The Vari’s Garden Party

"Helen and George" oil on canvas 42"x 52"

" Helen and George "

The annual Vari’s garden party is always held in late August in honor of George’s birthday. I painted their portrait a few years ago in my studio in Toronto. When I paint a portrait, I usually ask the subject to bring an item that has significance for them. In this case they brought each other. This portrait, is a painting of Helen and George as individuals, but it is mostly about their relationship to each other .

Helen and George at the party

The painter as a witness to love

I always look forward to having “Casino Tojas” [deviled eggs] a food of my childhood at their party. My very glamorous mother, Marianne, made it for parties. So the festivities of childhood and ”Casino Tojas” are firmly entrenched in my taste buds as the happiness of childhood.

Marianne’s recipe for “Casino Tojas” and “Francia Salata”

The eggs: Hard boil eggs. When cooked, immediately plunge them in cold water. When they have cooled completely, peel and cut in half. Carefully take out the yolks and put them through a Moulinex [ a hand-held mini rotary grater] and let them fall into a mixing bowl. Blend well with mayonnaise, prepared mustard, anchovy paste, and ground black pepper to desired taste and texture. [Conserved anchovies and anchovy paste are in many Hungarian recipes. Their use, in the cuisine of a landlocked country must be a culinary throwback of the Roman occupation of Hungary and their fondness for garum, a fermented fish sauce.] When blended, mound into the halved egg whites and garnish with a sprinkling of paprika.

Francia Salata:[ French Salad][ It says something about Hungarian's relationship to their vegetables that what I consider a sauce, they consider a salad. Anyway to me it's all about the sauce, which I sometimes serve at picnics with plain hard boiled eggs] Mix mayonnaise and sour cream. Slowly add prepared mustard and granulated sugar to taste. It’s all about the balance of sweet, sharp, vinegar and creamy. I never measure, but for the sake of the blog, I combined 1 cup sour cream, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 4 teaspoons sugar, and 3/4 of a teaspoon mustard. If you don’t like the flavor, you can always add more sour cream to soften it and then add the other flavors in proportions that please your palette. Add drained cooked diced carrots and peas. I used a cup for the preceding proportions. [My mother, uses drained canned peas and carrots, extracts the carrots and dices them finer.] Mix the salad gently but thoroughly and serve under the eggs. Pass extra salad, as desired.

Casino Tojas and Francia Salata garnished with parsley from the gardenCasino Tojas and Francia Salata garnished with parsley from the garden

Casino tojas and Francia Salata garnished with parsley from the garden

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