Tag Archives: Hungarian

Ten (okay 14) books that had an impact.

My cousin Dianne posted a request on FaceBook – name 10 books that had an impact on you. Well because my memory is poor, I had to check my GoodReads site to look for some of those books. It was hard to wittle down to 10 – actually I had 14 that came to mind. Here’s my list: Johnathan Livingston Seagull; A Prayer for Owen Meany; Eat, Pray Love; Bel Canto; The Hobbit; A Spanish Lover; The Old Man and the Sea; A Year by the Sea; The Edible Woman; Tuesdays With Morrie; Paprika, A Spicy Memoir; Through Black Spruce; Mr. G, A Novel About Creation; The Golden Compass.

Most of these books were from long time ago. Were those books more memorable? Am I still reading books that are inspiring? Yes and No. Books were like an open window to me and I learned about the outside world. I grew up on a farm and even went to a one room school for grades 2 and 3. But despite that, I knew there was more out there.

Some of that world even came to me. In the summer time, we had workers to help with the tobacco harvest. They mostly came from Quebec and several from the East Coast. And I was first generation Canadian – my father and his family came from Hungary as well as my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side – my Mom was born in Alberta.

Books were a way for me to learn about people, relationships and other places. I learned about about myself and others.


It’s almost Pancake Day! Or do you know it as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday?

pancakes - Shrove Tuesday-Pancake Day-Fat TuesdayIt’s almost Pancake Day! Or do you know it as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday?  Anyway you say it or make it, pancakes are a wonderful dish to enjoy at brunch or even for dinner.

Crepes rather than pancakes were more the norm in our household.  We called them palacsinta – the Hungarian version of a crepe.

We filled our crepes with a sweetened cottage cheese with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sometimes added raisins.  We spread the filling over the crepe – not too thick or too close to the edges – and then rolled them up.  If you didn’t like the cottage cheese filling, you could fill it with homemade strawberry jam.

There was a nifty trick to holding the palacsinta in our hands – you folded it in half and put the back half between your pinky and ring finger and the front half between your first finger and thumb. 

Over the years I have varied the original recipe by drizzling a warm fruit compote on top or using ricotta instead of cottage cheese.  Fresh fruit is always good or a spoonful of your favourite jam.  My cousin tells me she makes them with a walnut filling which sounds absolutely fabulous.  I think my sisters and I would like them with a poppyseed filling.  So many options for Pancake Day.  

Hungarian Palacsinta


Cousins! Growing up on a farm in southern Ontario, our cousins were so important to my childhood. And even though I moved away to British Columbia after University, my cousins remained a constant in my life.  Some of my cousins I know more than others, but that was mostly due to geography. The ones furthest away lived in Dartmouth Halifax, others lived up near Collingwood, Ontario,  another family lived in Windsor, Ontario.  My cousin Lynda lives in California and lived due south from me in Vancouver and for a time we saw each other quite often. I got California as a bonus and she got Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler.
Last September 2011, we cousins had a Barzo family reunion in Waterloo hosted by Uncle Jim’s kids. We looked at old family photographs and the ships’ register from Pier 21 in Halifax where the Barzo family arrived in 1930.  We talked, laughed, reminisced, met new members of the family either through marriage or babies and toddlers who recently came into this world, and caught up on each others lives. And of course there was fabulous food.  We are Hungarians and we love to eat!  It was a lovely setting in my cousin David’s big backyard, with tables set among the tall shade trees.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect late summer afternoon.  We made new memories that day.
The original Barzo kids – Julia, Mary, Simon, John and Joe are all still with us, but we lost Jim several years ago. Our parents are getting older and 3 are now living in care homes.  Unfortunately none of the older generation could make it – they just ain’t as young as they used to be!
Luckily, there was another mini-reunion and the original Barzo kids, except John, got together around Christmas time.  The room was filled again with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and my cousins.  More stories were told and we again looked at the old family photo albums, mostly of black and white snapshots taken by cameras on film and developed in a laboratory.  Pictures are now digital, can be instantly viewed right on the camera, sent via internet and posted on the world wide web.
These old folks have seen many changes in the “new country” and they kept up with all the changes through necessity and with the help of the younger generations.  They may not know too much about this ‘new fangled’ global digital world, but that doesn’t matter because they lived it.
They travelled half-way across the world from Hungary, first by train to Germany, then by ship to Halifax where they again boarded a train east to Toronto, changed trains and travelled north to Hunta to connect with Mihaly (Mike) Barzo, my grandfather. The last part of the trip was made by horse and wagon into the wilds of Northern Ontario to a tiny stone house.
My grandmother Ursula had four kids in tow, including my Dad Simon who was a toddler of two, carrying a few belongings and perhaps $20.00 in cash.  My grandmother had been ready to turn back to Hungary when they were still in Nova Scotia because as far as she could see, it was an empty, forested land.  She must have cursed under her breath at her husband for bringing her family here.  But stay they did and year after year their lives improved.  It wasn’t easy and it took many hard years of work including many lean years when this family of eight had to make do with very little and sometimes went hungry.
Thinking about all these things is at times unimaginable, but the group picture that hangs in my Dad’s room taken that day, shows a happy family that made a new life in Canada – true pioneers.  Here’s to Mihaly and Ursula Barzo, my family and of course my cousins.  Let’s keep the memories alive, keep making new ones and remember how we got here.
Note:  the spelling of our family name changed at some point from Barzso to Barzo.

