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Hungarian Food and Culture

Hungarian food tends to be spicy and quite heavy. For economic reasons they do not eat a lot of meat, but meat is served at every meal in some form or another. The mainstay of the diet is bread, potatoes, rice and cabbage. Goulash is almost a national icon, and each family has their own special recipe. Real goulash is a very spicy stew cooked outdoors over an open fire. Sometimes they cook homemade noodles, which resemble dumplings more than macaroni, over the top of it.

The missionary prayer, "Lord, I'll put it down if You'll keep it down" is a good rule to live by. To decline food because you don't like it can be seen as being picky. The cook may feel very hurt if you don't try the family's special recipe. Fortunately, the food here is very much like American "country cooking," although it contains a much higher level of fat. In fact, pork fat may be used in place of meat. If you have a very strong aversion to a certain food it can usually be declined by eating something else instead.

Food allergies are a totally different matter. In the countryside food allergies are typically scoffed at, and the seriousness of some allergies is not understood. If you have a food allergy, you need to explain why you can't eat certain foods, and remain firm.

The issue of alcohol use will come up, and it is a sticky one. Believers here do drink in moderation, and this is seen as the Biblical stance and even considered healthy (1 Tim. 5:23). Communion is usually taken with real wine. By coming with the IMB we have agreed not to use alcohol as a beverage. This does not mean that we cannot take part in the Lord's Supper or eat foods prepared with alcohol, which is very common. Normally you can decline alcohol by simply asking for another type of beverage, such as juice, cola or mineral water. However, some people may be very persistent in offering you an alcoholic drink, so I get to be the bad guy and say, "In this program you are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages."

The culture is historically Catholic, but 90% changed to Calvinism during the Protestant Reformation, then back to Catholicism (67%) during the Counter-Reformation. The word "saved" may have a totally different meaning to each group. In place of "I was saved," try, "Jesus totally changed my life." I still use the term "born again," but more as a description of the change Jesus made in me. "Jesus totally changed my life. It was like I was born again. In fact that is the term the Bible uses to describe how God changes people. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus said unless you are born again you cannot go to heaven, and now I know what that means because he gave me a whole new life filled with purpose and meaning."

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