More Budapest, Day 5 — Museum and Heroes Square

Museum of Fine Arts, showing a tiny bit of the breadth of plaza, which I keep talking about, that is Heroes Square

Continuing from yesterday, I ramble on about our rambles around the Museum of Fine Arts some more (and I edited the previous post to include some links that hadnʼt been there before) and our return into rain to look at Vőrös tere

In the end we spent almost four hours at the museum. I completely lost track of time (yes, I wore my watch, but I seldom think to look at that sucker), progressing forward in art history time from the lengthy medieval stuff I wrote about vaguely already through some Renaissance artists (Italian, German, British, Spanish [I remember an El Greco] — things started to get sorted by nationality, so the time sequence got a bit confused for me except by styles and subjects), Baroque, Nineteenth Century, and very little modern.

The Dutch galleries, listed by all guides as a highlight, was exactly that — more focused on big canvases of landscapes and still lives than the tiny interiors familiar from Vermeer or characterful faces of Rembrandt.

The Museum of Fine Arts has some very fine works, but what really drew My Belovedʼs attention was, obviously, the Impressionists — and there were quite  few interesting canvases to study  toward the end of our second- and third-floor wanderings. I even got to play my game of finding out how far away the painting leaped into real-life clarity and focus (amazingly far away, even in different rooms for several). I also enjoyed the earlier French artists — Delacroix, Corot and Courbet (all of whom found spacious discussion previously here on the blog). On this visit, although a few of the guards (mostly stout, middle-aged and older women) watched me getting my intrusive nose perhaps too close to some canvases, I didnʼt come near to actually touching anything.

the (admittedly uninteresting-to-foreigners) historical nobility (southern) half of the Heroes Square monument

Legendary and historical kings on Heroes Square

The mounted Magyars on the central spire, Heroes Square

Eventually, art-weariness began to make things seem less and less intriguing for this day (a false, subjective impression bred from too-muchness at any museum), and we found our way back to the steps we had come up several hours earlier. However, in the lobby (where we had paid our admission, now filled with various groups of people, plentiful schoolchildren) I noticed that a pair of large doors led off to the Greek and Roman antiquities, and we went in there (me a bit trepidatious that perhaps this wing required an extra fee — it didnʼt).

Now The Lovely One has had more than enough of Greek vases — red-figure, black-figure and polychrome — from our visits to the British Museum, where she may also have gotten more than she wanted of examining the Lindow Man, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but she does like the sculpture and enjoys mosaics (after our visit to Volubilis in Morocco back in 1984). And we ended up spending another hour-plus amidst (yes) vases (all three kinds, but a limited number) of many varieties (of use), among which I pointed out amphorae to her, and lots of Roman statues or assorted fragments thereof (also true of the vases).

Pleasantly, almost no other visitors bothered to take in these genuine antiquities, and the gentle quiet made these final rooms a real highlight of our visit… for both of us (even with vases examined, sometimes minutely, by one of us).

The heroic couple atop the central spire, Heroes Square

Unlike yesterday, my own shot of Mucsarnok, the Music Hall

But then we descended again to retrieve our belongings and depart, in order to check out the monument(s) of Heroes Square, erected like so much else in Budapest for the millennial celebrations of 1896 (which is also why so many things in the city are 896 feet and/or meters high). We toured around the two sets of historical “heroes,” the first, older group on our side (toward the Museum of Fine Arts) being legendary and historical kings and the other group comprising lesser-known Hungarian nobles. I was reading from Rick Steves and either Frommer or DK, trying to be more informed and informative than had been our experience on Saturday over on Castle Hill. It was, however, actually raining, and our studies began to feel uncomfortably wet, even after we drew out the umbrellas (difficult to hold one and read from a guidebook), so after perhaps only a half hour or so, we headed off the large plaza to find again the Vőrös tere Metro stop and descend into the bowels beneath the streets.

We were headed back under Andrassy út toward the river…

Again, more to come… someday…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Ha. Further Budapest. Day 5 — “At the Museum, part one”

Although I had planned to provide information on how we celebrated My Belovedʼs birthday in the post immediately next after her birthday, I discovered in uploading and editing my smartpenned stuff today that I really had a full post on about half of our fifth day in Budapest already done. It may leave us all in a less-than-suspenseful drone of tedium (and I donʼt really have much for pictures on this visit, me preferring not to expose antique art to excruciating flashes of unnecessary light) with more museum stuff to reveal (hopefully with decent quickness), but it keeps me going on this series I hope to complete. Eventually.

