2019 Gratefuls 17 & 16: The science behind being grateful

A good mate, and former boss, characterises himself as a dirt man. When we worked together, we’d have long conversations comparing his need for facts vs my comfort with faith. Our mutual respect was tinged with a dash of incredulity, neither one of us completely buying into the other’s point of view. Read more

2019 Grateful 18: Talented friends

There was a time in my life when I mistakenly believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness, of not being able to cope, of not being in control. If it had to be done, I had to do it.  If there wasn’t enough time in the working day to do everything I had to do, I’d sacrifice my sleep. And if you know me at all, you’ll know how much I need my sleep. Those were bad years. Nightmare years. Stressful years. Read more

2019 Grateful 19: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

You can tell just by looking at me that I like my food.  I appreciate good food, be it in 5-star restaurants, other people’s dining rooms, or diners, drive-ins, and dives. Read more

2019 Grateful 20: The New Riverside Café

I  met a man today. Not any old man, but a man who played a part in history. He looked ordinary enough, in his Bernie Sanders t-shirt, jeans held up with braces (oops, suspenders), and a logo’d baseball cap. Just another guy. Until the story started. Read more

2019 Grateful 21: Masses in Two States

Going to mass in the USA is quite the experience. Apart from the fact that I can understand what’s being said (which is novel in itself), I get to see the insides of local communities, both rural and urban.

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2019 Grateful 22: A lesson in passing

I write this from the ‘burbs of Milwaukee, WI. It’s morning here. The coffee is brewing and I’m checking emails before I leave for a day in the cemeteries. I like to do that – visit old cemeteries and see what those left behind have to say about those who’ve gone before them. Just ready to leave, I open an email and see that Budapest stalwart Alan Rees has passed away.

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2019 Grateful 23: Nails

I’m not one to spend time in beauty parlours. I don’t do makeup or facials or such, but I am partial to a manicure and pedicure; the former cosmetic, the latter medicinal. I like having my nails done.  Read more

2019 Grateful 24: Green Tomato Day

The responsibility that comes with having a garden weighs heavily on me. It dictates what I do and when I do it. I’m tied to the kitchen. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get Mother Nature on my schedule. Her lastest parry has been of the green tomato variety. Read more

2019 Grateful 26 & 25: Irresponsible Reviews

I have friends in the hospitality business who on occasion fall foul of bad reviews. I listen to their stories of guests wrecking the place, leaving traces of drugs in the bathrooms, being generally boorish and obnoxious. And then, when challenged or asked to pay for damages, the guests/punters take to social media and leave a bad review with little thought and even less consideration for the damage their irresponsible reviews can do.

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2019 Grateful 27: Pass the Zucchini

I’m at a loss as to how to explain to her-next-door that there are only two of us. Twenty eggs. (Eggs come in boxes of 10 here.) Two kilos of uborka (pickling cucumbers). A kilo of cherry plums. Two kilos of peaches (or maybe they were apricots). And two massive zucchini. And this was just last week. With so many fruit trees in the village and so many locals growing their own veg and such, getting rid of what you can’t (or don’t want to) use is like a convoluted game of pass the parcel.

When the farmer up the road at home drops into my mother with eggs, she bakes him a tart in return. She mightn’t want to bake. She mightn’t have planned to bake. She mightn’t be in the mood to bake. But bake she will. There’s some sort of unwritten code that demands it. I always thought she was mad. I figured my city-loving genes would have long-since throttled any lurking country ones, given that a greater percentage of my life has been lived within the madding crowd than without. But no. I’m turning (or perhaps have already turned) into my mother. (And that’s not a complaint – she’s a grand woman.)

No matter what I’d planned to do that day or what I might have wanted to do that day, if the eggs arrive, I have to bake. Anything. Something. I think though that herself has gotten smarter. She’s seen the Pavlovian pattern. I’m sure she realises that if she drops off eggs AND zucchini, then zucchini bread will follow. Perhaps I’m giving her too much credit, but I certainly have my suspicions.

So, when life hands me a mammoth zucchini. I bake. Walnut and zucchini bread. Loaves of it. And then I pass the parcel to anyone who might drop by that day. Or the next. The painter got lucky last week. He’s sold on it. But when I gave him the first one to sample, his wife sent him back with uborka that I added to the bucket already awaiting pickling. Village life is a never-ending cycle of give and take.

After nearly three years, I’ve finally mastered the unregulated gas oven. I bake now by smell. But that means I can’t leave the kitchen lest I miss the crucial turn-around point and the even more crucial turn-down point. But when I get it right, I get it right.

Recipe for zucchini and walnut bread

Some of you have asked for the recipe. That, too, I’ve fiddled with to the point I can do it blind. Here it is. (Forgive the translation – it’s for me.)

In the first bowl, mix

  • 3 cups of sieved flour (finom liszt if you’re in Hungary – not the rétes liszt)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda (1 teáskanál szódabikarbóna)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (1 teáskanál sütőport)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (1 teáskanál só)
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (1 evőkanál fahéj)

In the second bowl, mix (manually rather than electronically – am not sure why this is better but it makes a difference – I found this out the day I couldn’t be arsed taking out the mixer)

  • 3 eggs (3 tojás)
  • 1 cup of sugar (1 csésze kristálycukor)
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil (1 csésze növényi olaj)
  • 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract (3 teáskanál vanília kivonat)

Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ones (not the other way around) and when it’s mixed, add

  • 2 cups of grated zucchini at least (Legalább 2 csésze reszelt cukkini)
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts (1 csésze dió)

Grease two pans with just enough butter to make them shine – too much and they’ll burn. Oil doesn’t work … I’ve tried.

Put in the oven and bake. I can’t help you with temperatures  because I’ve no markings on my oven knobs.  I turn it to 8 pm for about 10 minutes and then turn the pans around before turning it down to 7 pm and waiting for anywhere between 20 and 35 minutes. Again, no clue what the difference in time is – but when you start to smell it,  keep an eye on it. When you can stick a knife through the centre and it comes out clean, you’re done. Take them out of the oven but let them sit in the tins for a few minutes. I found this out because the phone rang one time and I got distracted. But letting them sit makes a difference. Then cool them on a wire rack.

Store, not in a tin, but in Tupperware in the fridge. Or freeze them wrapped in baking paper. They’ll keep for 10 days or 2 weeks in the fridge and only need a couple of hours to defrost from the freezer.

loaves of zucchini and walnut bread

I’m slowly getting the hang of village life and on a good day, I revel in the bounty. On a bad day, I curse it. But thankfully, I have more good days than bad.