As we paced through the long cream colored hallways, my family and I felt defeated. After having gotten lost on our way to the apartment building and with our hunger rapidly growing, we were ready to give up. My parents thrive living outside of their comfort zones, which is why I was not surprised when upon arriving by train to Budapest, they announced we would have dinner in the home of a Hungarian woman named Suzie. They explained that this woman’s parents would prepare a traditional Hungarian meal for our family of five and the other 10 guests, while Suzie discussed the significance of the meal and how it related to Hungarian culture.
Giving up on the left wing of the 6th floor, we tried our luck with the hallway to the right. As soon as we crossed over, an incredible aroma of rich gravy overpowered the apartment’s dusty scent. We knew, in that moment, that we were in the right place. As we crept up to the apartment, the door swung open.
I did not learn much about Hungary in my high school history classes, but I was under a naive impression that Hungarians were strictly dark haired with olive skin and had nothing in common with me.
Suzie Goldbach proved me wrong.
Suzie, the 27-year-old founder of “Eat & Meet Budapest”, impressed me immediately. Her glowing blonde hair, which fell almost to her elbows, matched the vivaciousness of her personality. She was one of the most eloquent women I had ever met. Her words seemed perfectly chosen, as if she knew the questions we would ask before we asked them.
I asked about her motivation for starting Eat & Meet in Budapest. Suzie’s work is not traditional and is certainly not what she expected to be doing. She had experience working in restaurants and was looking for a steady waitress job. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful. She looked to her past for inspiration.
“When I was at university, I had many friends from outside Hungary.” Suzie said. “When I asked them what they thought Hungarians ate, they always answered with one dreadful word: Goulash. I began to realize that there was a misconception of Hungary by non-Hungarians.”
Suzie grew up enjoying her mother’s traditional Hungarian cooking and longed for others to have the chance to try it. Desperate for a job, Suzie and her parents teamed up to bring the true Hungarian experience to tourists.
Eat & Meet, which is currently the seventh-highest ranked restaurant in Budapest, was named after Suzie’s desire for tourists to “eat locally and meet globally.” Not only do Suzie’s guests eat Hungarian food, they get to meet people around the world who eat there too. After enjoying an incredible meal at the restaurant, I can say her mission has been accomplished.
“A man’s heart is through his stomach, a nation’s heart is through its food.”
My experience at Eat & Meet began with a shot of pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy made from fruit. We moved from the living room to the table to enjoy our first course of zucchini cream soup. The cream of the soup perfectly soothed the burn of the strong drink we had earlier. After finishing our soup and throwing ourselves into conversation with the restaurants other guests, we were served a tender chicken breast stuffed with seasoned potatoes, mushrooms and gravy. The chicken was complimented by fresh, newly in season asparagus. Finally, for dessert, Suzie served her guests a traditional Hungarian sponge cake topped with sweet strawberries. It was quite a feast.
Suzie’s love for her country is obvious. She believes that food is not only something one tastes; it is a way to learn about a country itself. Eat & Meet took the phrase, “A man’s heart is through his stomach”, and changed it to, “a nation’s heart is through its food.” My experience at Eat & Meet allowed me to get to know the heart of Hungary.
As for Suzie’s goals for the future, she sees Eat & Meet as something she will continue doing for a long time.
I asked if she sees herself and her business as successful. Her response was, “I think I will know my job is done when I can ask someone what Hungarians eat and they answer with something other than goulash.”