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Szakácskönyv (Ilona Horváth)


On August 26, 2006 a new edition of Szakácskönyv by Ilona Horváth was published in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ilona Horváth’s birthday. The book is considered to be one of the classic Hungarian cookbooks, and was written for “housewives.”

Here are some lines from the original forward: “It is very important for our women to lead the household, but many times they aren’t well enough prepared. The purpose of our book is to help housewives organize and manage the household and supply the family with food in the right way… This book is mostly written for those who haven’t had a chance yet to learn how to manage the household, but those who have this experience can also benefit. Many housewives have ingredients in abundance but they don’t know how to use them correctly because they don’t have the technical knowledge of preparing these ingredients in a variety of ways…Hungarian cuisine and Hungarian housewives have always had a good reputation here and abroad. Our rising living standard gives us the opportunity to live up to these expectations.”

  1. Emily says:

    Any idea where I can buy this book online? My grandmother’s copy is falling apart and I’m looking for a new one for her.

  2. Ramona says:

    Hi Emily, try it on http://www.bookline.hu
    Type horvath ilona’s name on the search space, and several books will come up. The one that you are looking for is on the bottom of the 2nd page.
    Price between 1600-2000 HUF depending on the books condition.
    Hope it helps!

  3. Godot says:

    I would not recommend the Horvath Ilona cookbook. You can find tons of useful Hungarian recipes on the web, all free, and most of them are better than what you get from H.I.
    I bough that book for 25Ft in the good old days, and expected to help me survive in the exile, but the results were disappointing. Of course back then there was no web, so I had to experiment and learn on my own, but today a simple search for any Hungarian dish will bring up lots of results.

  4. Istvan Cserep says:

    HI, you can download (save)from

  5. Farkas László says:

    I love antique Hungarian cookbooks as a historical and cultural witness to where we have been in the past.

    “Our rising living standard gives us the opportunity to live up to these expectations”

    I think it came out first in 1965, and this kind of optimistic rhetoric was mandatory back then. Saying otherwise would not have made publication and would have gotten you in trouble!

  6. wolfi says:

    My wife (who got this cookbook from her mother) says that the recipes are “too simple” – without the spices that are available today, so the food is rather bland, if you use the original recipes …

    She likes to experiment – maybe even adding spices or stuff from other countries, like Greece or Mexico or Italy. When we’re in Germany we often combine German dishes with these “exotic” flavours and spices too.

    It’s really fantastic what’s available right now – foods and spices from all over the world!

    PS: My wife’s nephew in Tennessee also likes Mexican food and cooks it regularly at home – it is a bit similar to Hungarian stuff – but with less calories. That’s the main problem with traditional Hungarian cooking – too many calories (especially from fat) for today’s not so hardworking people …

  7. Farkas László says:

    Hi Wolfi,

    For me, old books and films bear invaluable witness to the times that produced them!

    This cookbook in question is no exception. It was produced in the Communist era, when ordinary people had to stand in line to buy food, which was in limited supply and often rationed. Foodstuffs imported from abroad, which included certain spices and citrus products, were very expensive or unavailable to the common people. (Party members could shop in special stores to which only they had access.) The leaders of this centrally planned economy had a limited amount of foreign exchange to work with, and what they had, had to be prioritised for other state purchases than lemons and cloves and allspice for the ordinary person!

    The blandness of the recipes in this book was not so much a reflection of the author, but a realistic response to what was commonly available then to the general public. It is an indirect testimonial to the communist trade policies and economic system as it pertained to the common man. This is how people ate in a system where the state controlled everybody and everything, in the pursuit of ideology.

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