8:25 pm CET
After last night's festivities wore me out, I figured I'd be tired enough to sleep until mid-morning.
No such luck.
I woke up at 8:00, as usual, and--since I couldn't get back to sleep--decided to lie in bed and read. At 10:00 I went downstairs to the ground floor to meet the rest of the group for our day of Hungarian cooking. Niki, her friend Heni (I have no idea if I spelled that correctly), and our soon-to-be professor, Gabor, had arrived and were giving us tasks around the kitchen. Over the five hours of preparation and cooking, I peeled, chopped, and mashed potatoes, arranged ingredients, and carved an enormous slab of beef. I don't think "enormous" even begins to describe how huge this chunk of meat was. Regardless, I put my mad cutting skills to good use and finished what needed to be done.
We made several home-style Hungarian foods: we had paprikás krumpli (a stew-like dish with potatoes, onions, eggs, sausage, paprika, and a healthy layer of sour cream), a couple different types of sausage, and pörkölt (a beef stew that is similar to gulyásleves, served over pasta). We also had lots of bread, wine, and cheese being passed around the table, along with two water bottles filled with pálinka. Let me just tell you now: pálinka is deadly. Very, very deadly. It's this brandy made from peaches, plums, and pears, and it has an alcohol content of 53% by volume. Pálinka, according to Gabor, is very popular in the countryside, and he said that members of the older generations take a swig of it every morning to help get them started for the day. This particular pálinka was made by Niki's father (which is illegal, so I jokingly called it moonshine) and, though I cannot rightfully judge since this was my first exposure to the drink, I don't think it gets much stronger than that. It burns all the way down and the warmth spreads across the chest. I've never had anything like it; if winters are as bad as I've heard they are, I suppose I can understand why it's so popular. After dinner, part of the group made crêpes for dessert, some filled with cottage cheese, some with nutella or cocao, and others with homemade jams that Niki's mother had made. They, too, were delicious beyond compare, and merely added to our already gigantic food babies.
The entire day was spent together in the kitchen and dining room, and I'm fairly certain that we all had a great time. The food was fantastic, and we're pretty sure that tonight's meal was one of the best we'll be having during our stay here. Since our Hungarian friends cooked traditional food for us, we promised that we would cook a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner for them.
I guess the pressure's on.