Transylvania and a Promise of a Pen Store

Hello there!

For the past two nights I’ve had the pleasure of being invited to traditional Transylvanian dinners, hosted and prepared by Agnes and Endre in the upstairs kitchen.  Last night we had a sort of stir-fry dish with white rice and vegetables, tomatoes in balsamic vinaigrette, palinka, and wine.  I hesitate to call the main course stir-fry because it wasn’t really stir-fry.  But that’s the closest appromimation I can give.  Vegetables in sauce over rice.  It was delicious.

FYI: Palinka is strong.  Here’s the description according to

Produced in both Hungary and Transylvania, this traditional, double-distilled fruit brandy is made from various kinds of fruits, including: plums, pears, apricots, applies, cherries, mulberries or quinces. The drink can also be made from honey or pomace, but the fruit varieties are certainly the most popular in Hungary. 

The word “pálinka” comes from the Slovanic stem “pálit,” which means to burn. It also has roots to the Slovaks with the word “tótpálinka” which was used in Hungary to refer to alcoholic drinks that were derived from wheat. The actual drink dates back to the 14th century, when the spirit was most likely combined with rosemary for medicinal purposes. Many believe it was used by both King Charles I of Hungary and his wife to help soothe their arthritis pains. 

The kind we had was apricot.  And burn it did!  Before tasting it, I asked if it could be compared to the Scandinavian Aquavit.  I was told igen (yes) so I was prepared 🙂

Tonight we were served something else.  It was so strong that I can’t remember the name.  Ha!  J/K, J/K.  No, really, we were served something that purt’ near lights your nosehairs on fire.  I tried not to breathe as I sipped it throughout dinner.  It was fun to try though.  It’s a treat to be able to see what the traditions here are, and it’s very kind of them to cook for so many people.  The main course tonight was a sort of cornmeal and sheep’s cheese mash (?).  Once again, I’m not really sure how to describe it.  You put sour cream and salt (So, pronounced Yo) on top before you eat it.  It was good.

Funny thing about sour cream here.  I’ve never seen so much sour cream in my life!  If I hadn’t been shown, by Ilona, on my first night here, what it looks like in the store, I’d have thought it was yogurt.  There are rows upon rows of it on the grocery shelves, all with differently colored labels and differently sized containers.  Just like the yogurt section at home.  Without Ilona’s warning, I would’ve bought it and tried to eat it straight.  Meredith (another American, from Boston) said she made that mistake here once.  Apparently she put big gobs of it on her muesli in the morning one day, thinking it was yogurt.  I bet she woke up real fast!

At dinner, three of the Hungarian students (see them here) offered to take me to a pen store tomorrow!  I’m very excited!!  One of my Spar grocery store pens is already misbehaving.  Shame on you, brand-new pen.

I need to work on my molds more tomorrow too.  I have one in the dry box that I’m going to cast tomorrow, and if it works, I’m going to make at least three more.  I decided to test the water/plaster ratio that I used today before making lots of molds, in case it’s not what I’m looking for.

Here’s a picture from dinner last night:

Amy Uthus

Mercedes (Hungarian student) and me

Here’s a picture of my cottleboards for mold-making.  Never made molds like this before, using only glass.  It was a little scary but it worked well.

glass cottle boards

glass cottle boards

Go to my facebook page to read about my adventures with La Fiesta.


9 comments on “Transylvania and a Promise of a Pen Store

  1. Jackie says:

    Super fun to read about your adventures, Amy, and to talk with you sorta in person today! We love you!

  2. Matt says:

    Hope the pen store was everything you dreamed it would be. I’m glad the trip is going so well thus far! Wish I could stop by for a visit! Since I can’t, please honor my absence by drinking an extra palinka each evening with dinner.

    • amyuthus says:

      Matt, I can’t promise to drink a Palinka at every meal for you, but I will let you know all the fascinating details regarding the pen store, which is a dream temporarily on hold…
      How’s the dissertation going?

  3. Julie Fedorchak says:

    Hi Amy. What fun stories you are sharing of your travels. Love your descriptions of the food, drink, language, etc. What a great experience. Keep it up. Love the links via email because I check email regularly but don’t check blogs much. have you connected with Steph Schultz. I’m not sure I linked you to her active email address so if you haven’t heard from her let me know. I’m sure she’ll want to connect with you and live vicariously through your experiences in Hungary. She’ll have some great insights to share. She traveled quite a bit while they were there too. I do remember her complaining about the weather — lots of clouds and quite cool if I remember correctly. So, enjoy the warm sunshine. Your digs look really nice. Good place for kickin it! Don’t fall in love with palinka! Toods — Love, Julie

    • amyuthus says:

      Hi Julie! Thanks for reading! Steph sent me a really nice email yesterday. I was planning to write back to her tonight.
      I think I’m going to send out a link to the blog and pictures every 10 days or so – lots of people seem to like that. I hope all’s well in out West in God’s country 🙂

  4. Andy says:

    This is great. For the eight days I was in Budapest this summer, I think we drank palinka at every meal–breakfast, included. Hungary is such an incredible place. The next time you make it into Budapest, you need to go to Cafe Havana, and order the fried potatoes and meat. It’s an old Serbian dish, and I can’t remember the name of it because it, like most hungarian words, has over 25 characters to it. I think it started with an M. I can’t wait for you to get back, Amy, and to talk Budapest! Try to get to a Turkish-style bathhouse, too!

    Best wishes to you and your Hungarian adventures.

    Andy Kaul

    • amyuthus says:

      Andy, thanks for the tips! It’s so funny about the long words here- last night we were told that Hungarian words are “all very short, actually.” I dunno… They seem long to me too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s