Berezina in a Dish

My Least Favorite Hungarian Food

My Least Favorite Hungarian Food

Whenever my mother made it, I always ran out of the house and stayed away until the smell dissipated. What made things difficult is that she always made kocsonya (pronounced KOH-chone-yah) in the winter. As my Uncle Emil used to say, he couldn’t eat any unless there was snow on the ground. I did him one better: I couldn’t eat kocsonya if there was any in the Western Hemisphere.

I’ve always said that a serving of the noxious stuff reminded me of a frozen river with mangled human and animal remains—very like the Berezina River in Belarus where Napoleon lost thousands of his remaining forces after retreating from Moscow.

Apparently there’s a Russian equivalent. In a short story entitled “Aspic,” Tatyana Tolstoya describes cooking up a batch very like the recipe I’m describing:

Now it’s boiling, raging. Now the surface is coated with gray, dirty ripples: all that’s bad, all that’s weighty, all that’s fearful, all that suffered, darted, and tried to break loose, oinked and mooed, couldn’t understand, resisted, and gasped for breath—all of it turns to muck. All the pain and death are gone, congealed into repugnant fluffy felt. Finito. Placidity, forgiveness.

Kind of makes vegetarianism attractive, no? And that’s about all I could say without retching….