Carnival Food Found In An Unlikely Place

by Elizabeth Nash

Photo by Elizabeth Nash

Budapest: March 22-25
            You know how you go to the fairgrounds in the summer to find the very best fried dough? What if I told you that there was another place where you could sink your teeth into the juiciest corn on the cob and biggest elephant ears? What if I told you that place was located 3,000 miles away from the States in Budapest, Hungary? That’s right. In this ancient city you can find the greasiest, fattiest, absolute most delicious carnival food.
            Ironically, this city is famous for the cleaning properties of its many thermal baths. However, directly outside the bathhouses are long rows of food carts loaded with decadent treats ready to replace the evil toxins just removed from your body.
            In one cart, you’ll find bags of colorful cotton candy hanging above, temping you with their castle-like mounds of pink and blue sugar. Below, chocolate and bananas are bubbling together on a hot cook top.  The mixture is then gently spooned into the thin skin of a crepe.  Once folded into a pocket, the whole concoction is drizzled with syrup.
            In the next cart, a woman pulls steaming yellow corncobs out of boiling water with her bare hands.  Armed with a saltshaker, she waves her hands around like a conductor before handing you the dripping cylinder of gold. Biting into it is like biting into summertime. It’s salty, peppery, and earthy all at the same time. Four paper napkins are required to contain the juice pouring off it.
            A strong aroma of garlic and mayonnaise surrounds the most popular stand. Inside, plate-sized slices of dough are dropped into vats of bubbling oil. A minute later they emerge browned and crispy. Unlike the fried dough you can get back in the States, this delicacy isn’t laced with powder sugar. Instead, you can order layers of mozzarella cheese, sour cream, and a strong sprinkling of garlic powder. Don’t kiss anyone after you eat this. The oil from the dough immediately seeps onto your fingers as you tear the disc apart. The cheese melts while the sour cream remains cold against the hot bread. The flavor bursts in your mouth like the fireworks you would normally be watching while enjoying fired dough.
           In the end, the familiar taste of home disappears in the hustle of Budapest. However, there’s nothing stopping you from taking a fluffy bag of cotton candy with you into the city.

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