I’m sorry, I only have a picture of the Bohemian vineyard. Simply a brief post about a good meal, this one. The meal happened to contain some of the best (possibly the best) meat I’ve ever eaten, that of the Mangalica pig, a hirsute swine native to Hungary. Renowned for it’s high fat content, the animal has become sought after for it juicy, tasty flesh. The animal is considered a national treasure, and maybe appropriate as a symbol for a government that has fallen well towards totalitarianism. (The pigs of Animal Farm had power, but did they have such wavy locks!?)
Bogdan knows a vendor who comes up every other week with meat from organically raised Mangalica. He was hosting a very important wine family within the world of Czech natural wines; he bought a lot of pork neck from the vendor. We brought it up to the domaček, worked in the vines the whole day and then got down to the important labor of grilling. I split seasoned oak in tiny slats for kindling and then finger-sized and then into pieces roughly the size of a rolled up newspaper (“In my day, kids, someone would deliver the newspaper everyday to your door, tightly rolled and held by a rubber band”). I lit the match; the kindling burned; old grape branches burned; the finger-sized pieces burned…The logs became coals. Bogdan had cut the meat into chunks and placed them on flat skewers, to grill them in the Georgian shashlik style. The coals were ready, we put salt on the meat – that is all – we put the skewers over the coals and the meat sizzled. After a few minutes we rotated the skewers. After a few minutes more, we rotated again, and again. Then we tried the meat.
One time, my father and sister and I had hiked in the Bear-tooth Mountains of Montana. We hiked a lot, slept on pads, took the protein from the fish we caught. After 4 or five days of this meandering, we trundled back into town; we sat at a cafe and ordered bloody steaks. I had rib-eye for the first time in my life, with a porter beer. My body said, “Yes, I need this.”
Eating this grilled Mangalica, so hot that I had to chew a few times with my mouth open to express the heat, my body said, “Yes, I need this.” But I didn’t need it, I had only done my normal work of the day, not traipsed for 5 days at high-altitude. The meat was that good. A gold crust of fire and salt and caramelized flesh contained the juiciest meat I have ever eaten. There had been some confusion about arrival, and the family, all 16 of them, were late. Bogdan, Salome and I looked at each other and wondered if there would be any meat left for them. Salome threw her heritage under a Czech bus driven by an Hungarian pig, “I’m Georgian,” said she, “We do shashlik all the time… I’ve never eaten one as good as this.” I’m drooling now as I type this, keeping my mouth away from the keyboard lest I short out the machine. It was that good.
The family, a range of Osičkas, were lucky enough the we regained some control. They arrived and we all ate well, to satiety. They were equally complementary of the meat, and the view, and the golden sunlight that shone on the Bohemian vineyards of Velkě Žernoseky. They even complimented the Bohemian wines we served, Bogdan’s rieslings of the past two years. It was a major breakthrough in oenological Bohemian-Moravian relations, a level of accord rarely found. We will learn our lessons from this meal, and see if we can apply them to EU-Hungary relations.