It is October 25, 2011…

Our little kitchenette in the room, ready for our breakfast — amazingly, on the day in question

Mucsarnok, the Music Hall on the far side of Heroes Square from the Museum of Fine Arts

So Tuesday was our museum day. We got up in good time (well, good time for us on vacation — 8:00 AM) to breakfast lightly (weʼd run out of the grapefruit we had purchased in the Great Market Hall on Friday afternoon, but we had replenished supplies with some bread and yogurt; we intended to see about more croissants later today, maybe more fruit, too). We were on our way just after 9:00, walking across Deák to take the Metro out to Hősök tere, on the closest side of Városliget (City Park). We wanted to visit Heroesʼ Square but the Museum of Fine Arts (Szepmüveszeti Múzeum) was right there, too.

This was another gloomy day. The wet continued, having trouble deciding between mist, drizzle and rain. So far, mist and drizzle apparently prevailed. At Deák, we descended beneath, passing by the ticket vendor to go further below (brief shades of Underground stops in London) for the red line out Andrassy út. Not much for crowds, the business day having begun, we waited (very) briefly for an outbound train, stepped aboard and shuddered away. Eight stops I had counted, the sixth being Oktagon. And eight stops it was. My usual problem upon resurfacing is a loss of orientation (which would almost become a little problem later that day).

However, Heroes Square was a huge expanse of paved plaza, larger by maybe a magnitude than I had imagined, and a map showed us which side was the museum and which the music hall (the redbrick Mucsarnok being cuter, embellished with attractive illustrated architectural lozenges of muses and, I seem to recall, at least one lyre). We crossed streets to the square to figure out our destination and across a wide boulevard to the museum, mounting the steps to the door as one of the very first visitors of the day (the museum opens at 10:00).

Szepmüveszeti Múzeum — The Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest — the skies were thoroughly and wetly not blue on October 25, 2011

Another of my travel shortcomings is a less than complete preparation for each dayʼs sights and activities. I buy the travel guides — sometimes, as with Prague, too many of them — but never seem to study them closely or attentively enough to really be prepared (and I used to reprimand students for their ill-finished homework or retention of material). Just now, writing, I checked the Frommer guide to verify the opening time, but I donʼt remember doing that back in October in the heat of the moment, and I recall some trepidation, hoping the museum truly was open as we arrived. Foolish mortal, me.

The Dutch room (which we will get to later), but typical in appearance to most of the rooms

We negotiated entrance purchases all right (although English seemed less fluent here than in more touristy venues) and passed from the lobby to basement level to stow our bags and my vest (security concerns). Then we wandered up and up a big, wide flight of marble steps on the outside of a vast interior courtyard.

Museum maps in hand, partially understood, we took a stab on the first entrance to our left on the long corridor onto which the stairs debouched and found ourselves in medieval art — lots of altar pieces and agonized but fairly bloodless crucifixions (they got less spiritually exalted and more bloodily realistic as we passed further forward in historical time). Religious art holds only limited appeal for The Lovely One, while my own tastes pedantically run a wider gambit… Or else I lack the imagination to realize that an overplus of less interesting art, however garish with gilt, may weary my powers of observation for more fascinating (and complex) works later in the museum visit (and in this case, later in art history). Whatever the distinctions, she drifted on ahead of me, eventually by more than one room, as I tried to appreciate (uninformed except by observation) techniques, media and (comparatively and by contrast) subjects.

So for an hour or so we ground minutely forward in historical time, and my attention and appreciation somewhat evaporated… altarpiece by altarpiece, spreadeagled Christ after Christ, agonized saint after martyred saint, gilt after gilt after paint. Italy, Germany, Holland and other Euro-locations.

tbc… ASAP

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

Today is My Belovedʼs birthday. I noted the event a couple years ago with some verse. This year things are a little different, stranger. 

