After I walked into the room and sat down at the table, I realized something was strange. The light was off. It was on in both rooms next to me, but not the one I was in. I could see fine, but it was just weird. It went downhill from there.
To set the scene, you must know that I’m very polite (or at least I like to think I am). Being a fine gentleman, I had cooked dinner for my female Hungarian friend first. Not being a gourmet chef, I cooked omelets and she did most of the work. I did the actual part involving the pan, but she did all of the chopping and egg mixing. She said it was something about me always making a mess in her kitchen. I don’t know she was talking about, maybe it’s a language barrier problem. I’m a guy, I never make a mess. Especially when I’m cooking.
I finished her eggs and threw them on a plate (gently, making very little mess). I told her I didn’t need help with mine, and she should go eat hers while it’s still hot. She took her plate to the other room and came back. She doesn’t trust me.
Why doesn’t she? Probably because she watched me break the egg shells into a million pieces trying to get out the insides. It’s not my fault that European eggs are a different thickness than American ones. By age 25, you get in the habit of how hard you have to crack one, and it’s a hard routine to break. Imagine if you had to learn how to ride a bike differently. It’s just like that, except this one involves egg yolks all over my hands and shells all over the kitchen. The amount of curse words are about the same.
I shooed her away and cooked my food. When it was almost finished, I went to the other room where I set down my plate and started putting jelly on a roll that was cut in half. She had been looking forward to this. In the grocery store, she said she couldn’t wait to watch me eat this because she couldn’t comprehend why I would put jam on my bread. It was even more strange to her that I would eat it with eggs.
I thought I wasn’t explaining it correctly. Surely putting jam on bread isn’t an odd concept. Even if it is in Hungary, she’s been to America and England, so I’m sure she’s seen it before. The only possibility was that she thought I was doing something different.
Nope. She shook her head and laughed as I put the jam on my bread. My best guess is that to her it looked like I was putting dirt on raw frog heads to eat with a meal of rusty nails.
That’s when I really noticed what she was doing. I already mentioned the dark room that she was sitting in, but that wasn’t all. While eating her eggs, she had a roll in her hand that she was eating without butter or jelly, and it wasn’t cut. She was just eating it like an apple.
We had many different kinds of drinks in the fridge, but she chose to have nothing with her food. This is a peculiar Hungarian habit that I have trouble adopting. Many Hungarians eat their whole meal and immediately follow it by chugging a drink in two gulps. It’s very impressive an a land where food is often spicy and dry.
It really makes me rethink what’s normal and what’s not. I pass so much time where I feel like I’m no different than a Hungarian, and then I have an experience like this. We can both eat the same meal, but in a completely different way. I don’t think either one of us is doing it the “right” way, but we both seem to enjoy our methods better.
“Ask any Hungarian,” she said, “they’ll think you’re strange for putting jam on your bread and eating it with these eggs.” That may or may not be true, but I like jam. If I have to be weird, I still want delicious preserved strawberries in my stomach. Plain bread is boring and it makes me thirsty.
Hungarian word of the day:
Pronounced Leck (rhymes with speck) – var (kind of rhymes with car). This means jam. I’m going to put it on my bread and no one can stop me.