Pandi from 2006

13 Feb

Pandi from 2006Don Winkler found this photo of Pandi recently in his collection.

It is from 2006, shot while Pandi was visiting Albert. Note his signature raised eyebrow and his mouth in the always-ready-to-add-his-opinions position, whether you like them or not. Pandi would have approved these comments.

Memorial Slideshow

30 Jan

The below slideshow was put together by Janet Uren for the January 22, 2011 memorial in Ottawa. Some of the photos are in other posts in the Blog. But, there are many that will be new.

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As with all the slideshows seen on this Blog, you can advance, reverse or stop the slides by clicking on the navigation you see when you hover your mouse over the photos.

Can you imagine how honored Pandi would feel by the effort of everyone who lovingly contributed to the slideshow and the rest of this Blog? What wonderful friends he had. I’m glad I got to be one.
– Janet Zagoria

A Caricature of Pandi by Robert Zend

30 Jan

Janine Zend sent the below scan from a book by Robert in which there is a caricature of Pandi.

The book is:
Fából vaskarikatúrák, A Volume of Parodies by Robert Zend
© Janine Zend, Publishers Magyar Vildg Kiadó, 1993

Fából vaskarikatúrák is a 1993 posthumous publication of Robert Zend’s poems and visuals.

Janine noted:
The English translation of Fából vaskarikatúrák is difficult, as it is a pun in Hungarian. It is: Caricatures: Squaring the Circle

The Hungarian idiomatic expression is best rendered by “squaring the circle” but also contains the word caricatures. I feel that caricature (done in 1978) captured the quintessential Pandi and think he liked it, too.

Pandi in Montreal circa 1978

27 Jan

Thanks to Janine Zend for sending these photos. The first 3 were taken by Robert Zend in Montreal circa 1978. The last one, Pandi in cap and tie, was given to Robert by Pandi. Robert entitled it: “The Globetrotter.”

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Robert Zend was Janine’s husband and Natalie’s father. He immigrated to Toronto from Budapest in 1957 and was a published poet and writer in both English and Hungarian. He was a good friend of George Nemet, Albert Kish, Gefin and, of course, Pandi as well as other Hungarian émigrés whom he met in Montreal. Although Robert  never lived in Montreal, he often went there for weekend visits in the 1960s and 70s.

The Film: “Hold the Ketchup”

26 Jan

A film by Albert Kish
Written and researched by George Pandi

This short documentary is about newcomers to Canadians and what they eat. Funny, mouth-watering and visually delectable, it takes us into the specialty food shops where the ingredients are bought, and into the homes where the food is prepared and served in the traditional way.

You can view it online for free here:

Available through The National Film Board of Canada for purchase:

by Lois Siegel
All photos by Lois Siegel

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The smaller photos are from a proofsheet and the large photo of the older woman eating the marshmallow were taken during the filming.

The documentary was completed in 1977. We must have shot it during the summer of 1976. This is where I first met Pandi.

I met Albert and Pandi was location manager, I believe, on the film. He also has a script credit. I shot photos during the shooting of the film. Barry Perles was the cameraman.

After the shooting was completed, Albert said I could help Pandi in the editing room assemble the film. It was great working on this film, and the food was fantastic.

In the film, the sequence with “Wonderbread” being buttered on the table was shot in my basement in NDG/Montreal. They made me take off a big Tiger ring I was wearing. Those are my hands.

Albert kept coaching me – “make a bigger mess of the bread” – and when we got to the ketchup, I was instructed to pour tons on the bread.

Humor works with exaggeration…

The sequences were shot many times.

More info:

Our Last Meeting

25 Jan

by Pierre Jury

My last meeting with George Pandi was March 31, 2011. We were part of a group of journalists invited by the Myrtle Beach Convention and Tourism Authority for a wonderful meal at Signatures, the restaurant of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School, in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Travel Show was beginning the next day.

George sits proudly in front (far left). Others in the photo are Anne Marie Creskey, Managing Editor of The Hill Times (magenta dress, center), Gay Cook, former food writer with the Ottawa Sun and the Ottawa Citizen (bottom row, right), chef Éric Masson, from Myrtle Beach (left, back row), chef Yannick Anton, from Perspectives (white chef vest), Halina Player, Ottawa Travel Show organizer (far right, back row) and myself, Pierre Jury, Food Writer, Ottawa Newspaper Le Droit (right, back row).

We sat at opposing sides of the round table. Unfortunately, discussions between him and me was limited to small pleasantries since I knew it was pointless to try to have an intelligent conversation with him so far away, with his low voice.

Looking back at the photo, I see a man looking in very good shape, smiling, as always either just coming back from a trip or about to leave for one. He certainly did not look his age, but a good 10 years less. I was surprised to find out he was 75.

