Tag Archives: Elza’s Kitchen

A hunger, Az éhség

Elza’s Hungarian Linzar Cookies with Apricot Jam

The second installment of The Paprika Trilogy written by Marc Fitten takes time to get through- what with having to take frequent breaks to curb the cravings for all of the wonderful food that the story dances around. The recipe for the linzar cookies above came from the author and they are lovely. But what I really want is some chicken paprika: succulent, savory, satiating…if it weren’t 1000 degrees outside I would call forth my inner Hungarian peasant (from thin air) and just wing it. Maybe in a few months…

At any rate, Elza’s Kitchen is a tale of a woman who is running aground on the fumes of her life. She is a restauranteur, a capitalist “success,” in a small Hungarian town nearly recovered from the trauma of communism where ambitions for a “success”  seem to matter a lot. And yet, and yet…the plat du jour can not hold. Living is easy in the capitalist dream world, life – not so much. It’s a lonely chase.

“He had never been her confidant. She hadn’t even tried to fake intimacy.”

Naturally, once things start spinning out of control, the shear messy swirl of it is impressive. Why do things half way? The restaurant business is particularly attuned to spinning messy swirls…don’t even get me started.

But in the end, Elza, doesn’t need to change her mise en place so much as her own expectations, her own ambition. She thought the missing ingredient in her life was glory, but authenticity is the only true path to self-fulfillment. The rest is bullshit.

If she sticks to what makes her satisfied, then a sort of contentment is possible. That’s the theory, at least. But I say, if that fails,  a linzar cookie is a little sweet to take away a little of the bitterness.

The first in this series was Valeria’s Last Stand. Each of Fitten’s tales are a rowdy… recipe, told with humor and spice, of all our keenest hungers: love, self-worth, and…well, the next book will tell –  the pièce de résistance!

Jó étvágyat! (Bon appétit!)

The Fifth Sense

 Valeria’s Last Stand is a wonderful fairy tale of sorts written by Marc Fitten. When I read the discription of it on Amazon: Hungarian town, whale, love story, I knew I’d be smitten. As it turns out, “whale” was only a metaphor of the reviewer’s invention, but it sent my mind immediately to the inimitable Hungarian director  Béla Tarr’s beautiful film The Werkmeister Harmonies. Another thing altogether: although a magnificent film- worth seeing and mentioning whenever possible.

Following the strand of my last post on E.M. Forester, this story is less prophecy, more piquant fantasy, albeit with a visceral carnal charge running through it. The descriptions of life in the remote Hungarian village- vegetables at the market, the drinks at the bar, all the lovely bottoms of the female peasants – burst open all the senses. I felt I could see and  smell the turnips sprouting in the gardens, the molder of a perhaps mercifully, forgotten Eastern European town.

The sense of touch however, is what’s most vital to this tale. Fitten never lets the details- the ones that matter most: a caress on the cheek, a pinch on the bottom, a fondled thigh, poking finger, stroke of a gentle or violent hand- go unnoticed.
The way that the people in this story physically touch objects and one another- be it lustfully, tenderly, violently, in commerce, politics or art really describes how people of a community touch each other emotionally and immaterially.

Valeria’s hardened disillusionment mirrors the feeling of a people that have felt the heel of history on their throats for too long. Her awakening is lovely and leaves one feeling that if you only survive long enough, (she is 65 after all) true love and all its fullfilling attributes will come your way. Like I said- it’s a fairy tale.

I met the author at the Yale Writer’s Conference. Marc was one of the most charming teachers there. His easy, generous and gregarious personality was very much appreciated by me, as someone afflicted with the opposite sort of social demeanor.

Valeria’s Last Stand is the first of a trilogy (The Paprika Trilogy). The second- just released and very well received – is Elza’s Kitchen. I look forward to reading it.