How a misunderstanding and chance encounter led to a delicious Hungarian recipe
Polymath. It’s one of those words. One should never refer to oneself as such; it’s how others might describe you. It’s not for me to suggest I am a person of great learning across several different fields of knowledge. I’m more comfortable with referring to myself as a Jagjit of all trades, mastering none.
There are distinct upsides to being a Jagjit. I’m able to connect with a wide and varying demographic. Comedy fans, radio lovers, food obsessives and those of a politico-satirical bent, not to mention brown people, Scots and those that worship at the altar of the beard.
There are distinct downsides to being Jagjit. Sometimes I assume folk might know of my work, especially in my hometown, Glasgow, where my brother is arguably the most beloved television sitcom character.
Lili, the coffee maker and I had had a misunderstanding. I had made a comment about her skirt. It wasn’t designed or intended to objectify. It was about the thickness of the material on an unseasonally warm autumn day given her day-long proximity to the espresso machine.
Understandably given the frequency of comments women have to deal with based on their clothing, Lili was unimpressed. Rather admirably, she made her feelings known.
The fact that I am a regular customer and almost a quarter of a decade older than her didn’t stop her.
‘This isn’t the end of this…’ I said as I wandered off to drink my coffee and gather my thoughts.
‘My intention was to return to Lili, apologise and explain the nature of my comment whilst also explaining my understanding of her reaction.
Misunderstanding seemed to be the word of the day. It transpired that Lili thought my ‘This isn’t the end of this…’ to be an intention to make a complaint to management.
My flat white sunk, my words and actions reflected upon, I took my empty cup back to Lili. But before I could apologise, she beat me to it. She had felt she had over-reacted.
I conceded that women must be weary of the ribald references, the salacious suggestions prompted by how they dress in the workplace.
I explained that my comment, clunky and clumsy though it had been, was not so intended.
For the first time I notice Lili isn’t Spanish as I had assumed. We get talking, the misunderstanding somehow bringing us a connection. She’s Hungarian. I get excited. I mention goulash. She rolls her eyes. I imagine that’s pretty much all folk know about Hungarian food.
I explain that I write a food column for this amazing new newspaper, a paper designed to embrace Europe. At the end of her shift I am buying Lili a pint and interrogating her about her food memories.
This 23 year old is a food lover. She starts telling me about her gran. Whilst her mum cooks, it tends not to be traditional food. It’s regarded as old-fashioned. But her gran, who lives in rural Hungary, cooks all the classics.
Lili tells me about her pheasant broth, a broth made with pheasant shot earlier that Sunday by her grandfather.
‘There’s this crazy golden layer of fat on top…’
Lili is no longer in the West End of Glasgow. She’s home; home in Hungary. I take a moment to reflect on how a misunderstanding between two random souls has become a beautiful exchange of stories.
She snaps back into the room, her eyes a-twinkle.
‘And the garlic sauce…’
Bear in mind, Lili has never made this. Eyes shut, she drew on childhood memories watching her gran cook.
I’m guessing the quantities. As simple as is sublime, this sauce is defined by understanding.
Let there be no misunderstanding about that….
____________Recipe for Lili’s garlic sauceIngredients
50g pork fat
A bulb of garlic
150ml sour cream
2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Fresh black pepper
On a gentle heat, melt the fat. (I was tempted to add a sprig of rosemary at this juncture but resisted messing with the mojo.)
Having peeled and crushed every clove of garlic, add to the liquid fat. Fry but don’t colour the cloves. This should take no more than the length of a pop song. Season at this point, bearing in mind that the pork fat may well already be deliciously salty.
Add the sour cream, an ingredient much beloved by the Hungarians. Mix well.
Mix through the parsley and turn out immediately to arrest any further cooking. Enjoy with roast chicken or meat, grilled fish or smeared over anything you wish to devour.