Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You Couldn't Make This Up If You Tried!

Thanks to Sarah 'Colbert' Gancher for turning me on to the kitchiest of retro-Hungarian videos. Be sure you stick around for the chicken boiling. Ladies and gentleman: Z' Zi Labor.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Guest Spot: Lenore Weiss

Every now and again we get some submissions that won't fit into the coming issue of Pilvax, but are too good not to pass along. Such was the case with the poetry of Lenore Weiss, daughter of Hungarian emigrants to America. Enjoy these two poems that are part of a cycle about Lenore's mother, and drop her a line if you like them.

Coffee with Mom

"Those busy arms of yours are cool now
like this river with its broad silence
winding soft and slow."

--Attila József, Sleep Quietly Now

The removal of a kidney
brought you downtown,
yours didn't come out, but Daddy's did, buying him
coffee with a cheese danish
from across the street, whatever it took
to make a red light turn green again.

He had five more years left on the books,
marked by a daily dose of dipping his hands
in the waters of acetone to terminal cancer.
Better than staying in Hungary
during the War and becoming a ghost
on a railroad train. Choose your poison.
You left early, survivors

stuffing everything
inside a back pocket,
who taught me
to ride standing up
without losing my balance.
And so here I am.

You want to know if I've
been taking good care of myself.
Yes, I say. I have.
Afterward, we talk about the children,
there are no grand kids yet,
catching up on how the world's been doing
playing Disney on high-def sets,

wars, the presidency, and all the rest,
and how everything
is getting smaller
and costing more money. Money.
How it runs out like time,
the bottom of your change jar
with two pennies.

The Cymbalon and the Oud

A cymbalon and an oud
Growing out from the grass
Where a headstone beckons
For me to come closer.

It's my mother,
Powdering herself with
Silent Night
Under her arms, between her breasts.
She's busy and doesn't notice
When I sit down,
Measures a tablespoon of baby oil
Into her palm and smears her face,
Turns into a finger painting
With her nose on a plate.

She always had a sense of humor but now
Has become someone I don't recognize.
Disappears into her boudoir
Leaving only a smell
And a trace of powder.

Gone for all those times
I needed to know what to do.
The hammer of the cymbalon
And the cry of the oud
Is all she'll say.

Lenore Weiss is a poet, writer, and editor of Hungarian heritage who now lives in Oakland, California. Both of her parents came to the United States and settled in New York City where she was raised with her two sisters. Her father was a medal-winning soccer player and gymnast. Her mother had a uniquely strange sense of humor and knew how to bake cakes filled with delicious lekvár. She died more than 40 years ago. Lenore wishes she could sit down and have coffee with her Mom today with a slice of her cake. Lenore's email is: lenoreweiss@sbcglobal.net. She also serves as the fiction editor of the November 3rd Club.

Lenore Weiss

Matt Henderson Ellis is a freelance manuscript editor and author coach working with writers who publish in print and digitally.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five Great Hungarian Products

5. Tokaj Aszú: Perhaps the wine of kings is virtually unknown in America because we have no tradition of royalty, or due to the fact that dessert wines don't figure into many menus. Or perhaps it is the price that is prohibitive, a modest 3 puttonyos bottle could set you back close to a hundred dollars at a wine shop. But in Hungary, Tokaj Aszú – made from grapes that have attained a 'noble rot ' on the vine – is available relatively inexpensively by the bottle – or by the glass at any of any upscale bar.

4. Tisza Trainers: Retro-hip has never been cooler in Budapest, especially to a generation that is discovering kitsch and didn't have to endure the repression of the Soviet-imposed socialist regime. This re-fangled brand of shoe updates the omnipresent state-owned Tisza trainer, to fantastic results. It is only a matter of time before Japanese shoe fetishists catch on.

3. Tomatoes: Try this: cut out the stem at the top of a summertime tomato, put it to your lips and suck. What you get is a burst of pure tomato flavor that might as well be another fruit from the pale, grainy supermarket-bought American variety. True, tomatoes are not originally Hungarian – not by a long shot – and they don't use them in cooking as much as they do in the Balkans, but a Hungarian tomato is one of our true simple seasonal pleasures.

2. Mangalica pork: believe the hype. The rescue of this species of wooly pig from near extinction and its ascension as a sought-after gourmet foodstuff is already well documented, so much so that it has become popular to bash the trendy pig. But there is a good reason mangalica it has found its way onto the menus of America’s most esteemed restaurants: the meat is beautifully marbled and fantastically rich. That'll do, pig.

1. Le Parfum perfumes: Using scents of derived from such whimsical sources as absinthe and smoky lapsang souchong tea, Zsolt Zólyomi’s perfumes, which he creates for his own line as well as already existing brands, are inventive and exclusive. But expect no Eastern European budget shopping here: prices of his artisan perfumes run close to $ 150 for a 100-ml size bottle. For a longer treatment of Le Parfum, and an interview with Zolt, stay tuned.

Matt Henderson Ellis is a freelance manuscript editor and author coach working with writers who publish in print and digitally.