During this COVID episode we are in, I have used the extra time to research our Csabai (cha-buy-ee) family heritage. In doing so, we have traced our ancestry to Attila the Hun. In the old Hungarian way, family names meant something. Our family name Csabai means “of Csaba” (cha-ba). Csaba was one of Attila’s sons. Csaba means “a gift from the heavens”.
Growing up as a military brat, moving was all my family knew. A new place almost every year was our norm. Mom always cooked Dad’s favorite meals. It was just dinner to us kids. As we grew older, we could hear our parent’s special guests go on raving about how good the my mom’s food was. I still recall some French Astronautics Society members at our home making such a big deal, with their heavy accents, about mom’s homemade Chicken Paprikas (pop-ree-kash). Perhaps it was those moments, that I started to pay attention to her cooking; watching her scrape dough off a cutting board into boiling water, pulling apart a whole boiled chicken, making her sauce, rolling cabbage, etc. She would tell me “nuggets” of what made a meal special. She took great pride in cooking.
It was when I had a furniture showroom, at an international furniture faire, that I started to specifically ask Mom how to make a Hungarian meal. My very first meal was Gulyas. I would cook it the night before. Then, first thing at the showroom, I would start the crockpots to reheat the meal. I could hear prospects in the hallway talking about the fragrance. Mom was very specific on how much sweet paprika, garlic and onions to use.
Later, living in Hungary gave me greater insights on how to make an authentic Hungarian meal. Still, I cannot speak Hungarian well, but I do recognize how much pride goes into a Hungarian meal. As so I do, with the matriarchs of the Csabai family watching over me.