Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pleskavica at Castro: 1956 gets derailed....

Hungary has been having a bit of a temper tantrum since we got home in late September. You may have heard about it in the news.... in any case, October 23, 2006 will be the 50th anniversary of the ill-fated 1956 rebellion against the Soviet occupation of Hungary. Rather than unite in a national commemoration of the heroic stuggle that occurred six months after I came into this world, the typically petulant political bickering means that our right wing from bizarro world, nominally led by the FIDESZ party, will be boycotting all national celebrations at which Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány speaks, and instead FIDESZ be blocking traffic at Astoria Square... a place with no major 1956 connotations... except that it is near the Jewish Ghetto of the 7th district, in case any right wing skinheads need as convenient place to riot, as they did in September. We went to see the demonstration at Kossuth Ter, in front of the parliament, last week... One thing to notice is that these are not really Hungarian national flags. These are the red and white "Arpad Stripe" flags. Originally flown by the tenth century nomadic Hungarians, the Arpad Stripe was only revived as a symbol in 1944, under the Nazi Arrow Cross junta that took over Hungary after the German Nazis kidnapped Hungary's "not-right-wing-enough" regent Admiral Horthy. In the early 1990's skinhead groups revived the striped red flag. Very simply, flying it means the same as flying a swastika does in Germany.... The protest organizers set up a soup kitchen to attract the homeless, since there weren't enough demonstrators in the square during the day (each evening at 5 pm the FIDESZ party sends some politico to make speech, attacting a few thousand nominally normal earthlings.) Today, the Budapest police finally got the "National Council" to dismantle their tent city and leave the square so that the official 1956 ceremonies could take place with adequate security for the many international leaders of state who will be attending. Riding our bikes into the center of this neo-nazi rabble, I was hungry. A five minute bike ride from Kossuth tér brought us to Deák ter, and then it was a hop away to Madách ter... the new location of the Castro Bisztro. The Castro used to be on Radáy utca in the 9th district, but relocated to downtown about six months ago. If you are in downtown Pest and want good food, unpretentious atmosphere, and good Hungarian and Serbian grill chow, the Castro is the place. You eat well, drink your fill, and you won't go broke. Originally started by Dutch pub genius (and jazz trombonist) Hans Van Vliet, and concieved of as a Serbian/Voivodina style grill pub by chef Nenad Angelic, the Castro has survived the move very well. Now the kitchen is run by Nenad's able lieutenant Sinese, a true grill master... I had to have the pleskavica... the Serb take on a burger, and one of the world's best attempt's to attain burger heaven. .. (pleskavica was discussed earlier...) The cevapcici and pleskavica at the Castro are the objects of a manical Serb obsession with ground-meat quality, a legacy of Nenad Angelic, former head chef (he's now opened the Kafana, on the corner of Sörház and Molnár utca in the downtown district V... more later...) . The meat - a mix of beef and lamb - is bought from a Hungarian-Serbian butcher who lives 30 kilometers north of Budapest in the vilage of Göd - Misibacsi (uncle Mike.) Misibacsi's family left Serbia in the 1600's... good Racka Srbi fleeing the Ottoman Turks. The only Serbian family in Göd, they still speak Serbian at home, and all the daughters are sent off to Serbia for University, and thus fated to marry Serbian boys and bring them home to sustain the miniscule but historically tenacious Serbian heritage of Göd. You want ground cevap meat, you go to Misibacsi. Then you take it, semi-freeze it, massage it for a half hour with soda bicarbonate and onions, and run it through strange meat-extruding machines to produce the fine ground meat that makes a cevap or pleskavica more than just a burger. Served in a fresh lepény bread (in Serbian or Croatian lepenje) with kaymak - the balkan version of creme fraiche, a step up from sour cream - and onions. The cooks here know me and they know I didn't want ajvar (pepper paste) on my pleska.... If you know hamburgers in Budapest, you understand why I only eat burgeroid constructions at Castro... Budapest burgers are a very sad story. Take, for example , the Frici Bufé in Obuda... which we happened on earlier in the day. A classic snack bufé located next to the Hév metro stop, Fritzi doesn't really know whether he is serving food to people or livestock. The burgers. Oh my fracking Gods, the burgers.... Dry crumbly pork and bread crumbs. They sit under an infrared lamp for a few afternoon hours until some unfortunate bunkó- under the influence of our abundant and cheap red wine - thinks this is the best way to avoid Budapest's rising restaurant prices... nuke that baby in a microwave and the bread stays crisp for at least ten seconds... In these cases, the best bet is anything besides a bufé hamburger... microwave kolbász, chicken, frikadeller style meatwads....

1 comment:

Pisteve said...

Sorry to be picky, but you refer to: "the HÉV metro stop." This gives me the chance to air a favourite but obscure Hungarian saying of mine:

"A HÉV nem Metro"