Memorial Tribute by Ronald Javich

22 Jan

The below is a Memorial Tribute to Pandi. To see more, go to the right column under CATEGORIES and click on Memorial Tributes.

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Relatives of our beloved companion, GEORGE!

In this day of mourning and deep sadness for all of us, we must concentrate on strength and good will, this will be a common bond for all of us, and just remember the good and joyful moments in the colourful and often adventurous long life of George Pandi.

As one mutual friend in far-away VANCOUVER stated today, the 3 main founders of our beloved “SUBMARINE” have all died, here in Canada, far far away from their beloved native Hungary: i.e., George Nemeth, Andy Letoniy and now George Pandi. May they all rest in peace!

For those of you who do not know or perhaps do not remember, the famous SUBMARINE was a very special and a very happy basement apartment inside the well-known McGill University Ghetto City. Within the scared walls of this enchanting little subterranean paradise co-existed several Hungarian refugees and guess who was the Master Cook and Grand Chef, the great George Pandi himself.

Feasts and endless parties and a general joyful mood of debauchery and pleasure reigned within the walls of this famous SUBMARINE. So many books could be written about the lives and adventures of the genius-crew who ran this ship and even more so their guests and many friends. Few were the girls and beautiful women of Montreal who did not experience the constant party ongoing at the Submarine.

One would think that the internationally-famous Guide Michelin must have missed listing our SUBMARINE amongst the culinary and wine attractions of Montreal City. Even if this took place 30 and 40 years ago and more, these colourful memories will remain in our bright minds until the last days of our lives!

And then again, the images of our dear dear friend and companion, George Pandi, who in the much-used terminology of James Bond was known as #3 while he dearly called me #1 (or Commander, depending on circumstances), relived with us cherished moments from the coloured worlds of the Cinema and Imaginative Fiction alike.

May the beloved and much admired George Pandi remain engraved in our souls and minds for always and for ever!!!

Finally, as Old Hebrew Tradition dictates in moments of mourning: “May you All Live a Long Life!”


Memorial Tribute by Bert Kish

22 Jan

The below is a Memorial Tribute to Pandi. To see more, go to the right column under CATEGORIES and click on Memorial Tributes.

Pandi My Godfather

Pandi was my Godfather and I did not know the world without him. He was part of life since I was a baby and up until this past September we kept in touch and saw each other several times over the years both when I lived in Toronto and just recently since I moved to Los Angeles.

Having said that, I must confess that we did not have a particularly close relationship in the sense that we spoke every week and sent regular birthday and christmas cards. However, I felt we had a great unspoken fondness for one another.

When I was 16 I was stricken with mono (the kissing disease). Pandi, was
kind enough to send a get well card that read, “Well godson you have been stricken by the kissing disease… I hope in the future you have the good fortune to catch something more exotic.”

To a young man Pandi made everything sound so good and so interesting. I think a lot of it was the timber or tone of his voice that made the modern and often seedy world sound so pleasantly 19th century. His idea of being able to travel, wash and eat very pleasantly on trains and in train stations had, through his voice, a curious appeal.

Now, in reality, I am not sure taking a shower in a run down train station in the suburb of Lyon with a 200 pound homeless man in his shredded speedo as your shower companion, is really a great way to see Europe, but for a moment Pandi made it sound so curiously wonderful.

“Listen,” he would start, “for 2 francs to can get a clean towel and a bar of soap. For and extra 3 francs you are provided a clean shower with plenty of hot water. The phone service is excellent and the small bistros serve excellent strong coffee which you can enjoy while reading a fresh copy of the herald tribune in english.”

Forgetting about the homeless man and the filthy drains, Pandi painted the world as something wonderful and something worth seeing. I have to say that my decision to go to Japan after university and look for all sorts of exotic diseases came directly from Pandi. In fact, I ended up taking the train from Beijing to Budapest filled with idea that all I needed was soap, hot water, and coffee. Funnily enough, he wasn’t wrong.

I close by saying that throught the years Pandi and I had several long heart to heart conversations. They were usually spaced between 10 year intervals.

One that stands out was in Montreal in January in 1983. He had been over at my mother’s house for dinner and after a nice meal he said it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and he drove away. But I wanted to talk to him more so I got our car and chased him down.

I found him at a light and he was shocked. I asked if he would like to go for a drink. Instead, he suggested to come over to where he was staying (a friends house in the plateau).

His host was out of town and there was plenty of wine. We arrived at at 10 pm. We talked about politics, family, religion, movies, the Beatles, bolshevism anarchists, travel… Train vs plane, the parti quebecquois, sex, telecommunications and what it meant it get old and how do you stay young? Forgive me, but I am not sure of the exact order of the conversation. Suffice to say that it was now 5 am.