Birthday snow — still falling

The Lovely One is still at work, as she was last year and the year before, and… But her birthday dawned with a dark foreboding: suddenly yesterday afternoon, the weathermen began predicting a big winter storm to sweep through the region this afternoon and evening. We were predicted to receive eight, maybe ten inches of snow.

And just that quickly, our plans for her big day today began to crumble. Her parents and I were going to have lunch with her in Dubuque, and then this evening she and I were going out for dinner at what has become her favorite restaurant, in Bellevue. Fast-falling snow would cancel those plans.

Upon arising this morning the radio (and the local TV news, too, when I checked) had reduced the anticipated snowfall to a mere three to five inches, but it was still heading in, slated to begin, presumably, around noon — bad timing for our plans.

So she left this morning a little down at the mouth, intending to devise some way to go out for lunch on her own, determined that we would figure out something for supper instead of our planned outing. However, by 10:00 AM, nothing had developed, and her mom called to say that they were planning to go on up to Dubuque. Although Janet had delegated me with the job of deterring them, I failed, and the lunchtime gathering was still on. So I quickly dressed and headed myself up that way on good old Highway 61.

Disassembled birdbath and birdfeeders in the snow

Lunch went off wonderfully. The parents-in-law presented their daughter with two Grant Wood prints (she had been seeking some for our living room but only found $10,000 originals available online, even, or particularly, on eBay). I had sent her last-minute flowers to substitute in lieu (I had thought) my less-than-flower-bright, uncolorful presence over lunch. Our lovely and thoughtful waitress Lisa even brought out a (free) strawberry shortcake with a candle to conclude the meal. Lunch was great, and Janet enjoyed herself remarkably.

And both the Nortons and I got home (in rain) without weather incident.

Unfortunately, as my pictures for today reveal, the snow has arrived. Heading out to get our mail, I even scraped nearly an inch off the driveway already (and that was before 3:00 PM our local time). Janet will have to drive with care when she gets finished working for the day. And a drive to Bellevue* seems unwise right now…

I guess there was at least one more gasp in the winter season this year. And we should have expected it would arrive at perhaps the worst possible time.

Oh, well. Happy Birthday, My Precious.

* And there is a whole ʼnother tale about that restaurant (not going belly up as we had feared yesterday, when no one answered my phone calls to ensure we had a table tonight and when I discovered their website was gone, the domain name available for sale) but not being what it once was, having lost the outstanding chef who made the meals the awesome experiences they had been.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Let It Be Over. Please.

Today, at about 3:00 PM, The Lovely One and I filed our taxes, federal and state. 

This is the absolute earliest I believe we have ever filed. In the old days, teaching, I had speech contests keeping me constantly busy, large group and individual, district and state and All-State, until the beginning of April. And the spring play started about mid-February… So I never filed taxes until we got right onto the Ides of April.* One year, very early in our marriage, I faintly recall appealing for late filing (easily granted, as we always made sure, living on the edge of poverty with no spare cash to fork over whatsoever, that we received a refund**). Regardless, we never filed our taxes in February.

As of 2006, filings got both easier and harder. Janet entered into a small business enterprise on her own, selling BeautiControl products*** part-time (and according to My Beloved herself, “half-assed”). But that made our taxes more complex, and so that year I first bought a tax software program, the same one I still use, and put myself in the capable grip of Intuit Software and TurboTax… And we enjoyed the taxation benefits of Janetʼs little business taking loss after loss (and no financial juggling there — her description of her business aggressiveness combined with BeautiControlʼs decidedly pyramid structure for profitability pretty much ensured she wasnʼt getting ahead providing friends and family with make-up and whatnots).

We still use TurboTax. And as I continue to feel familiar with its interface, I feel pretty warm toward it (I think only beloved Scrivener — used as I type right now — tops my affections for software). Granted the Q&A approach the developers devised as integral to the interface in TurboTax leaves a user like me several layers of reality removed from the actual tax forms (I couldnʼt believe the nearly literal ream of paper that printed out in the first year to be mailed off to the IRS and state tax authorities). And I have grown skittish of those red (meaning money owed) and green digits (indicating refund available) that appear in the upper left corner of the TurboTax window, changing marginally or dramatically with each new piece of information entered. I still look over the final papers (actual tax forms), closely but not always intelligently, in amazement, always surprised at what digits on what novel forms my answers have churned out.

