By Anna

MapBecause I love to bore you with the hairy details of social justice gone awry, complacent Americans, and various people groups around the world, the next few weeks will carry on in that tradition and be all about Eastern Europe, specifically Budapest and maybe a hint of Prague.

Budapest was built on paprika. That’s right, that little spice that makes deviled eggs so delicious. On tables across Hungary sits salt, pepper and paprika. They even have a dish named Chicken Paprikash (which I hope to try while visiting the Paris of the East). And it’s in this little spicy wonder that Buda, Pest and Obuda (Ancient Buda) could coalesce.

According to Hungarian writer John Lucaks, goulash (gulyas), famously seasoned with paprika, was served as the midday meal for cattlemen and shepherds, common among the poor it was rarely served to the middle and upper classes in spite of their favor for paprika. As Lucaks constantly pens, “Hungary is a very class conscious society” and it is my interpretation that paprika crosses those classes and is the one spice most relied on by Hungarian cooks, whether for goulash or for Chicken Paprikash.

This class-conscious society has historically borrowed from Western European ideals and styles. Once known as Austria’s junior partner, Hungary takes what it likes and adds a little of that high vitamin C bearing paprika to make it its own.

paprika-molidaAfter 1900, cooking with paprika made Budapest famous. Writer Alexandre Dumas “praised the Paprika laced dishes” (Lukacs) and Edward VII had a Hungarian chef. In the wake of Hungary’s struggles to find its own niche, constantly borrowing architecture from Spanish Baroque, balancing Magyar and Jewish cultures, maintaining Turkish influence from their invasion in the 13th century and competing with Vienna for superiority in Eastern Europe, Hungary discovered herself in paprika.

400px-Budapest_Chain_Bridge1Though some might disagree and say the building of bridges across the Danube to connect Buda and Pest or the invention of the locomotive (they claim to have done it first, but we all know that it was surely done by a Westerner–Richard Trevithick perhaps?) were what gave Budapest its fame, I claim it was paprika!

So as you’re reading about my travels abroad to a country I know very little about (I hope to educate you as I educate myself) drop your morning OJ and take in more paprika instead.

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