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The Magyar Diet

A few years ago I went to Hungary for the first time to meet some of my maternal relatives there. My cousin Klari organised everything for me and I came back about seven pounds heavier. This was because Hungarians are the most hospitable people in the world and every single person I met seemed determined to feed me a huge delicious meal – which, being greedy, I ate.
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I loved it there, felt completely at home in Budapest (which is a delightful city with frothy architecture and the prettiest underground line anywhere). I don\’t speak Hungarian (yet) but most Hungarians speak about four languages, so no problem there either.
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And I noticed something odd. I first spotted it while waiting for Klari at a railway station in a very ordinary part of town. I sat there for about half an hour because I\’d got the time wrong and watched the people passing by. And in that time I did not see one fat person, male, female or child. Not one.
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Now Magyars are not willowy ectomorph Swedes. Most of them are stocky and strongly built. Nor do they eat healthy food – not by UK doctors\’ notions anyway. They like rich casseroles with dumplings, they don\’t really do vegetables and they eat a lot of bread. Their cakes are notoriously creamy (try Dobostorta) and rich and the place is full of lovely cafes that sell them along with lethally strong coffee. They definitely like to party.
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In fact I didn\’t see one fat person the whole time I was there, except in the mirror. Not one.
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I have some clues to the mystery which I\’ll pass on another day. In the meantime, go look for yourself.

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