Mamika – A Hungarian Grandmother is phtographed by grandson Sacha Bada

I heard this story on As It Happens CBC Radio One.  Sacha Bada is a photographer, film maker and looks like he does commercials, now living in Paris.  His grandmother – Mamika (term of endearment for grandma in Hungarian?) is in her 80’s and he started taking pictures of her in costumes to cheer her up.  She dresses up in all these wild costumes including super heroes.  Originally from Hungary it appears they fled to France before or during the War.  What I find charming is that some of the videos of Mamika right at the beginning are in Hungarian with French subtitles!  There are videos and photographs in a book.  If you keep clicking on things, you can get to different places.  Some very artistic and edgy photographs. 

When you first get to site, you’ll see a video playing on a computer screen, and Mamika is sitting below the desk…don’t skip the intro, as here is where she speaks in Hungarian.  It’s kind of nice to hear some of the mother tongue spoken as it always reminds me of my two Grandmas.  Click on Mamika holding the big pair of white briefs….to get to different parts of the site including video and the Book of still photographs which are a mix of commercial photography and photos of Mamika.   

There’s been a lot of exposure through this website and I think it’s cheered up his Grandma.  Her other claim to fame is that she help hide/save 11 Jewish people during the WWII and that is one of the reasons why Mamika is Sacha’s hero.

Have fun….and I hope you enjoy it. It’s easy to get carried away and just keep looking at everything.  http://www.sachabada.com/site.html

No Paprika? What’s a good Hungarian without paprika

It’s a cold day for Vancouver, so it seemed like a good idea to make soup: Tomato Soup with Noodles Hungarian style.  I soon found out that I didn’t have any paprika and called my neighbour Rosina who luckily came to the rescue.  My Mom used to cook this soup while I was growing up and I loved it, but somehow I’d never really learned how to make it.  Last December I went to visit my cousin Diane in Nova Scotia and she showed me how to cook it.  Now, it’s an easy recipe to whip up on a cold night.   Here’s how:  dice a cooking onion in oil until translucent; add some paprika and sauté another minute.  Add 1 large can of tomato juice and season with salt and pepper.  Add a splash of soy sauce and cook on simmer for 1/2 to 1 hour.  About 15 minutes before you are ready to eat, toss in some small-sized pasta or orzo.  The traditional Hungarian way is to make tiny egg dumplings we called nookedli.  Use a fork to beat 3 large eggs in a bowl, add some salt, then gradually mix in enough flour to make a stiff batter.  Initially the batter will appear lumpy, but it will smooth out as you mix and add more flour.  Turn the batter out on to a dinner plate pushing it to the edge and use a soup spoon to “pinch” off small pieces of batter into the soup.  Hold the plate or rest it on edge of pot.  Turn up the heat on the soup so that it is near boiling.  The noodles will double in size and raise to top of soup when noodles are cooked.  Soup is ready to serve.