A Family Travels on Its Stomach

The problem at Budapest’s Great Market Hall is not finding something to eat, but deciding on what you’ll eat.

The whole place smells great, like an Italian import store, and up on the second floor above the produce racks and meat cases are vendors with all sorts of delicious stuff.

At breakfast time a woman was making crepes and nearby my son eyed some people tossing back shots of palinka, the local brandy. “They start early here.”

Not really. All this food didn’t magically appear at 7am. It’s well past the middle of the day for folks who’ve been working all night.

I watched as a young man in coveralls ordered véres hurka, a Hungarian version of black sausage made from made with rice, pig’s blood and pork. Two links were served up in a paper tray with a big dollop of mustard and a couple of slices of bread. “I’ll have what he’s having!”

I forked over 650 forints ($3.35) and dug into the succulent sausage that was as dark as night. With the bread it was just perfect.

We ate well  — and cheaply — everywhere in Romania and Hungary. Interestingly, the only meal that felt overpriced was the breakfast buffet at the Sibiu Hilton.

But the most special meal of the week was in Reghin, deep in the heart of Transylvania. We were visiting with my wife Ann’s relatives, who prepared lunch for us.

We started with a vegetable soup, brimming with potatoes from the cellar — but it was the main course that really knocked our socks off. He made stuffed cabbage baked crisp in a clay roasting dish with sauerkraut on the side. That may sound to you like a lot of cabbage, but it went together perfectly with a little sour cream drizzled over the top.

The goal of our trip was to meet up with Ann’s relatives. Sitting in their kitchen sharing a wonderful meal transformed our touristy jaunt through Romania into an experience that was deeply moving and profound.

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