When András Koerner retired from his career as an architect in 2003, he devoted his time to, as Joe Baur explains, “meticulously documenting and uncovering Jewish Hungarian life and foodways prior to the Holocaust—first through a series of books, and now through a museum exhibit in his hometown.”
Koerner’s exhibition Jó Lesz a Bólesz, which documents the history of Jewish Hungarian cuisine, is on display through November at Budapest’s Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism in the Óbuda neighborhood, once home to the region’s largest Jewish community in the late-17th and early-18th centuries. The name of the exhibit is a Hungarian pun that roughly translates to “the bólesz will be good”—bólesz being a snail-shaped yeast pastry with walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon historically tied to the Jewish Hungarian community.
The dish, Koerner explains, dates back to Sephardi Jews who fled to Holland following the Spanish Inquisition. These Sephardi bakers were responsible for the creation of the Dutch pastry zeeuwse bolus, which became bólesz when a Hungarian Jewish traveler tried to bake something similar after returning from Holland in the 19th century. “It represents one of the very few instances of Sephardi influence in the overwhelmingly Ashkenazi character of Hungarian Jewish cuisine,” Koerner said.
The museum exhibit opened in April. “I believe this is the first comprehensive historical and chronological exhibition that has existed about Jewish culinary culture of any country,” Koerner said, noting the various 19th-century artifacts and recipe manuscripts he donated to the museum after inheriting them from his ancestors. “They represent the most comprehensive surviving group of 19th-century culinary artifacts and manuscripts from a Jewish family in Hungary.”