The warm weather has finally arrived here in New England (oh, boy, has it!) but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to stop eating soup. As long as there are cool nights and air-conditioned days, in my life, there will be soup…especially when it’s as delicious as this Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup!
The final mini season of Mad Men starts Sunday night and I’m sadder than Lois Sadler sent back to the switchboard. Not only do I think Mad Men is one of the best shows on television, but the emphasis on good dialogue makes it the perfect kitchen companion — looking up isn’t critical unless Pete and Trudy are doing the Charleston or Roger shows a little cheek. The tinkle of Don’s ice cubes, that satisfying SNAP each time Betty Draper closes her purse, Sally’s lisp turning into sullen teen monotone, the never-ending smarm of Harry Crane, the clacking typewriters, and terrific jazzy score… Mad Men, you’ve been a true pleasure.
But let’s not leave the 1960s behind just yet, hm? I know I wasn’t ready, so when the lovely and talented Carrie Burrill from Bakeaholic Mama asked if I’d like to participate in a Mad Men Blog Party & Giveaway, I couldn’t resist!
Few things bring me greater culinary recreational pleasure (yes, that’s a thing) than vintage cookbooks. I love hunting for them in antique stores, thrift shops, and yard sales, and then curling up to time travel through generations of menus. Regional and community cookbooks are my favorite (bonus points if they’re from New England), because I love the complex melting pot of American home cooking, but any vintage cookbook with colorful recipes, interesting anecdotal intros, and charming artwork is enough to turn my head — room on the bookshelf be damned.
It’s been an unpleasant few weeks in the weather department here in New England, meaning it’s basically been single-digit temperatures and snowing for a month straight. There is nowhere else to even put it at this point (just ask John, who’s been doing all of the shoveling) and the roads are so narrow (and the snowbanks so high) that I have to do a 12-point turn to squeak out onto the road. I try not to be one of those cold-weather-complainers (especially on the internet), because each season in New England offers something to appreciate, but I confess it’s becoming increasingly difficult. Also, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more depressing, my car was smashed in a hit-and-run while I was in a photography class Monday evening. With no culprit (stay classy, Manchester, NH) I’m responsible for my $1,000 insurance deductible. Dear God, wake me when it’s over. Here’s the last month or so in 10 photos.
Now that I’ve finished recapping my Eastern European trip from last September, I wanted to share a recipe for a classic dish from one of the countries I visited. Taking into consideration the freezing cold temperatures outside in New England right now, and my souvenir stash of paprika from Budapest, I settled on paprikash. It’s a Hungarian dish traditionally made with chicken, but since I ate my weight in mushrooms during those 2 weeks, I figured I they might as well work here, too.
The final stop on my trip was Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Cut down the middle by the Danube River, the city consists of hilly Buda on the west bank and flat Pest on the east, and is often described as “the Paris of the east.” The city has a unique atmosphere that’s the result of its own independent spirit plus the contributions from its Roman, Turkish, and Austrian-influenced past.
If I’m being honest, I have to say that, while I liked Budapest, I did find it to be the most unfriendly of the places I visited, but at least I managed to get through my visit without falling down (unless dropping your camera down a flight of concrete stairs counts). I should also note that the biggest tourist attraction in Budapest are its Turkish-style thermal baths, and (I am ashamed to say) I missed seeing them! Sometimes there’s just not enough time for it all.
Nestled at the foot of the Tatra Mountains of south-central Poland, the resort town of Zakopane (known as “the winter captital of Poland”) was our next stop. Just days earlier in Prague I’d been comfortable in jeans and a tank top, but Zakopane had us all digging out our warmest sweaters and thickest socks. It was COLD!
At this rate, I won’t be done recapping this trip for another few months, but if you’re still reading, that means you’ll likely bear with me. The holidays, binge-watching BBC series on Netflix, and my job (which includes a lot of blogging) might have prevented me from getting these out before the year ended, but get them out I shall!
Let’s move on to my favorite city of the bunch – beautiful Krakow, Poland. I feel a little bad saying I preferred it over Prague, which I also loved, but there was just something about Krakow’s compact quaintness and the Polish people who charmed me to the core, starting with its beautiful main market square.
Leaving the Czech Republic behind, we crossed into southern Poland and made our way towards Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest and perhaps best known of the Nazi concentration and death camps. From its beginnings in 1940 as a detention center for political prisoners, the camp grew from one site to many, where it’s estimated that at least 1.1 million prisoners died — around 90 percent of them Jewish. Today, the Polish government operates the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum at the site.
As you’d imagine, visiting Auschwitz is a powerful, emotional, and thought-provoking experience that feels almost uncomfortable to describe from my 2014 lapsed-Catholic American perch, so I’m not going to try. Instead, I’m just going to share what I saw and learned.
On my final morning in Prague I met up with the tour group that I’d be with for the remainder of my trip. We were a large group (maybe 35) composed mostly of Australians and New Zealanders, and while I was hoping to find some nice people to chat with on the bus and at our group dinners, I ended up meeting some truly lovely people who I want to keep in touch with thanks to the magic of the internet — just a terrific group! What luck!
Our first stop after leaving Prague was Sedlec Ossuary, a small Roman Catholic chapel located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora. It might have looked unassuming from the outside…