The business forms have been expanded with self-employment forms (and, surprise! extra taxation for payroll taxes not automatically withheld/paid as one expects from an ordinary employer) as I have tried to develop my own business.**** (Unfortunately with little overhead and me witless about claiming my computer use or possibly the “office” where our computers sit as a home office, everythingʼs just taxable income.) The complexities keep multiplying. And the refunds keep dwindling, smaller and smaller year by year. (But this year we again avoided paying either state or federal government any additional cash.)

More surprising, for three years now, we have taken the standard deduction! At least according to the software, that choice is our better bet (and now that we own our house outright, it even makes sense). Still, it takes some weeks of consideration and search to conglomerate all our records (and for Janet to work through, compile and total her figures for her “business”) and for me to get TurboTax up to speed (and its latest updates installed each time I fire up the software) and information filled in (this year we were waiting until, well, now for Intuit to pass on IRS Form 3800). Even retiring, I didnʼt immediately get on the ball with our annual tax calculations. In ʼ10 and last year, I didnʼt really get to it until about now.

So this year I resolved to be better, and I had most of our information input a week before Andrew Community School got around to mailing the W-2 for my subbing in 2011 (and I had those numbers pretty accurately temped in from the last paycheck). And now weʼre done (I hope, I pray, I plead, I desire… oh, donʼt audit us, Infernal Revenue Service, please donʼt — I donʼt think I actually understand any of it, nope, none of it, not at all).

* (being an old codger I really miss — not really, appreciating the extra month with that schedule I just summarized — being able to “Beware the Ides of March” for the IRS)

** Yeah, yeah, sure, I know: if weʼd kept that extra withholding, weʼd have been able to invest it or save it or somehow earn money on it… Like hell. Although the feds never grant any interest earned on what amounts to overpayment, I would rather sleep easy believing I do not need to scrape together a few hundred (or thousand — neither of which amounts would I have available) to gratify Uncle Sam at the last minute. Since Bush withholding adjustments and moreso since retirement, finances have gotten trickier, and we keep running very close to no refund.

*** Can Rick Perry, Herman Cain and everyone else out there say, “Pyramid scheme?”

**** Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A. 

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©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Budapest, Fourth Day, part 2 [Monday, October 24, 2011]

Continuing from yesterday, here is the afternoon and evening of our fourth day in Budapest…

It was getting on and past lunch time although we hadnʼt been eating lunch this trip, ingesting calories in our room for breakfast instead. However, we had no plans for dinner yet, so we were scanning what these places along Liszt tér had to offer. Eventually, we started down Andrássy út, southwestward, drifting homeward, peering into storefronts and trying not to stare at our fellow pedestrians (“people-watching”), me thinking about taking the redline Metro that ran directly beneath this street. Rain was picking up again. Then, suddenly, mutually, we noticed a coffeeshop, and The Lovely One submitted to my suggestion we stop in for a hot beverage and perhaps a bite to snack.

The place was small and fairly busy, even after 1:00, and we werenʼt sure how to take a seat — wait for a host or just sit down (our books said both were possibilities at different restaurants/eateries). Eventually a waiter told us just to go on back from the front area (complete with glassed pastry case) and take any table we wanted (in the abrupt manner about which travel books try to warn American tourists). So we sat and waited. If I remember rightly, we had a menu listing beverages and maybe a few appetizer-like snack items. We figured out what we wanted (a glass of white wine for her and coffee for me and something to eat, but I have forgotten what), and eventually a waiter took our pretty minimal order. The interior was very elegant and turn-of-the-last century, the room about thirty feet square with booths on one side and tables, mostly for two or four, scattered closely around. Food arrived, and we ate, drank and talked about things — mostly just looking around and trying not to eavesdrop on other customers, most of whom had much more to eat on their tables than we did.

We lingered for about an hour, paying with cash, our usual gambit (to avoid currency-exchange charges with credit cards). I looked through my travel books for activities, but nothing (except the vague and never-to-be-realized possibility of the Terror Museum here on Andrássy somewhere) really appealed. However, upon exiting to the street, we realized that almost directly across was the Opera, a highly recommended short tour for architectural grandiosity, so with a little hesitation (should we? shouldnʼt we?) we crossed the boulevard and climbed the steps to the main entrance, found our way to the ticket line and paid for the next English tour, which we discovered at the main door was to start in only a couple more minutes.

