I feel like I just died and went to heaven. After two weeks in Budapest I have found the market to end all markets. An absolute treasure trove of people and produce, timeless, like encountering Van Gough’s potato eaters at the table, or at least their Hungarian cousins. In the farmer’s stalls outside the fabulous old market building of Hunyadi Square, there are old ladies with their hair twisted up in scarves, men with gnarly hands weighing fistfuls of beans, fresh unfettered food, and people waiting patiently with baskets, sharing the crisp early morning. Everyone speaks Hungarian. There is not a tourist in sight – although they must be on their way. But for now, the place is mine.
Everyone buys flowers, and I want to look like a local so I buy flowers too. And quinces, and ricotta cakes, and blushing small pears that will be perfectly ripe by the time I find a bottle of chilled Tokaj. Then there is honey that looks candied when it’s not, eggs that you buy by handing over a box for refilling, and old women selling tight bundles of parsley that probably came out of their garden this morning. There is cobbled corn, vivid red and yellow capsicums, and long pairs of sausage that look too hot even for my insatiable tastebuds. I don’t want to speak english and try to ask, it will ruin the spell. Maybe later in the day there will be people wearing sneakers trying to take a few i-pictures from the hip, but for now it’s just me and I’m relishing it. Even the woman with the pastry twists quickly diminishing from generous plastic tubs doesn’t give me away as she follows my fingers and chooses the best one. The cheese lady laughs as her hand sweeps over half the offerings and points to a cow while the other half sweeps to a goat. There are pickles and jams, the apricot so intensely orange it will light up the morning toast. I try to pack heavy on the bottom with apples and quinces and keep the pastries on the top, but there is too much, I can hardly carry the bags, and I haven’t even bought the things we actually need. There is nothing for it but to go home, unpack, and start again.
As I retrace my steps from the market, I find myself wondering why I don’t have 10 children, or why I’m not in charge of the catering for a football team, or at minimum, carbo loading for the 50,000 runners in New York’s marathon. There are so many delicious, different and divine things to eat here, Sean is going to be hard pressed to keep up. And this is only week two. I have explored the Grand Central Market and love it despite the tourists. The markets at Belvarosi Piac are just around the corner, handy. I have yet to visit the well recommended Feny Street Markets over the river, but know this will also be a treat. There can be no slowing down of the discoveries, which means I need more eaters. So if you find yourself in Budapest and hungry, you know who to call….