Ordinary Life

I like seeing the ordinary life of a country. Today was an ordinary sort of day, except for the wedding, about which more later. So I’ll describe the ordinary things we did. (I write this thinking of friends who may never see the ordinary life of a country like Hungary. What I wish them is the adventure of the ordinary. Because after all, that’s where the writing comes from: from jars of linden-flower honey at a farmer’s market, and sausages hanging from a rack in the grocery store, and the graffiti on the sides of everything, even the university. From the realization that weddings are the same the world over, and that even in rural Hungary, the bride will wear an imitation of Kate Middleton’s dress, and the Hungarian band will sing “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” From the taste of pogacsa and the intermingled smells of lavender and sheep.) So, to the ordinary.

Let’s start with laundry. I’ve never seen a clothes dryer in Hungary. When I mention clothes dryers, I am met with a look of scorn, as though clothes dryers were some sort of decadent American luxury. So this morning I picked up my clothes from the porch, where they had been drying in the sun.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am adamantly pro-clothes dryer, and have been since the last time I was in Hungary. Clothes dried in the sun do not actually smell like anything except fabric softener, because if you don’t use that, they get very stiff. And the main problem is that they don’t shrink back to their proper sizes. So your jeans don’t go back to fitting properly. But that’s part of the ordinary: in every Hungarian household, you can see clothes-drying racks.  And I will admit that they are more environmentally friendly.  Like other Europeans, Hungarians are environmentally-minded.  If you don’t bring a bag to the grocery store, you’re out of luck.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that the house I’m staying in would be considered relatively luxurious even for an American house: there is an indoor pool. But no clothes dryer.)

Meanwhile, Ophelia was watching Hungarian cartoons on the television and laughing uproariously. Notice that the channel is Nickelodeon.

When we’re in Hungary, we have Hungarian breakfasts. Here was mine: bread, cheese, and sour cherry juice. It’s no use trying to replicate an American breakfast in Hungary. The cereals taste completely different, and the orange juice is nowhere near as good, whereas the peach, pear, and sour cherry juices are excellent.

The first order of the day was marketing. We started at the farmer’s market, where there was a large variety of stalls, mostly selling local produce. I liked seeing the currents and gooseberries, since those are things one can rarely, and only expensively, buy in the United States. But there were also places where one could buy eggs, dairy products, even meats.

And then it was on to the grocery store. Did you know that there’s a brand of bottled water named after me? Well, now you do!

This particular grocery store really was a supermarket, in that it had everything an American supermarket would have and more. Food, detergents and cleaning supplies, even some clothes. But I bet your American supermarket doesn’t have a rack for sausages and salamis!

It’s late, so that’s it for today. Tomorrow, I’ll try to write about what we did in the afternoon, which was attend a Hungarian wedding. (Yes, the bride wore an imitation of Kate Middleton’s dress, and the Hungarian band sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” And there was pogacsa.)

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8 Responses to Ordinary Life

  1. I’d like to know what sour cherry juice is like. I’ve never heard of it. Is it truly sour? Tart like lemonade? Or a subtle sour?
    I also noticed that the eggs in the market were not refrigerated. I have had two friends from other countries sort of scoff at the fact that we worry so about refrigeration and have expiration dates on our eggs here in the U.S.
    I love these posts. There are so many places I wish I could visit right now, and I appreciate the glimpse you are giving me into another culture.

    • Stephanie, it’s both sweet and sour, sort of like cranberry juice in that there’s sugar added to counteract the sourness, but of course much better because it’s cherries. I think the eggs were probably very fresh, since it was a farmer’s market. They were put in the refrigerator once we got home. But yes, in Hungary and here in England as well, the refrigerators tend to be much smaller. I’ve seen people in the US refrigerate tomatoes, which seems weird to me, because refrigeration destroys the flavor. Of course, the French would say the same about cheese.

  2. Oh, and what kind of cheese do Hungarians usually eat with breakfast? I am fascinated with these details.

    • All different kinds. Basically, we have an idea that there are certain breakfast foods, and I don’t think that’s shared in Europe. There is cereal and museli here, but often breakfast is bread, cheese or meat, maybe some fruit. The same sorts of things one might eat at any other time of day, although lighter. So really, any kinds of cheeses.

  3. I love sour cherry juice! And we just finished off our gooseberries from the farmer’s market up the road. And though we do have a clothes dryer (shared by everyone in the building), it is kind of a decadent eyebrow-raising luxury by Swiss standards.

    • Yes, I’ve gotten that same reaction in other countries as well, and I think it’s a European thing, although particularly continental. Here in England there is a dryer, but I don’t know how you would get anything dry otherwise in the English climate. Same goes for Boston, of course.

  4. How funny – that row of bottles with your name. Surreal. LOL. Of course I am feted
    often but always misspelled. Holiday, not Holliday. This post is as close to being in
    Hungary as I may ever be. Ah. Lovely.

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