I am sure this sounds familiar to anyone who has spent time with Pandi. he
loved the night and the voices in the night. There was a lot of arguing, a
lot of laughter and yes, a lot of wine. It was time to go. We hugged and I
left. As I drove home I was stopped at a light near McGill. Two pretty girls
pulled up beside me and waved. I throw in the girls part because it sounds
exotic — but it seems and it seemed at the time that they cupped the night perfectly.

Pandi, my wonderful Godfather made everything seem possible and seem good and he gave me the idea that one should live engaged, present, and open to the great pleasure of living. That’s what I remember at 5:30 am on that cold Montreal morning driving happily toward the dawn.

I will miss you greatly my dear Pandi, my godfather, because sadly now I do know the world without you and it is by far a much sadder place.

With great love and affection,

Memorial Tribute by Phyllis Kasper

22 Jan

The below is a Memorial Tribute to Pandi. To see more, go to the right column under CATEGORIES and click on Memorial Tributes.

Pandi and I met sometime in 1962-63 while I was a graduate student at McGill University and he was doing odd jobs here and there. We all lived in poverty in the McGill student ghetto. The ghetto was a mix of students, immigrants, prostitutes, purse snatchers and elderly women on fixed incomes.

That same neighborhood has been renovated and is now quite posh and expensive. Pandi and his gourmet friends would organize banquets for the leisured poor. Attendees would contribute $1.50 apiece and Pandi and Andy would shop for goodies and create a feast fit for kings.

When I left Montreal in 1965 for a year of doing research back in my native Wisconsin, we realized how much we missed each other. I got a teaching job at Sir George Williams in Montreal and we got married at the Unitarian Universalist church in Milwaukee. My cousin Russell was our best man, and promised Pandi he’s sign in as Donald Duck as witness if Pandi chickened out.

We lived together in Montreal, New York and San Francisco. Together we each did things we would have never have done on our own. Pandi got his Bachelor’s at Sir George and his PhD from the University of California-San Francisco.

I would never have applied for a postdoctoral fellowship to do research in Hungary. Although I lived in Pecs, I had many visits with his mother Magda, uncle Mickie and their circle of artistic friends in Budapest.

I also had two adventures involving his reunions with his Hungarian school chums. We were becalmed in a small sailboat on Lake Balaton with only a cheap bottle of rum for four hours. They took me cave climbing, and the ancient shoes they loaned me disintegrated in the middle of that adventure.

In San Francisco, Pandi blossomed further as a fantastic chef and host. Friends could drop over at any time and have a meal. I miss those good times and those friends. At some point, we decided to part. Pandi felt Montreal was his destiny, but I knew it wasn’t mine.

We continued our friendship until his death, mostly by email in later years. I had hoped to come up to Ottawa and visit with him one more time before one of us got too frail or died, but the best I can manage is to send you these words. I would love to be there and hear everyone’s stories and hug old Montreal friends. My love and best wishes to you all.

Memorial Tribute by Janet Zagoria

22 Jan

The below is a Memorial Tribute to Pandi. To see more, go to the right column under CATEGORIES and click on Memorial Tributes.

When I first met Pandi in San Francisco, in the early 70s, I was about 24 and he was 37. I met him through Phyllis, his second wife. They were divorced but still great friends. Shortly after we met he included me in his frequent community dinners where he would cook for as many as 20 people from all over the world.

He loved sharing his talent for cooking and always said it was to experiment with recipes. We were the lucky taste testers who could give him “feedback.” The meals were never bad, actually always exceptional.

Sometimes we would ask for the ingredients (ie: what is that meat?) but he often dodged the questions. (Later I would find out the meat was sometimes horse, not something I ever had.)

He provided a place for a world-class conversation with delightful food.

Over the years Pandi and I kept in touch — us both moving from San Francisco. We saw each other in many cities.

In the late 80s, after I had been working in publishing (graphics) and doing photography for magazines and newspapers for a number of years, we tried to partner up as a team to cover tourist spots in Australia. (By then he was in Ottawa and I was living north of San Francisco.) We could never pull that off together but we had fun trying.

We finally had a chance to do a project together starting in 2007 — his Taste More! eBook. We called it a coffee table eBook because we produced it as if it were a nicely embossed printed coffee table book.

Pandi had hundreds of photos he had to pick from in his travels to decorate the pages. He also had a vision on the unusual format (for an eBook), fonts, colors and everything else. It took some work to get him to trust my knowledge of graphics but after some knock-down, drag out confrontations (all on the phone and Skype), we would agree. The eBook turned out great and we were both proud of it.

When Pandi would visit me — at my different homes — he would always be enthusiastic to cook for me and anyone else around. Even my gay male friends were impressed (not an easy feat).

About 2 years ago, after asking many times over the years, I was finally able to get him to tell me the story of his family and what it was like being a child growing up in Hungary during WWII.

