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OP: Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine

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by Paul Kovi

Paul Kovi (1924–1998), born in Hungary, was a figure in New York City’s fine dining scene for four decades. He arrived here in 1950 and began working at the famed Four Seasons restaurant in the late ‘60s, by which time its glory had begun to fade. In 1973, Kovi and Tom Margittai bought the restaurant and revitalized it, making it one of the city’s best, most luxurious restaurants once again. 

After years of success in New York’s culinary upper echelon, Kovi says, “The rich traditions of one’s native land can truly be appreciated only by those who had left it a long time ago.” Transylvanian Cuisine (1985), it seems, was written and thoroughly researched as an homage and a longing for the memory of home.

A region situated between modern day Hungary and Romania, Transylvania is best known in English-speaking countries as the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Quite contrary to this monstrous association, Transylvania was a multicultural safe-haven for various ethnic groups in the region, most notably the Hungarians, Romanians, Saxon Germans, Armenians, and Jews.

The blending of these cultural influences, as well as a key location along trade routes, made Transylvania the perfect nexus of culinary traditions. Finding the history to be vast and complex, Kovi gives us more than just a collection of recipes. Essays by Kovi and other Transylvanian writers provide context and insight into the richness of this cuisine.

Drawing from historical material and family recipes, Kovi has compiled hundreds of recipes. He provides volumetric measurements and as detailed instructions as possible, honoring the source material, which was often passed down orally from one cook to the next. 

You will find recipes for stuffed bear’s foot, marinated in vinegar, paprika, bay leaf, and juniper, filled with a mushroom, ham, and egg; veal- and pork-filled grape leaves. Also here: Sabbatarian cabbage soup with smoked goose meat (for which the goose is presumably pre-smoked), featuring sauerkraut and garnished with basil and sour cream; Saxon hangover soup laden with chicken, root vegetables, and gooseberries; cornmeal porridge, which utilizes soured buttermilk; various honey cakes and scones; matzo doughnuts, brilliantly using meringue to create volume and structure to make up for the lack of leavener. Also included are brief guides to the herbs, spices, and wines of Transylvania. 

We are offering a first printing in Near Fine condition with a clean interior and sound binding. The vibrant red and gold jacket, Very Good Plus, shows minor signs of shelf wear and some discoloration to the flaps. A treat for the curious chef who will, no doubt, find inspiration in the nuanced and eclectic culinary styling of Transylvania.

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