The writings of András Cserna-Szabó
The cock of the walk in Debrecen
It is most recognised as chicken soup. We might blame many for this misconception, including Gyula Krúdy, the most famous Hungarian “gastro-writer”. In 1932 he wrote: “Ede Újházi, whether he wanted it or not, was often obliged to consume the soup named after him. (…) Art lovers – who were still abundantly found around the act of acting – consumed the soup of Újházi, as if it were a religious ceremony.” According to Krúdy, the soup was made from chicken with noodles and vegetables. Yet, the essence of the Újházi soup was that it was not made from chicken, nor was it made from hens, but from old roosters. In fact, it was not just a simple soup, but also a medicine and aphrodisiac. Whatever genius Krúdy was, we can’t hold him accountable for his gastro-historiological credibility.The true origin of the story was revealed by Endre Nagy, the cabaret and chronicler of Nagyvárad, who was present at the birth of the short-lived but soon legendary “Újházi-pub” in Dohány Street. Ede was helping a fallen actor named Hatvani, to make his restaurant successful. He dedicated all his time in the kitchen in his white apron working obsessively (“he ran a race with pots and pans”). “Ujházi blossomed, flourished and he was in high spirits in there. He even traveled to Debrecen, without worrying about the cost and extra hours, to get hold of the exact ingredients of his soup invention. Old roosters had to be used for this soup, whose hardened muscles carried flavours of their previous love storms. It had to be cooked for three days continuously, in order for the meat to become as one with the vegetables, especially with the legendary celery. He was especially careful not to lose the caruncle and other distinctive organs, which he superstitiously believed had power to manifest people. If such piece was offered to one of the guests, it was a sign of his special attention.”
How the castrated sheep got in the soup of a famous writer
(Lamb Palóc soup)
Kálmán Mikszáth, „The Great Palóc” liked his stomach quite a bit, and as the years passed, it showed more and more in his writing as well as in his physical appearance. His local venue was the Hotel István Archduke, where János Gundel, the manager, created a separate „Mikszáth room” for his famous guest. Here, the writer, with his „slow, eastern temperament,” plenty of time with his friends (including Kálmán Tisza and Mór Jókai) who shared their worldly ideals and fresh anecdotes, while the manager served him Hungary’s most delicious snacks. According to Mikszáth’s wife, Ilonka, pork giblets, huchens, trouts, rare wild game meat, moufflons, deer, capons, partridges and great bustard birds were often put on the table. János Gundel also created the famous Palóc soup in honor of the Great Palóc: from the faeces of the faeces (castrated sheep, mainly used for fattening, the meat is better than the meat of the ram and the ewe) that combines well with green beans, dill, sour cream and other classic components. This art work of soup was designed to open the Mikszáth room, and so were other dishes (also rhyming with Mikszáth’s writings): Grassy fish from Lohina, Tothi brothers’ Halibut fish, Mikszáth style Brezo geese, Pigeon in the cage, The One that Sweetens the Soul. Everyone can find the exact recipe of Palócleves in his son’s, János’s legendary cookbook.
The case of the Arab sailer with the Tartare cattle
There are two gastro celebrities, two culinary stars meet on this plate: Sindbad and Tartare. Opinions are very divided regarding the origin of the story. According to the most common version, the beef was softened by the Tatars under the saddle of their horses, before they cut it into very, very small pieces (and the main rule here is not to grind it, but to cut it with a sharp knife into tiny portions). The Tatars had no time to heat (cook), so they ate raw meat. (Unfortunately this legend may sound very weak, but we do not know any better …) The consumption of raw meat is very alien to Hungarian cuisine, but no one can resist a well prepared Tartare (whether it is made of tenderloin or sirloin steak, or even salmon or vegetables). In fact, Sindbad probably would have chosen a very soft tafelspitz in a soup – or Franz Joseph (as this was his favorite dish). So why is the Tartare named after Sindbad? Of course, because of the bone marrow. From Krúdy’s hero – after the immortal film by Zoltán Huszárik – the first thing that pops into everyone’s mind is the bone marrow. However, on this plate, the bone is not cooked in the main soup, but the chef cuts it into round pieces and grills them. Capers and quail eggs – what a beautiful combination! Sindbad the sailor eats the tartare bone marrow until the last bit, ask for a drink after (of course, Krúdy’s spritzer is :9/1 wine and water), then he just stares in silence feeling satisfied. Because: “This was the time he liked the pub the most, between four and seven in the afternoon, when he could smell the pleasant scent of cooked fat and barbeque flavours slowly lingering through the half-open top window, the tables are all cleared, the staff is nodding off and finding bits and bobs to do in the cold rooms, when everyone in the city pursuing their business, chasing their troubles or passions, when the main waiter no longer harasses the guest with courteous or annoying questions, and the pub seems so peaceful and tranquil as if it was a refectory of a medieval monastery. This was the time for Sindbad to sit with and listen to his carefully chosen friends.”