The local dumplings, means derelye, or dörőlye (as it is known in the local dialect), is an old dish of Hungarian cuisine, but it has been known by this name only since the end of the 18th century. It played an important role in the diet of the peasants of the lowland farming community. In Hódmezővásárhely, it was a prestigious everyday dish of boiled pasta stuffed with cottage cheese in the wealthier households, but was a festive dish among the poorer classes. Lajos Kiss, a prominent ethnographer of the town, wrote the following about the local importance of the dörőlye around 1920:
“In terms of value, it comes after the flat cake in the eyes of the people of Hódmezővásárhely. The Hódmezővásárhely dumplings is famous for its goodness…”
The dough is made like any other dry dough, only a little softer and thinner. One half of the rolled-out dough is covered with curd or jam and the other half is folded over it. A tablespoon of flour, an egg and a little salt are added to the cottage cheese. Press well around the knots, cut into cubes with a dicer. Cook in boiling water and strain. The cottage cheese dumpling is seasoned with hot fat and sour cream, toasted bread crumbs are sprinkled over the jam. The edges, known as pëllas, are cooked separately.
According to Lajos Kiss, in many places they also cook the curd cheese soup in a soup, add a dash of cream and call it derelyeleves (dumplings soup). Today it is more commonly called cottage cheese soup.
In Hódmezővásárhely, the importance of derelye in the past is also preserved in the form of artefacts: the derelye-keepers, which have survived in large numbers and in great variety. The simpler, wooden versions were made by skilful peasants, but there are also metal or horn-handled pieces of craftsmanship among them. At the end of the handle is a metal swivel disc with a serrated edge, used for cutting the dough. It is often made from perforated coins that are considered worthless. An example is the 1896 millennium commemorative medal depicting Emperor Franz Joseph. It was to this and similar pieces that the man from Hódmezővásárhely said
“we’re the ones where Emperor Franz Joseph cut the dumplings.”
In the late 19th century, the hammer also played a role in the town’s criminal chronicle. In 1894, the case of Mari Jáger and her accomplices, who killed their intended victims – older men – with arsenic injected into a sledgehammer, became known throughout the country.
Dörölye is still a popular dish today, but it is labour-intensive to prepare and is therefore much less frequently served at family meals. It is mostly chosen from the freezer counters of supermarkets.
Traditionally, only a few older women make it, and only when they are cooking for the family, because they don’t bother themselves.
In Hódmezővásárhely, the Dörölye Festival in the Tájház in Árpád Street, held for the first time on 1 May 2010, was a revival of this tradition, and a similar event was organised on 10 September the following year. Its aim is to promote the old local food and to familiarise young people with its preparation. The teams for the dörőlye cooking competition were mainly made up of members of the reading groups, older women, many of whom have participated in similar festivals in other parts of the country in the following years.
The inclusion of the Hódmezővásárhely dörőlye in the heritage list is justified by the fact that it was the most popular cooked pasta here, as long as the housewives prepared it themselves. Its quality was also determined by the fresh raw materials (cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs) that came from the family farm. Its composition and method of preparation differ from the frozen products of the same name available today.
Although today’s housewives rarely have the opportunity to prepare such an old, more labour-intensive dish, keeping the tradition alive is important for the community. It can remind people of the way their grandparents and great-grandparents lived, and for older people it can remind them of the tastes of childhood. At the same time, its role in food and gastronomic festivals has a tourism value.