Friday 27 July 2012

Meaty! The Salami Museum of Szeged, Hungary

Slaughtering called for a number of separate professions, such as the stabbing master, the guts cleaner and the salami making itself...”

Urgh. They say you should never enquire too closely into how a sausage is made.

The same is true for salami, judging from this caption at the Pick Salami and Paprika Museum in Szeged, Hungary.

I was fearful of this institution being packed with lots of boring industrial information presented via small, dusty captions.

However, the meat-flavoured museum in this attractive city on the Tisza River in the nation’s southeast turns out to be good fun.

In addition to the occasional “Too much information” text on how salami is created, there are interesting, simply presented displays involving industrial equipment and overall-wearing dummies. 

The dummies lack facial features but come complete with enormous moustaches, cloth caps, and in one case, a brush that’s applied to the “noble mould” that encases the salami as it matures (best not too ask too much here either).

What’s interesting in the story of Pick Salami, named after the company’s 19th century founder Mark Pick, is how much it parallels the political and industrial history of Hungary.

As I make my way past dummies extruding meat into sausage-like casings, or hauling salamis dangling from sticks hung over their shoulders, I learn how the meat was initially prized for its ability to be transported without refrigeration, and how the factory’s export markets were in flux after World War I led to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The upstairs section of the museum is devoted to paprika, the quintessential Hungarian ingredient. It may lack the humorous potential of salami, but paprika is the essential element that marks out Hungary’s unique cuisine from that of the nations which surround it.

Frankly, it’s a mystery as to why there aren’t more Hungarian restaurants snuggled between all the Italian and Chinese eateries around the world. One of the most distinctive European cuisines, Hungarian food is memorably denoted by spicy paprika and flavoursome sauces, and accompanied by fine local wine.

Better still, eating well while travelling through the nation of the Magyars (as Hungarians call themselves) is laughably inexpensive. A fine tureen of goulash soup served suspended above a flame will only set you back a few dollars, as will most main dishes and bottles of locally produced wine.

Szeged’s Salami Museum is clearly irresistible; you even get presented with some salami on bread at the end of the tour. And a free prepaid postcard so you can tell your friends all about Szeged’s salami fixation. Tasty.

This post was sponsored by Flight Centre NZ. Check out its site for cheap flights.

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