I’ve always thought that the best way to really get to know any culture is through its palate. A steaming spoonful of grandma-style stew or a single chunk of meat prepared in a familiar way have the potential to elicit an onrush of memories and stories from the past, heated discussions about preference and preparation across the dining room table, smiles and winks of mutual satisfaction, a general breakdown of every type of barrier imaginable. It is the emotion behind food that draws me to it, the reactions it brings out in different people.
My heritage is Hungarian as my entire family is from there and I spent a portion of my life growing up there as well. I moved to Boston when I was 9 and while I spent most of my time living there, I was lucky enough to get to travel around the world and to experience all types of food. A rabbit and escargot stew in Quebec with my parents on a family trip, my first real fish taco from a stand in Mexico City with my dad, a pastel de choclo and countless hungover chorillanas in Chile while studying abroad there, shish-kebab style grilled llama meat in Bolivia on a road-trip with friends, abuela-made morcilla, cazuela and bunuelos de Navidad at a friend’s grandparents’ place in Medellin over Christmas break, a footlong bratwurst in Munich during a beer fest, creamy pasteis de nata in Lisbon with my favorite travel buddy, sensational spanakopita made by a friend’s mom in Thessaloniki, gigantic seafood paella with an ex-boyfriend during a romantic vacation to Barcelona (followed by an incredible tuna tartare in Nice later on in that trip), questionable Irish breakfast on a visit to Dublin to see an old pal, a few chorripans bigger than my face while couchsurfing in Uruguay, delicate little xiaolongbao soup dumplings in Shanghai with my dad, mind-numblingly delicious smoked salmon at my cousins’ place in Stockholm, snake soup, Philippine balut and the most delicious rambutan fruit in Hong Kong, some crazy bugs and pad thai at a street cart in Thailand - these are just some of the dishes that will forever reside in my memory not just because of the quality of the food but the experience of eating it, the people I was with and the atmosphere among us.
I also had the privilege of returning home to Budapest every summer, where a long line of incredible grandma meals was inevitably awaiting my ever-willing stomach – wild mushroom soup, traditional noodle soup with chicken parts, squash casserole, paprikas csirke, goulash, soska, toltott kaposzta, hortobagyi palacsinta, all those things I would at any moment pay anything to have at my finger tips but sadly never do. Late-night, drunk lamb-gyros with my brothers, garlic-rubbed and cheesy langos (fried dough) at our lake house in Balaton, bar-food zsiros kenyer (lard bread with onions) with friends were also always on the list back at home.
It was in Boston, however, that I discovered that this fascination with food and eating was actually my greatest passion. I worked as a photographer and critic for TastedMenu.com, a restaurant dish rating website (then just a fledgling start-up) currently going big in Boston, and as part of my job there was to visit restaurant kitchens around the city and photograph dishes as they came down the line, I got to experience the inner workings, the hustle-and-bustle of a kitchen, the incredible amount of work that goes into the preparation of a single dish. I also witnessed first-hand the tremendous dedication these chefs, these valiant soldiers, put into their work day in and day out, the moments of intense concentration during diner rush hour, the light, slap-ass teasing and slew of inside jokes during off-time. It was at this point that my passion grew into an obsession. Add Bourdain’s ingenius Kitchen Confidential and Medium Rare, and countless episodes of No Reservations to the mix and my life became all about food.
I am currently living somewhere in between Boston and Washington D.C. working as the U.S. Liaison for Xing Wei College in Shanghai and as a Social Media Intern at Degrees2Dreams…and eating as much good food as I can get my hands on!
Entonces, let the chowing begin!