Exterior of the Opera House — the sky was decidedly not blue when we were there

Opera House — the auditorium

We waited (we hoped in the correct group) amidst hundreds in the big lobby at the foot of the grand staircase. Fairly soon, a very young woman arrived to guide our group; she acknowledged that she had usually led French-speakers and this was her first attempt at the tour in English. She was pretty hesitant, but she was also very cute, so the tour was a success, if probably less informative than some of the others in other languages. 

The Opera has various groups travel through the roughly dozen sights/stops in various patterns. We went upstairs first, then into the actual auditorium, then to various upper class lounges, retirement areas (upper-class in the olden days), finally arriving in a hallway/lounge for our “mini-concert” for which we had paid extra (but we hadnʼt paid the extra fee to take pictures, so everything today is borrowed — click pix to visit original sites, most of which are very interesting). A man arrived and sang three arias pleasantly, and we were done. The tour lasted about ninety minutes, with waiting times and mini-concert. We enjoyed ourselves.

The Opera is very plush and very ornate, decidedly the most elegant of our three visits this day.

The Grand Staircase — click for an excellent slideshow of Budapest from 2004, on TripAdvisor

Once we were outdoors in the rain again, we decided the better part of tourism was to continue back toward the river and our hotel. However, the rain got us both to decide to take the Metro to Vörösmarty tér and from there back out to Váci utca and then home. On the way back to our hotel, we found a grocery store where The Lovely One purchased some supplies (breakfast items, wine and some snacks for our late afternoon/early evening R&R sessions in the room — to be used almost immediately). While relaxing and sipping at the hotel, we decided to try one of Rick Stevesʼs suggstions for dinner, a restaurant, out on the main drag behind the basilica, so only about ten blocks away. We dressed and left about 6:40 to head past St. István tér (again) and across busy Bajcsy-Zsilinsky Út to the restaurant. 

I believe this shot actually shows our table, on the right, at Belvárosi Lugas Etterem

Belvárosi Lugas Etterem, a tiny place with only about twelve tables, decorated in a faux but pleasant rural-peasant country style, turned out to be Janetʼs favorite of the trip. She ate chicken in a yogurt sauce that she adored, served in a clay pot, while I had “steak Magyar style,” which meant on paprika-ed potatoes fried with onions and tomato), and we both started with gulyasleves (goo•yash lehv•esh, the “ly” combo being pronounced as a “y”), actual Hungarian goulash, which is a soup, the meaning of leves, as all the books pointed out to diminish tourist disappointment at not getting the Slavic/Germanic version, omnipresent for instance in Prague, theyʼd expected — delicious. Wonderful food, prepared very nicely.

For dessert, my love ordered and utterly enjoyed a sponge cake in chocolate and fruit-and-walnut sauces while I savored hazelnut palacsintas (crèpes, if youʼve forgotten from previous posts, the omnipresent and all-useful — meaning savory or sweet — Hungarian “pancake”). Then home, a pleasant walk past the basilica again, to our room and bed.

End of day number four.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Back to Budapest — Monday, October 24 (Day Four)

Having taken a break from prodding my memory for most of the various other kinds of posts I like to feature here, letʼs return to the travelogue, to last year, 2011, to Monday, October 24, in Budapest. You will find it was still rainy…

Places of Worship (a Day or Two Late?)

Monday was our church-visit* day. I had vaguely considered a museum (and there are many of them, several tempting to me but one I knew would also inspire Janet — the National Art Museum, farther off than several history and a cultural and an agricultural, but particularly with the language barrier possible, the only serious choice) for a Sunday pastime “out of downtown,” but it was closed. As was the Great Synagogue, as I noted earlier. So we went on Monday, when it actually, definitely rained. 

looking from our hotel room down Mérleg utca toward the Danube and the palace across the river

No mere mist on Monday — from before we arose, about 8:00, there was steady precipitation. No downpour but nothing to ignore. We both took umbrellas along (again, although I donʼt believe we opened either on Sunday) as we left the room to descend the stairs to the lobby and be on our way. And outside, in the noticeable precipitation, we hurried along Mérleg utca to turn left onto Október 6 utca and then right to follow Zríny utca to our initial destination.

