Friday, July 11, 2008

Culture Stress: Konyhaban

Culture Stress: in the Kitchen

Hungary doesn't shock me. (Well, maybe the police tactics do from time to time.) Typically, I notice differences in culture, tradition, language, but I'm not shocked. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised Thursday by the Immigration Office experience. There are stresses, though, when living in a new place. Today, the specific stressor with which I've battled the most appeared, guns blazing.

I tried to make brownies. Brownies are a treat that every junior high girl in America can make. Brownies are not known to be fundamentally difficult to bake. Until today.

The only real life difficulty that I notice here is located in the kitchen. Ingredients are different--obviously--or nonexistent because they aren't part of the culture. Measurements are different here, because I don't really remember my conversion tables for the metric system and I sold my measuring cups before I moved. :) And, my oven doesn't have a thermostat. All these small differences combined with the fact that I naively try to cook exactly the same as I did in the States make for frustrating moments like when the brownies take 1.5 hours to bake and don't taste right.

The basis of the frustration lies in the starting over, the re-learning of skills I mastered years ago. I've baked treats since I was a kid. Preparing food for myself in the States--while not my favorite use of time--was a daily, undaunting task. Now, even though I step confidently onto the red 7 bus or introduce myself in Hungarian at church, I still struggle with something as simple as food preparation.

In the grand scheme of eternity, kitchen kerfuffles don't mean much, and I appreciate the perspective. I'm so thankful for the perspective. In my current phase of culture stress and transition, though, the kitchen seems to be my biggest obstacle.

(This post is a few days old as I publish it. The poor brownies are still in the pan as though, by some chance, they will improve when I walk by and taste them again. No such luck.)

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