CNN aired a Hungary-centric episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown a couple of weeks ago. You can watch the episode by clicking on the link below, at least until CNN’s lawyers have it taken down.
I think it turned out quite well. It serves good-sized portions of the arts, culture and culinary delights, and gives us a history lesson through personal stories. It touches on the how the city boomed during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as the effects of the two World Wars, all through the eyes of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who shares several personal stories throughout.
Bourdain opens with an attempt to describe just how beautiful he finds Budapest. He has difficulty finding the right words, finally settling on “building porn” for lack of a better alternative. “You can feel a still-present empire through these buildings,” Bourdain claimed. Of course, this statement also harbors the observation that those days appear to be long gone. The host adds that many Hungarian artists – a significant proportion of its cultural base – emigrated in search of a new home, and one can almost sense the sorrow emanating from the screen.
Since Bourdain, despite becoming a globe-trotting television host, was first and foremost a trained chef, we are treated to several minutes’ worth of culinary delights every ten minutes or so. These are the locations he visited:
New York Café – Here he met the writer Péter Zilahy and discussed café culture, as well as the question of why writers used to frequent a glitzy place if they had no money. And why could they get coffee on credit? They try the restaurant, and this is the 30 seconds in the show dedicated to fine dining. That’s all that the gastro-revolution received, as this was followed by the parts your average tourist would be interested in.
Pléhcsárda - we’ve also been here, in the land of ginormous slices of meat, where no one is bothered if their meat hangs off the sides of their dish and touches the table. Before that, it was placed on a scale drenched in oil anyway. Bourdain samples the chicken liver and marrow stew crêpe, as well as the super-sized schnitzel.
Belvárosi Disznótoros – the host is taken here by Dániel Máté, who considers himself an economist. The journalist and former head of the Ministry of Finance’s press and communications office is a huge fan of butcher shops, and shows Bourdain where you can see blood sausage being prepared in Budapest.
Szeged, an indeterminate fisherman’s csárda - I couldn’t figure out which one it is (according to our reader Márta it’s the Öreg Kőrössy Halászcsárda), nonetheless they try some good fisherman’s soup here. Vilmos Zsigmond takes us into the past as he recounts the pre-war period, and then some moments from communism.
Margit Bangó’s home-cooked meals – Introduced as “The Aretha Franklin of Hungarian Gypsy music”, she also prepares a meal for the crew, with music played all the while.
The program was quite interesting, and the city appears quite exciting despite the crew visiting over the winter. I would have added more emphasis on discovering meals that exist between the two extremes showcased by the New York Café and the Pléhcsárda, and would have entered into a few restaurants that offer pleasant surprises, but the show seemed to want to find balance by showing extremes. A decaying courtyard and shining gold. Fine dining and a deep fryer.
Regardless, it turned out well, and we can look forward to more visitors coming to our city, one of the most exhilarating in Europe.
Translation provided by Helpers Business and Immigration Services. Find us at www.helpers.hu
You may find the original article here.