Guest Post By Claudia Heilter, former news producer, mother of Arlo, 6 and Lois, 4.
I’ve been wracking my brains on ways to pass along my Hungarian roots to my children. I speak the language but found it a bit too tricky to teach them. My husband doesn’t speak it and my parents live 2,000 miles away in Western Canada. It only dawned on me recently that it might be easier to pass along the family history not through the language, but through the food. Hungarian cuisine is so flavorful that it’s world-renowned. It’s quite kid-friendly too because most of it qualifies as comfort food: goulash soup, paprikas chicken, palacsinta (crepes) and galuska dumplings (instant homemade noodles). The only problem is, I can’t cook. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 6 years and the learning curve, for me, has proved too steep. I thrived working in the high-pressure, cut-throat environment of network news. But ask me to follow a simple recipe and it’s like my brain goes cross-eyed.
My kids love the buttery, bite-sized Hungarian cheese biscuits called pogacsa (po-gah-tcha) – a treat my mother makes every time we visit my parents. (You can’t be Hungarian and not have put your personal stamp on a pogacsa recipe.) Arlo and Lois beg their grandmother to send them some instead of having to wait until our bi-annual visits. But by the time the pogacsa would travel the two weeks and go through Customs (if it even got through Customs), they’d undoubtedly be stale. So I thought, Hey! I’ll just make them myself! What a great way to pass along some part of my family history. But as soon as my mother started to explain the measurements in terms of ”it needs a little bit of this and a little touch of that” I thought to myself: Doomed. If I can’t work with actual measurements, I certainly wasn’t going to be able to go by feel. Now what? What I would have done in my producer days: Find an expert!
I admit I’m a bit embarrassed to be outsourcing my heritage. My friend and neighbor, Lori Walsh, though not Hungarian, is a gifted baker. And in this case that seems to be the more important criteria. She already bakes bread for us weekly and other yummy snacks and desserts, too, through her business Yum! So why not this? I connected her with my mom (it seemed best to cut out the middleman), and we were in business.
Until the day comes that my mother teaches me her way, delegating this old-world tradition will have to be my modern-day stamp on the pogacsa recipe. In the meantime, there’s a little taste of Hungary, and a lovely (mess-free) reminder of my family, anytime we want. (more…)