Thursday, June 15, 2023

We Become Peasants

After going dormant for the longest spell in its long history, the blog is back. I'm sorry about the delay. thanks to the readers who took the effort to reach out to me and inquire whether I was still alive or had been incarcerated or just gone off my meds and become a Republican. I'm fine. Life has been a bit less adventurous in the last year... we spent a lot of it (well, too much of it) in the USA getting surgical things stuck into various bits and parts and getting squeezed through MRI tubes and other such nonsense (playing Klezmer music around NY, eating Turkish food in Paterson and Yemeni food in the Bronx with the near-legendary Bob Godfried...) but finally we are back in our Budapest home and happily finding our true selves. We have become peasants. We are now people of the soil, as they say in nationalist circles. 
Our little plot of Heaven
Usually I write posts about our visits to various peasants around East Europe, but we finally decided to take the leap and become peasants ourselves! For years we have been using our huge living room window to grow basil, peppers, and other kitchen herbs, while Fumie has turned our inner courtyard walkway into a minor botanical garden of flowers. I used to have a garden when I lived in a rundown slum tenement in Allston, Massachusetts in the 1980s - growing in soil I composted from horse manure I trucked in from the Boston Police stables on the back of my bicycle.

Allston, Mass. 1982, with zuchinni
When we lived in Zuglo we had a balcony on which we grew a huge amount of herbs and peppers, and when we moved downtown that was supplanted by a huge living room window. Fumie set up a small mega-industrial scale window garden and soon our living room was being taken over by errant avocado plants, smelly muskatlis, and potted mints and basil. We needed more room. And luckily, the Kisdiofa Community Garden appeared on our horizon and we applied for a plot. 

our living room window nursery with community garden below.
The community garden is conveniently across the street from our building. When we first moved in it was a vacant lot with rubble from a demolished building, but a community organization (KEK) set about cleaning it up and trucking in organic soil to set up an urban garden in our densely developed old downtown Pest neighborhood, the seventh district Jewish Ghetto. The garden is strictly organic, and an entire compost system was built this year, so we can bring our kitchen scraps downstairs and recycle them into dinner for next year.
Cherry tomatoes and Japanese cucumbers
We got back to Budapest in March, so we were a bit late in getting started, but the folks running the garden were there with advice and guidance and soon we had turned over an abandoned plot, worked in organic compost and petrified alga-limestone, and we put in our early spring vegetables. One part of the plots is for flowers, including something Fumie found at Stop and Shop in Teaneck labeled "Grandma Flower Mix" that she swears by and we have no idea what is in it. Spring in Budapest this year was cold and wet and long, and the results were that our chinese yu-tsai greens didn't make it, our snow peas failed, and our radishes emerged as a lesson to other radishes to just say no to the Man pushing crack. On the other hand, once it warmed up we had a bumper crop of lettuce and we had an amazing crop of arugula, which we are still eating.

Since, we have put in tomatoes (cherry, black Krim, and yellow) Japanese cukes, peppers (Jalapeno, Japanese Shishito, and Romanian hot long pepper) two types of eggplant (Japanese and Italian) and okra. Okra is hot weather vegetable not often seen in Hungary.  We are almost too far north to grow it, so I am counting on late planting and global warming to see us through. It is also, without argument, my favorite vegetable. When I'm in the US I eat about a kilo of it a week, and with peppers and tomatoes I should be fed well into the fall.

OK. There was Yemeni food in the Bronx...

And Turkish Kunefe hot pastry with home made pistachio ice cream in Paterson...

And of course, nobody loves New Jersey diners more than my Dad, who will be 97 on June 20th:

But we are very happy to be home!