I am very ill-rounded as a traveler in that all I love to do is to eat, eat, and eat when I travel abroad. Don't get me wrong, I do other things. I even like to do other things. But when asked for what I love to do when travel, that's it. Everything else is dispensable filler with minor consequentiality. Like most of you, I design my trip centre around food.
Needless to say, knowing that there are hundreds of food stalls at the mezzanine of Kozponti Vasarcsarnok (Central Market of Budapest) -- and all open in the wee wee hour of the morning just send thrills of pleasure through and through me. Perfect spot to make up the first half of my day before I hit the famous Gerbeaud Kavehaz.
1st breakfast. Whitish, crunchy strudels sold by girls in white turtle-neck sweater: what a loud and lewd fashion statement we've got here! There were tons of strudels fresh from the oven to choose with. Apples, poppy seeds, berries and what have you. I ordered just one, the pears, as if I needed a wake-up call to condition my stomach for the food stroll and stalls ensued.
I asked the lovely ladies what's the name of my kick-butt pie in Hungarian and they told me in one of the friendliest giggles I've ever seen after stealing some glimpses at each other:
Wow, nice to know Hungarian is one of the easiest languages to learn in the planet.
breakfast. Next I saw this kid eating some sort of Hungarian naan. I had no idea what that was but it's surely very porky and huge for a kid to eat at sunrise.
It's so round, so big, and so out there, ya know. Like those fuel food
they dump on you at the foster house.
Whatever. "Give me one what the kid's having, with toppings twice more than his."
"Kid, not that I'm trying to butter up my cake on you but for Confucius' sake I'm known as the deadliest serial breakfast killers descent from the Middle Kingdom. Pro is pro because no one can catch him napping, not even a crawler."
"There, kid. Nothing personal. I got cheese and cream over and a plastic cup of black kave to wash this beast down. See, mine is immensely more cheesy than yours! Take that as your adult education freebie from CXB's Centre For Children Who Can't Eat Good."
WTF. It tastes bloody awful! A poor concoction of suicidal oiliness, creaminess and cheesiness. Okay, it's official. I was feeling a second coming of puberty with unbearable hairiness of grated cheese flourishing all over my body after 2 bites of it!
breakfast. Hmm, my hunch was telling me we're looking at something with crazily high sugar content. 'Sweet sweet?' Nod nod, the happy shopkeeper replied.
Mmm, I must say the cake is as meritorious as my shopkeeper's smile. It's so good that I vowed to call Diabetes Budapest first thing tomorrow from the airport to make sure warning flyers would be plastered all over the stalls. How about that as the sincerest form of compliment ever graced any dessert stall?
The cake was juicy and tasty and all, but I felt like I was missing something in my life when I was alone with it. It felt like my life was nothing but an ordinary, pathetic and beat-down joke, coasting a miserable existence, like sheep herded through fate suppressed. I need to do something to unleash the caged wolf inside me. I need, to order a glass of this beautiful Tokaji. Here, a glass of it at 5 puttonyas costs HK$10 only, just, mind!
Oh Jesus, a sweet pie and a glass of sweet gold. At this moment in time, I was totally enjoying a double penetration of every sugary glory imaginable. One for quaffing and one for wolfing. Man, I was finally, finally taking control of my own destiny once and for all. YEAH!
While I was still basking in the sweet bliss of my juicy doubles, the guy eating next to me ordered an unicum out of the blue. Now it occurred to me that I read from my friend's email how unicum is a must try when and if I am in Hungary, though with a very pronounced caveat attached -- some said this herbal digestive smells like the corridor of hospital and tastes like bitter winter; my shopkeeper was even giving me the "once you go black, you'll never go back" look when I ordered it.
No worries, there's no estimating in pride I took for drinking 24 mei very often back in Hong Kong. A shot of this "national liqueur of Hungary wouldn't mean a thing to me. Effing, effing, effing, just pour it!
People in Hong Kong, listen: unicum is the new 24 mei! Brewed with alcohol. It's piecing to the nose to begin with, but even worse is the burning tart aftertaste stuck to your throat like the blading gusts in a wild Siberia winter. It just grows on you. A shot of this instantly turned me from a chuffed young man a glass of Tokaji ago to an old man denuded with motion, will to live and above all, hair, recently retired from the junkyard of a nuclear plant just now.
Woe. 4th breakfast. Ordered this plebeian food when I saw everyone at the next stall were having it. Why sausage here? Guess I was already stewed to comatose to actually mull any idea over. Asked the vendor what's the name and got this in Hungarian:
"Sausage, with mustard."
Like I told you, Hungarian is one of the easiest languages to learn...