Added: Trudi Quezada - Date: 31.12.2021 15:24 - Views: 28832 - Clicks: 3459
Lajos Refi weeps inconsolably at our kitchen table. Eager to share stories of his homeland, our neighbor regaled us while sipping a glass of homemade wine. He and my father would swap tips and sometimes argue in good-natured fashion over proper distillation techniques. And then there was the time Dad jumped up from his lunch one Saturday yelling. About half of the grape vines rested neatly in the grass. I help you! Hence the north vineyard was pared to satisfy the Hungarian standard.
My Dad came back down the hill and returned to his lunch muttering.
Lajos and his clippers had spoken. Lajos once gave Dad a bottle of Hungarian moonshine which is probably still on the same shelf in the cellar where my father placed it about 45 years ago. Just one whiff made us light-headed. But tonight was different. Lajos sobbed and sobbed. Never before had we heard such a story. His wife. His children. We had no context. Apparently, the original plan had been for his oldest son and Lajos to escape the rapidly enclosing Iron Curtain and send for the family later.
But things did not go according to plan. The Communists swiftly overran Hungary. One morning, the Refi family awoke, and there the Reds were. Lajos and his son managed to buy their way onto a couple of fishing boats launched in the last seconds of the revolution. With great relief at their narrow escape, Lajos turned in his seat to match eyes with his son. Lajos looked on helplessly as Communist soldiers descended upon the boat holding his son. He wept explaining that he lived that night incessantly.
Lived it. And lived it again. What else might he have done? Should he have gone back to certain capture? Was there something else he should have done that he had yet to think of? The Iron Curtain dropped that week like a guillotine. Now Lajos lived with what might have been. He was proud of Hungary. He wanted us to know his country was a great country, too. A country worth fighting for.
He loved sharing his culture. Lajos at the door. With wine. With sausage. A favorite childhood memory has him showing up at our door with a large pot of Hungarian goulash. There were so many of us. He explained that he wanted to make sure there would be enough. Lajos was eager to have us experience a taste of his homeland. He was proud of his Hungarian culture. Many times since I have recalled the memorable, mysterious, smoky-sweet scent of the stew that appeared on our doorstep, out of nowhere.
Not long ago, I told a co-worker this story. And then I forgot about the conversation. Decades passed. Never mind days. In the ensuing years, I had taken up cooking as a hobby. Lajos had not been any more than a passing memory. Lajos and his grapes. Lajos and his spices. Lajos and his sad and poignant tales. And then, unexpectedly, a small packet on my desk.
And now…a confession. The coworker, hearing the tale, had gone to a downtown Mystic, CT, spice shop. A foodie herself, she carefully selected a small package of sweet, smoky paprika. From the old country. Merry Christmas! Now, this called for proper research. And so it happened that this Christmas Eve I found myself collecting the proper ingredients for an authentic Hungarian Goulash.
Sweet yellow and orange peppers. Crushed caraway. Celery leaves. Chopped Angus. Now, to sweat the onions. Brown the beef. Crack open the packet. Sweet, smoked paprika dusts the onions and beef. Sheer perfume.
I am seven again. A man with deep creases in his face, looking older than his years, stands at the door on Sycamore Road. He holds a pot smelling of peppers and meat and spice and pride. Happy Christmas, Lajos. Wherever you may be….
My Neighbor Lajos. April 12, June 29, Kathleen Stauffer 0. Wherever you may be… Facebook Comments. Like this: Like Loading Post After Trump….
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