I made a long awaited trip to Bobak's today. It made me both happy and sad. Happy to find woodland bolete mushrooms (pickled), peeled baby beets, hot ajvar (bulgarian eggplant-pepper spread), a wealth of sausages, a choice of herrings, and fresh sauerkraut. The sadness came at the lunch buffet. Not that there was anything wrong with the food. I enjoyed chicken legs stuffed with sausage and peppers (how do they get the leg bone out?), polish sausage, fried hamburger with onions, 'birds nest' (a whole hard boiled egg inside a fried meatball), and crisp spiced fries. What got me in a wistful mood was the realization that I just can't pack it away like I used to. I could only sample little bites of the above mentioned, and there was so much more I didn't even get to. Granted, this food is heavy stuff, and it would be unwise to splurge often in this manner, but I used to have such a high eating tolerance. I once ate 'the biggest schnitzel in Vienna' as advertised by the restaurant where it was served, along with all the accompanying red cabbage and potatoes. My hearty Austrian table mates stared at me with a mixture of admiration and horror. In Hungary, where heavy stuff is also de rigueur, I was an honored guest in many homes where refusal of another helping was unacceptable rudeness, and I am not a rude person. In high school a friend and I would go to Buffalo Joe's for cheeseburgers, cheddar fries, and we would get a basket of wings as an 'appetizer'. In college we would go to the a local breakfast place for 'the farmhand'--three eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, toast and pancakes. My boyfriend at the time said that when I first ordered it he was secretly chuckling to himself as he anticipated a jackpot of my leftovers--of which none were forthcoming. Post-college, my roommate and I would melt a block of Gorgonzola in cream, pour it over a box of tagliatelle, and, groaning with pleasure, finish the whole deal.
Now my eating abilities have become, frankly, ladylike.
Not such a bad thing, you think to yourself, as you picture my arteries hardening, but don't get the wrong idea. I enjoy a simple dinner of squash soup, or a pile of garlicky steamed greens just as much as a three pound schnitzel (well, almost as much). My pig outs were not everyday occasions, but events to be eagerly looked forward to and thorougly enjoyed. Now I'm finding it hard to go the distance. My stomach gets uncomfortably tight, and I pay later with a queasy food hangover. I suppose this state of affairs is to be accepted gratefully, as the freakish metabolism which supported my younger habits has slowed with age, and a girl's got to think of her health and her figure. But still, Bobak's makes it hard to say goodbye to the distinctly non-salad 'salad days' of the past.
[wipes tear from eye. straightens up.] Now, back to practical chowhound business. The sausage selection at Bobak's was overwhelming. I picked a spicy Hungarian salami I knew, and a Kielbasa Wisniowa which I didn't know, but had fresh garlic in the ingredients list. Does anyone know their way around this territory? What's Lithuanian sausage like? And what about the different hams? What should one try that that can't be gotten elsewhere?
5275 S. Archer