Pickiness rewarded

I’m not known for my patience. I want everything to happen yesterday, or today. Tomorrow brings me out in hives. It never arrives.

When I bought my flat all those years ago, I said that I wasn’t going to move in until everything was finished. Everything. Had I stuck to that, I still wouldn’t be living there. Friends who had bought before me laughed, knowing that getting it right sometimes never happens.

I was ecstatic when I found my dining table – and I didn’t for a minute stop to worry about it not having accompanying chairs. I would have no problem finding them. Or so I thought. Seven years later I was still looking.

I came close, once. They were the right colour, the right height, the right look but they were too delicate for some of the bods I know and I didn’t want to be eating my soup wondering when the spindly legs would give way. I almost bought two carvers once, but JFW talked me out of it. Too expensive. They’d have done me though, I’d have settled. But I didn’t.

chairsThen on Sunday, while exploring the basement of the fabulous Bálna (the whale), the delights of which were only recently introduced to me by RG (thank you), I discovered a paradise of antique shops. One of them had four Art Deco chairs. Okay, I’d have liked six, but four would do (and actually four works better). They were just what I’d had in mind for all these years. Years of regular tours of the antique markets and BAVs. Years of regularly checking online. Years of hauling chairs down from the kitchen when dinners became dinner parties.

I’m not known for my patience, as I said. But today, I’m glad that I waited. I’m glad that I didn’t settle for an ‘it’ll do’.

whalewhale2But back to the Bálna. If you haven’t been you should go. Take the lift right to the top and then make your way down the stairs. It’s fabulous. The old customs warehouses have been joined/encased in a huge glass eggshell, designed by a Dutch architect Kas Oosterhuis. It’s stunning. There is lots of exhibition space and still some empty retail space (which is a shame) and it opens on Sundays (and last Sunday it had live music). Outside, on the terrace, on the banks of the Danube, there are bars and restaurants and cafés. Be careful though – one of them advertising chicken wings gives three measly wings for 1900 ft (€6) so you’re definitely paying for the view. The burgers at the last bar (a brew pub boasting 80 kinds of beer) are good value and tasty, even if the chairs outside aren’t designed for lounging 🙂 Definitely worth checking out.



2014 Grateful 47

I don’t have a television in my flat and I don’t have a fireplace. And because I don’t have either of these focal points, my centre points are my tables – my kitchen table and my dining room table. Around these two pieces of furniture (one a modern glass/chrome construction, the other a 1920s art deco piece), the world has been set to rights on numerous occasions. Conversations have been parsed and analysed. Lives have been rebuilt. Attitudes readjusted. Perspectives changed.

One of the great joys in my life is food, and it shows 🙂 I find cooking  therapeutic. I cook every day, even if it’s just for me. I make an effort not to eat on the run but to sit and enjoy. It’s relaxing. It grounds me. I’m even learning to eat more slowly. To savour. To pay more attention and be in the moment. I don’t always manage the recommended 25 chews per mouthful but trying has become a new form of meditation.

Way back in the 1980s, when the fondue craze hit Ireland, I was there. I loved the communal cooking. Sitting around a table and trying this and that, all the while chatting and debating and even at times arguing to a backdrop of tantalising smells.



I’m coming in on the end of the raclette craze, having just discovered the concept while in Zurich late last year – but better late than never. Raclette is a semi-hard cheese made on both sides of the French/Swiss Alps. Individual pans sit underneath a grill where you can grill to your hearts content whatever combination of cheese and vegetables you like. The plate above is reserved for larger meats and vegetables.  All the host has to do is supply the raw ingredients and then everyone else does the work.



This evening was my first raclette dinner, prompted by the cheese I’d stocked up on at Christmas nearing its use-by date. I hustled up five friends who were willing to join the experiment. My instruction book helpfully came in Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, and Slovenian so it was trial by picture – a little like looking at the picture on a jigsaw box and having some vague notion of how the finished product was supposed to look.

They came. They saw. We ate. And the world was set to rights…again. Around the table sat America, Australia, England, Hungary, and Ireland. I wonder how successful international negotiations would be if they were held around a dinner table.

This week, with the sounds of the Mediterranean still rattling around my head, I am grateful that I have friends who will come sit around my table and freely share their thoughts and opinions on everything from Ireland’s legendary performance against Wales yesterday to the merits (?) of the annual February 11th commemorative walk of the 700 in Budapest. They come with questions and leave with answers (or more questions!). That’s one of the joys of being an expat in a city that has so much to offer. The variety of backgrounds and the diversity of cultures that meet and form lasting friendships make eating together much more than simply fun – it’s also an education.