Back in 2002, I was in Carlow in the Dinn Rí nightclub. This fellah with a very fla’ (read: flat!) midlands accent asked me out to dance. When the song was over, he turned to me and said in his fla’est of tones: ‘I can see by ya, dah ya like a bi’ a chocola’. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he then added: ‘jus’ like me mammy’.
Yes, I like my food and there are few things I enjoy more than a good meal in good company. Strangely though, I can get enough of eating out and prefer, more often than not, to cook for people who bring an appetite and some good conversation to the table. Last week, driving around the Balaton, I had no kitchen and had to (sigh!) resign myself to eating public fare.
Friday night, I dined with the inimitable BA at the Kővirág Panzió és Étterem in Köveskál. I was a little worried when my fish arrived that I wouldn’t have enough to eat but fortified by the ragout soup I’d had to start, there was plenty and it was all good. On Saturday, I had some more of the ragout soup, but this time at the Szent György Panzió és Étterem in Tapolca. This quaint spot next door to the Lake Cave is a warren of reasonable-sized dining rooms, one of which we had to ourselves.
It wasn’t all that difficult to imagine the hands of the clock spinning in reverse, transporting us back 20 or 30 years when the place surely had its heyday. The wine was good, the food was grand, and the service was prompt and friendly. Add to that the luxury of having a whole dining room to yourself and you start to think you’ve died and gone to restaurant heaven. Or better still, have actually gone back 20 years and are part of the upper echelons of society!
I was on a ragout frenzy at this stage and in Héviz on Sunday couldn’t pass up the boar ragout at Liget Étterem és Pizzéria as a frontrunner to the grilled trout. Perched on a height overlooking the town, we ate to the orchestral strains of some classic music that wafted our way. It was a tad surreal trying to speak Hungarian with a mouthful of pisztráng while listening to the theme song to the Pink Panther!
I border on the obsessive when it comes to eating, particularly when I’m away. No sooner does one meal end that I mentally envision the next. It doesn’t need to be haute cuisine. It doesn’t need to be silver service and linen napkins. All I ask of food is that it delivers on its promise and fulfils whatever deep and irrational expectation I have of it.
Some people eat for the sake of eating. Other eat at every opportunity because at some stage in their lives they had nothing at all to eat and something inside them switched to permanent survival mode. I know of an holocaust survivor who is first to the table every time, regardless of what’s on offer.
On those occasions when I eat just to eat, I don’t feel satisfied. I fixate on food: if I have Thai in my head then the most luscious leg of lamb just won’t cut it. I think of only once in my life (in Rome, craving some Chinese noodles!) when the meal I finally got surpassed all cravings and expectations. Even when I’m on my own, I cook a full dinner. I almost always eat for the pure pleasure of eating – and this week, I’m grateful that life has afforded me the luxury of being able to do so.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52