Szent István Bazilika and its square in the rain

The first stop was a place we had been at and by many times already (with several more to come, including two bypasses this Monday evening), Szent István Bazilika. This time we were going inside, so we climbed the big steps out front, forked over our coins to the priest at the doorway (where I really didnʼt pay sufficient attention to the carved portrayals of the Twelve Apostles on that portal) and went inside…

Dark and huge. What else can you expect in a cathedral? (Okay, basilica.) Big columns, domed glitter overhead, not many people, statues, niches, side chapels — lots of red, gold, blue. But mostly it just seemed hugely dark. The floor was interestingly ornate but also somehow not as finished-feeling as other churches we had visited elsewhere. We wandered to our right first, passing St. Gellért in statuary around to the main altar with a big white statue of St. István. We wended back down the nave and around to the left by the altar to enter the little set of rooms that led to our sighting of the fair-sized shrine for the forearm of St. István himself, with helpful information sheets (in several languages but mostly Hungarian) on the building and its restoration. We looked and departed, back into less rain outdoors.

We made our way next southwards along Bajcsy-Zsilnszky Út, Erzsébet tér and Károly Körút to the Synagogue, where we stood patiently in line (me desperately reading travel books I had brought along and the various signs for information on how much we were to pay and what we had to do to gain entrance). We had seen this place, of course, yesterday, its two great Moorish-domed steeples piercing the gray sky, appearing as imposing and dramatic as the books had suggested (and as churchlike, too — Steves quotes an early, sardonic observer decreeing it “the most beautiful Catholic synagogue in the world”).

It seemed, although the books indicated otherwise, that all visitors stood in line at the tour counter (a small shed built outside the great fence) but we distinguished ourselves from the tour group tourists by telling the guys inside that we wanted not to take the tour but just purchase admittance (cheapskates, us, and maybe we missed some information, but both Mr. Steves and Frommer seemed to have lots of information from which I could, and I did, read while inside, as I had at St. István). Then we went to a different line to pass security (quite reminiscent of TSA at airports, except we got to retain our shoes) and finally, presenting our tickets, pass inside.

One of the great chandeliers and the view toward the front within the Great Synagogue

looking to the left inside the Great Synagogue — notice the womenʼs gallery above the nave

Gloriosity of gold within. Huge, but unlike the basilica, bright (sufficiently so to permit photographs, so we have some here). We wandered around, dodging groups (and eavesdropping sometimes) to examine the gilded decor, making our way up front along the left side first (I think) and then back along the right (or maybe vice versa). This place was definitely big and splendiferous (largest synagogue in Europe, second in the world) — all gold, red, wood and wonderfulness. Very Oriental, too — the Moorish inspirations being very evident (although I felt more of that in one of the five we toured in Prague, which was even more gilded and ornate but of course not as large). After a while and many attempts at natural-lighting photos, we went to the door to the museum, leading into a lobby with a staircase and elevator.

the Holocaust sculpture and the back of the Great Synagogue

Being us, we headed for the steps only to be stopped and signaled to the elevator by a woman in the coat-check/ticket area. So we entered and ascended several floors to come out into a display covering four or five rooms (and steps up to modern artistic interpretations of antisemitism on the floor above). We patiently examined the many items on display — siddurs, prayer shawls, cups, Torah cases and crowns… a massive plenitude (and also the exhibits one flight up), learning and reviewing about Jewish festivals, imagery and symbolism and daily life.

When we finally returned to ground level and passed outdoors (shielded by the porch) to look at the mass graves on the northern side of the synagogue, quietly grim, and then pass into the weather to visit the silvery Holocaust Memorial sculpture and garden, the rain had set in for real. By now it was past 11:30, and the morning damp had become the midday downpour.

With the definite wet, the day seemed palpably colder, too. I got us (even after the previous dayʼs mild disaster) onto a tram to head around to Oktagon, from which we wandered Liszt tér, noticing mostly restaurants and cafés…

Monument topped by symbolic abstract sculpture denoting the dead, engraved with the names of the slain — click for a really big picture

However, I approach a thousand words, which is more than I intended for today, so the rest of Monday, October 24, will have to wait.

