In Which Hungarian Food Is Discovered To Be As Nectar and Ambrosia

19 February 2003

My first piece of advice to you for the day: Hungarian food. Go eat some. Oh my. If you're in the Bay Area, try Bistro E Europe on Mission St. in San Francisco. And let Julia and Zdravko take care of you. What we supposedly ordered was a four-course dinner for five, chef's choice. What we got was...more food than we could possibly deal with. So much food. So much. We brought home seven boxes of Hungarian food. Seven. We have literally no room in the fridge, with the Hungarian leftovers and the Thai leftovers and the normal leftovers and our normal crazy amount of food. I felt guilty about having Cheerios for breakfast, because they didn't get much of anything out of the fridge. (Well, I'll finish off one of gallons of milk at lunch; that'll help.)

Julia was friendly and chatty. Zdravko had that male version of chattiness that you see in the Scandinavian countries sometimes: he would come to the table, present us with information, verify that we had received the information, and depart. With the gulyas (goulash), he said, "Spicy, ya? Ya?" And when we agreed that it was tasty and spicy, he said, "Has to be spicy to kill the Germans." And walked away. The inter-ethnic violence level was fairly high, because when he brought out the pasta dish, he said, "Italians would die for this." (I can't speak for all Italians, but I know of a few who would have loved it.) And when I took a bite of the polenta and beef dish, I burst out involuntarily, "This is how the French wish they cooked!" Julia was delighted. So was I: it was awesome polenta.

The thing was, even the things I don't usually like were really good. The duck. I hate duck. It's like the worst features of chicken and bacon combined. And yet the duck with the dill sauce was good. Cabbage stuffed with hamburger and rice. I hate cooked cabbage, and I can't say hamburger is my favorite substance in the world, either, and yet. So good. I even ate one of the beet pickles, although I draw the line there: I still dislike beet pickles. But I came closer to not disliking these beet pickles than any others in my experience to date. The food was just amazing.

The apricots in the whatsems, Hungarian crepes, oh. Those made me want to plant an apricot tree, because they were so fresh, and so much better than apricot compotes usually are. And I usually like apricot compotes. And the sour cherries....

Just find yourself some Hungarian food, all right? Go and enjoy. It's lovely-good.

So other than that two and a half hour feast, we didn't do much last night. Hung out and enjoyed being with Cal and Bobbie; they're leaving this morning, going back home to the cold. I didn't finish either of the chapters I worked on yesterday, but I made enough progress to be optimistic about today. I also may run to the bank and the library and attempt to get a new watch battery. That's just the kind of thrill ride I live in, people.

Oh, hey, and it's Wednesday, so the library will be open by 11:00. Woooooo. (I am a morning person. I would like to be a morning library person. Sadly, this is not to be. 11:00 is as good as it gets.) I've still got a bunch of different kinds of grown-up fiction on the piles here at home, so I'm going to be getting more nonfiction and children's books at the library, I think. Just to keep things balanced.

I was thinking yesterday, after Timprov and I talked about The Dark is Rising, about how I read differently now than I did as a kid. When I was younger, I think I felt a little lost in the library or the bookstore. Liking a book didn't have much to do with anything. The books I loved, I read and reread. The books I really, really hated, I wouldn't get again, nor anything by that author unless I had a really good reason -- but I would finish them, every time, and there really weren't that many of them. The rest, most of the books I read, were sort of landmarks to me, ways to find my way through the vast expanse of the literary map. I would read the rest of the books by an author I'd read, because it was a way to choose amongst the stacks and stacks of unknowns, and because I fully expected to read them all eventually, so it was just a matter of ordering.

I don't expect to have time to read all the books any more, not even all the books in a specific local library. Other things have taken precedence as ways of choosing a book. But I still remember being quite baffled by the idea of people putting a book down, and the relevance of liking took quite awhile to sink in -- maybe until college, I think. Maybe longer.

In college, I was even more of a book slut than I am now. I would read books that I knew would annoy the crap out of me, just because they were free. This is why I can speak authoritatively on the Robert Jordan series: I read eight of them. They were free. They were books. I didn't have to deal with Library of Congress system to get them. That was really all there was to it. I knew they were bad. I could watch them being bad and expound upon their badness. But...books. Free. The essential point is clear here, I think.

I'm getting to the point where I'm thinking of writing down the titles of books the library doesn't have in a list for the new library, wherever it may be. Can you tell I'm getting antsy about this move? We know it's coming. We just don't know anything decisive about it. But it's soon enough and certain enough that I'm thinking about it a lot. Making the plans I can. Which are limited, so I end up focusing on funny stuff. I baffled Scott on e-mail the other day with my fixation on semi-gloss paint. But I'm not able to fixate on a particular house yet, and I need details. I live by details. So the semi-gloss it is.

Oh, one more thing before I jump in the shower -- I redid my bibliography page and eliminated the online fiction and online nonfiction pages -- I was putting links in the bibliography anyway, so the functionality seemed less. I reordered things into "fiction" and "nonfiction" sections with the most recent sales at the top instead of the bottom of each list. And I put up a novel synopses page, since that was the only thing on the online fiction page that doesn't seem to go into the bibliography.


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