We entered the club through the non-descript door of a shabby looking building, descending a dimly lit staircase into a tiny darkened room that was steadily filling with people. At one end was a stage that ran the width of the room. In itscentre, taking up most of the space, a makeshift table covered in a black cloth with two record decks, turntables rotating. Bookending the table were two Dobermans, blankly presiding over the milling throng like china ornaments. A Dj stood hunched over the decks, intently adjusting the mixer, completely focused on what he was doing, his head keeping the beat. Another rifled through vinyl in the boxes behind the table.
The venue filled quickly. Beer flowed. I felt the bass move through my body, pulsing steadily as the sound system kicked in and wave after wave of bass and breakbeats filled the space between the moving bodies in the room. I slipped into an empty space amongst the moving mass and as I surrendered to the music, I remember thinking it was a good move to have lined my stomach. It was going to be a big night.
A couple of hours earlier I had been meandering around the Žižkov district, orienting myself as I looked for somewhere to eat. I had dumped my backpack in a hostel recommended by a dj who worked at the illegal radio station operating out of the apartment above the hostel I stayed at in Budapest. As I turned a corner, I spotted an illuminated sign for beer and began to make my way towards it, bumping into Darren, an Australian I had met in the hostel in Budapest.
Beer, fried cheese and chips arrived without ceremony or afectation. A sizeable portion of chips beside a square of cheese covered in breadcrumbs. Bland looking. Bland tasting. But in that pub, dotted with local, middle aged men, drinking without animation, it tasted of Prague in the nineties. I don’t think it even touched the sides, I was so hungry. Darren had heard of a drum & bass night in a club near by and a few drinks later, we stepped into the darkness of the autumn evening and wove a mildly intoxicated path towards the club through eerily quiet streets, in the shadow of Žižkov Tower’s looming presence that seemed to be keeping watch over the district.
I don’t think I have eaten fried cheese since that night. As I dipped the cheese into the egg and rolled it in the panko breadcrumbs, the memory hit me with a jolt. Since we went into lockdown in March, memories like this have risen to the surface like gnocchi in a pot of boiling water. Memories that have been squeezed into darkened corners to make space for everyday stresses and to do lists are re-emerging. Since March, my life has become physically smaller and has slowed, creating a space for memories to make their way back to consciousness. And I like it. I like being reminded of someone I used to be.
Deep fried Stilton with Chicory and Watercress in a Marmalade Dressing
A bunch of watercress, washed
A few leaves of chicory
100g stilton, cut into small cubes
1 egg, beaten
100g panko breadcrumbs
For the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp orange marmalade
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Dip the cheese in the beaten egg and roll in the breadcrumbs. You can do this twice to get a good crispy coating.
Make the dressing by heating the cider vinegar and the marmalade over a gentle heat until the marmalade melts. You might want to adjust the ratio of cider and vinegar according to your taste. Remove from the heat and add the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the sunflower oil and fry the breadcrumbed cheese until golden.
Place the watercress and chicory on a plate and add the cheese. Drizzle with the dressing.