Culminary expeditions

It seems like I’ve passed one big rite of passage -about 20 years late. I got married. For reasons -some of which out of my control, some of which resulted from my personal choices- I have not found a female who was willing to spend her life with me until now; there were candidates, but at the first sign of difficulties (mostly distance) they bailed. It’s unfortunate, but I guess I should not mourn the loss; after all, if the first hurdle caused them to buckle, a more serious crisis would have been worse once the relationship advances to the point of having children and other responsibilities. At least this way they did not mess up the lives of little humans.

Regardless there we stood in front of the wedding guests, quite a bit older than your usual happy couple, and I had this weird feeling. Most of my friends and relatives were there with their children; it seems like we’re behind that particular curve as well. (It was a particularly problematic area as for sixty adults we had fourteen children…) Now we also have to start thinking about spawning some offspring; but there’s always this doubt of being already too late. It will be strange to go to parents’ meetings in schools while almost being old enough to be grandparents; I’ll be sixty by the time our first born (if she or he arrives soon) finishes high school.

It’s strange how the world has changed for our generation. The old life-story of finishing school, getting a job, getting married, have children by the age of 25 seem to be the exception rather than the rule among my friends; economic reasons (and for me the lack of work-life-balance in the area of scientific research) forces people to settle down later and later. If you listen to some feminists they’ll tell you it’s a problem for women only, but it’s not the case at all; it’s just the biological clock of men isn’t as apparent as women’s (and despite claiming otherwise even feminists tend to have old-fashioned stereotypes). I would have loved (and still would love to have) a traditional steady career that progresses with time, and gives me enough dough and time to bring up a family. It’s not that I was so intent on pursuing my career I could not spare time for propagating… (Or if I did I did a very poor job of it; I’m still just a poor scientist working in the civil service. No sports cars for mid-life crisis here, that’s for sure.) The guy who did the cooking for the wedding is an amazing chef- he worked for really prestigious restaurants ten years ago, and now he’s running his own small business in Tokaj that he built; he is a year younger than I am, yet his oldest son just graduated from high school. And here I am in London, sitting in a civil service job that does not offer advancement (but does offer serious responsibilities), trying to figure out what to do with my life.

It’s strange to feel old when I think of this; after all I do not feel any different than I felt when I was 25. Actually, overall I would say I feel much better and look much better (despite of the hairloss). Mind you it’s a comparison, not an absolute statement. I look much better than the 25 year old myself; I did not say I look good. Just to make sure the distinction is understood.

Yet, the example of our chef does make me realize that time is ticking away; 20 years from now I’ll be close to retirement. And this is a scary thought.




Moringa (or drumstick) tree is supposed to be this miracle tree that cures everything, makes you look younger, and quite possibly grants you everlasting life.

(Seriously, though, it does seem like good plant.)

Anyhow, my dearest got about twenty seeds from somewhere, and the plant enthusiasts we are, I tried to germinate them. Three actually grew into plants which we potted, and now they are sitting in our window, growing happily.

We also drink all sorts of tea, and one of them is -surprisingly or not- moringa tea. Usually I empty the previous night’s teapot into the plant’s pots when I take it out for cleaning the next morning; why waste water, right? This had the side-effect of having a couple lemon seedlings growing, but more importantly it made me ask a very prudent question: does watering the moringa tree with moringa tea make it a cannibal?

We are a vindictive, spiteful species. Here’s a plant that puts capsaicin in its fruits so only birds would eat it… and here we go, extending a huge middle finger to the poor pepper. We even breed chilies that contain thousand-fold more of this substance -and we still eat it.

As a Hungarian I’m always faced with this issue: people associate goulash and goulash only with Hungary. (And it’s guly├ís, anyway.) Somehow bowmen, Neumann, Szilard, Semmelweis, Jedlik… and the others are not known as much. OK, Rubik and Puskas are, so there’s that. So after the “oh you’re a Hungarian? Are you hungry?” jokes, goulash usually comes up. Not to mention you can buy it in a lot of places all over the world. Or something that’s called goulash. So what is goulash? It is a meaty stew or soup (depending on how much stuff you put in) named after the herdsmen who were tending the grey cattle characteristics to the country since the Middle Ages. These hardy and quite majestic-looking cows were driven to all over Europe to the markets in their tens of thousands.

I guess there is a reason why this food became a symbol of the country for outsiders; after all, this is probably all they have seen of it. But anyhow. Back to business. You want to cook goulash.

You will need (exact measures and ingredients are up to everyone to decide for themselves):

1 cauldron 6-8 onions 30dkg of bacon (the mostly fatty type)

6-8 tablespoons of paprika 2.5 kg of meat (pork or beef -the best is the shins)

1.5 kg beef

Vegetables: carrots, turnips, one celery (save the greens), half kohlrabi tuber some chili paprika (elective) tomato and peppers (elective)

salt, pepper (to taste)

7-9 garlic coves

1dl red wine (elective)

1 fire (You can do it in a big pot on your stove, but open fire is the way to go)

The process:

1. You wait until the fire dies down a bit.

2. Start browning the diced bacon, until the fat comes out

Lots of fat…

3. Add onion and brown Onions

4. Remove from fire, mix in the paprika, add some water. (It’s crucial to remove the cauldron from the heat, because the paprika will become bitter if heated excessively. It also needs to be mixed at this stage so that it can dissolve in the fat.)

5. Put the cauldron back onto the fire and cook it a bit

6. Once boiling, add the meat (and wine should you want to) and cook it until the meat is mostly cooked (pork, and especially, beef take much longer to cook than vegetables)

7. Add vegetables, tomato, peppers, potato cut up, add water so it covers all, continue cooking

Veggies cleaned and cut

Mostly everything is in now

8. Once the vegetables are close to being cooked, taste and add salt and pepper

9. Add garlic and chili; add the green from the celery

10. Keep cooking. Once the vegetables are cooked, you’re done.

The finished product

11. Eat with bread. So that’s it. Nothing fancy, in fact.