* Is there an appropriate word for “place of worship” that doesnʼt seem particularly Christian-centric?

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Something to Eat, or “What to do with This Shrimp?”

I was just making meatloaf for supper tonight and wondering if I had ever posted my recipe (I had). However, that mental irrelevance reminded me that The Lovely One wanted me to remember and record* a recipe we pieced together helter-skelter awhile ago and just ate the leftovers last night…

Last Saturday night My Beloved and I enjoyed an invented dish.** She had felt like having shrimp but didnʼt want me to marinade and grill them as we usually would do. I had pulled the bags of frozen, precooked shrimp from our freezer the day before and placed them within the refrigerator to thaw, so we were basically ready to go. Precooked shrimp just need to get warmed, after all.

Once Janet concluded her nearly weekly phone call with her sister,*** we got started on dinner. We had no plan. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was feeling creative…

So she had me chop up an onion and sauté that in a tablespoon or so of olive oil with some diced garlic (lots of the last, to my taste) as she cut up some asparagus that we had found on sale (reduced a buck a bunch) as we bought groceries that morning. She added the asparagus to my onions and garlic and decided we needed some diced tomatoes. When she noticed that the can I brought in from the storage cupboards was “Italian style,” our dishʼs orientation was set. We dumped the drained can into the onions, garlic and asparagus, and she decided we needed a second can. I also brought in two cans of button mushrooms (sliced), which she okayed adding.

Then we spiced and seasoned — a dash or four of hot sauce, pepper, a pinch of sea salt, some paprika,**** a pinch of red pepper flakes (and whatever sounds good to you when you make this; the “Italian style” tomatoes tasted like they had oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme and probably marjoram). We continued cooking until the asparagus was still crunchy but tenderized. And we removed the tails from our no-longer-frozen shrimps.

Meanwhile, Janet selected spaghetti as the proper pasta (now that our shrimp dish had taken an Italian turn). We had a box of whole wheat (because I like the taste of whole wheat products — fully flavored), of which she used about half, precooking those many sticks of pasta, broken in half and/or thirds. As the pasta was cooked al dente and drained, I added the shrimp (which only needed to get warmed) and a bit of corn-starch water to thicken the “broth” we had created, then the spaghetti and a handful or so of shredded “Italian cheeses” — mozzarella, provolone, Romano, asiago and Parmesan (it was a packaged product). We kept cooking for maybe another five minutes and then, transferring to two plates, ate.

The result? It was wonderful. Thatʼs why you are reading about it today (finally).

Here are the ingredients…

Italian Shrimp

  • large onion (or two)
  • garlic (crushed)
  • fresh asparagus (letʼs pound or so, cut into about one-inch pieces)
  • diced tomatoes (two cans or four to five fresh tomatoes)
  • mushrooms (two cans or plenty of fresh ones — which, if fresh, should be sautéed before adding the asparagus)
  • shrimp (we used frozen precooked, and so added them only at the last minute to warm; otherwise you add them either before or after the onions and garlic and cook until just about pink) — remove tails
  • pasta (we used whole wheat spaghetti broken in half, cooked and then mixed into the dish at the very end, along with some shredded Italian cheeses — not much of the last though)
  • corn starch (mixed with a little water and gradually added to the dish to thicken — just a very little)
  • seasonings

The preparation and cooking steps are narrated above.

* Okay, it wasnʼt reallly that much of an invention. But since we didnʼt know what we were doing or where we were headed, coming out with incredibly edible food in the end felt wonderful. And inventive.

** (somewhere; I am fairly confident she did not mean here)

*** Janet and her sister generally speak for a couple of winey hours most Saturdays, which is why I often get something written those afternoons. Then in the evening we like to enjoy our “best” meal of the week, making something “nice.” That goal usually means I grill. And we get bread! Last Saturday it was “rounds” — sliced baguette with olive oil and garlic salt, broiled in the oven.

**** I have been adding paprika to just about everything I cook since we returned from Budapest (and I will finish our weekʼs trip review someday).

I almost entitled this post “Serendipity.” It would have been more than splendidly appropriate.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.