis of their appearance without us having a clue what they were!

Early Saturday morning – that is to say about 30 hours after our Tesco adventure, our neighbor took us to Auchan, the French supermarket! Us? Me and my nine hours of jet lag … I was born and raised in France. I know Auchan. This is Budapest. I don’t know Auchan anymore. This supermarket was bigger than two regular Auchan in France. It had over 60 cashiers!  Between the size, the language and the jet lag it was overwhelming and after two hours I was lost, my caddy full but I still didn’t have what was on my list – sounds familiar? Just like home!

In the afternoon my husband and I went by foot to a tiny mall near our house called Hegyvidék Központ. The mall of the country hills. It is a gourmet center where one can find a wine shop, a fine chocolate shop, a baker, a butcher, a fishmonger, a deli selling high-end products – a bit like Hédiard or Fauchon. We learned a few more words at the butcher’s. Marha for beef, borjú for veal, barany for lamb, sertés for pork, csirke for chicken, kacsa for duck and liba for goose. Pork, duck and goose are staples here, beef not so much. Even huge Auchan and 24/7 big Tesco don’t really supply proper beef.

So 48 hours after landing I still had no idea what Budapest looked like but I was learning a lot of food vocabulary and in a sense Hungarian culture. Hungarians are gourmet people who love to eat good meals: a perfect country for us.

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