Hungary has so many food and wine festivals – with celebrations devoted to even the most common foods like onions and garlic – that they can be hit-or-miss. If you’re judging purely by crowd size, this past weekend’s Mangalica Festival at the Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest’s City Park was a success. Surprisingly, since yummy, fatty Mangalica meat has become increasingly available and popular in Hungary over the past few years, this was the first festival in Budapest devoted to the Mangalica Pig.
Just how popular Mangalica has become, I did not realize until I saw the chaos at the festival. The place was packed; so crowded, in fact, with lines so long, that I didn’t even get a taste of any of the fantastic looking Mangalica that was there. There were piles of bacon, whole cured hams, sausages, salami, and whole Mangalicas roasting on spits over a fire. I didn’t see the cooking contest, but I did see some of the hopeful cooks setting up their bogracs (kettles) and prepping their meats and vegetables. In the dirty unkempt area around the castle which used to hold water but now just holds mud, there was a pen holding several different breeds of live Mangalica pigs, including one very cute baby Mangalica with long floppy ears, which looked almost like a puppy. Yes, I could have braved the lines – and the cured Mangalica looked like it would have been worth the very long wait – but the stroller I was pushing made things a bit difficult.
Despite my complaining about the crowded festival, it’s good to see so much interest in this breed which was once in danger of dying out. After all, the more people there are out there eating Mangalica, the more Mangalicas there will be. There could have even been whipped Mangalica fat ice cream there. But I can’t tell you if there was… I had to get out of there before the ham ran out and the crowd went mad.