I felt I finally got to hear about what made him tick and understood his thinking. As he grew older he seemed to get more conservative in his viewpoints, which also led to many political disagreements. Pandi proudly wore the label “cranky.”

In spite of our differences, I will miss him. I saw him be a great caregiver to Maggie in her struggle with cancer, a warm host in Budapest and, in general, a caring friend (after I would remind him to be!).

If I only could have one more mystery meal from him…

Leaving Hungary

18 Jan

by Phyllis Kasper

In 1956, while Pandi was a still in school. Nikita Krushchev gave his “Secret Speech” on the Cult of Personality, denouncing Stalin and his blood thirsty policies. This encouraged people to express their political opinions with protests. Despite his promises Krushchev, ultimately sent in tanks into Hungary.

Pandi was less interested in politics than he was in photography, and soon entered the crossfire to take pictures. His mother destroyed the negatives to prevent his being arrested. As people started escaping over the border into Austria, she decided to let him go with Sari and another friend.

Because his father had been a nationalist poet and editor of an intellectual journal, Pandi had been classified as one of the intelligencia and denied the right to get a higher education. Since the state also determined where people were allowed to work, he had only two job options. He worked pushing a coal cart at a power plant. The heat of pushing the coal up to the mighty furnace had caused him to black out several times. Magda got permission for him to change jobs, but he would only be allowed to wash corpses in a children’s plague hospital. This upset her so much, she gave him permission to leave.

Ten years after the revolution, Hungary declared an amnesty for expatriates that had not been actively involved in fighting. They had decided that the tourist dollar was more important than arresting people. We visited Hungary together. On the way we stopped at the little village in Austria where Pandi and his friends were sheltered after crossing the border.

The border at that time, consisted of miles of electrified fences, razor wire and land mines. Guards were in a machinegun tower. The border looked the same when I drove my old beater into Hungary in 1970 to spend nine months doing research at the Medical School in Pėcs.

How Pandi Learned to Cook

18 Jan

by Phyllis Kasper

Pandi’s mother Magda was an opera singer with a powerful voice. When she welcomed Pandi into the world, her voice was heard at least five blocks from the hospital (or so her doctor said).

After the Russians replaced the Germans and occupied Budapest, Magda continued her opera career. One night, when Pandi was about 8-9, she was very late in rehearsal. He was hungry & impatient. There was no bread, no leftovers. Something would have to be cooked. It occurred to him that any fool could surely boil a potato. So that lone, boiled potato became his entrance into the world of culinary art.

Traditional peasant Hungarian cooking is very tasty and nourishing. Dumplings are a classical expression of Hungarian cuisine. But as hard as he tried, and with all the many ethnic traditions he mastered, he never did master the dumpling.

Pandi’s Family History

13 Jan

by Phyllis Kasper
Tales told to Phyllis by Pandi’s mother

Pandi’s father’s original name was Platz and the paternal grandparents lived in Italy. On one of our trips we searched a little village cemetery looking for the Platz family and didn’t find it.

Pandi’s parents split when he was about four, but he had visitation with his father. His father was germ phobic and made him wear white gloves in public. When the Germans got to Budapest, they ordered all Jews to wear the Star of David and his father immediately did so.

He also went to the phone company to have their “Jewish” phone disconnected.

Pandi’s mother, Magda, went to the phone company and showed them family baptism papers to prove they were Catholic, not Jewish. She got the phone back. George’s father and his uncle Miklos (Mickie) were put on a train to a labor camp.

On the way, a man and his two sons decided to take their chances against the lone rifleman on the roof of their car and jump out the window. They said they would rather die trying to escape than go like cattle to certain death.

Pandi’s father said he’d jump after Mickie, but he didn’t and went to the labor camp. He survived the war and was liberated from the camp, but died of exhaustion and malnutrition walking the many miles home. He never got home, nor did his body. Pandi had a hard time accepting his death.

Meanwhile, Mickie got back to Budapest and Magda hid him, along with a Jewish girlfriend of hers, in her apartment. Late one night, two Gestapo came to the door because someone had informed on Magda.

The two women were in their nighties, George was asleep on the couch and Mickie was in the bathroom. The bathroom had a bookcase built into the door, so the men didn’t realize there was a room.

One of them ordered George and the women to get up and come with

When he spoke to George, the other said, “What little boy? I don’t see any little boy.”

The reply was that “we have orders to take everyone in this apartment.”

The other made a fist and said, “I don’t see any little boy and you don’t either.”

So they left George. George spoke on the phone to a Gestopo who had befriended them. There was a language barrier, but the man helped. He supplied some food to George and Mickie and took George for a walk past the nearby private home where Magda and her friend were imprisoned so she could see he was OK.

When they took Magda and her friend, Magda realized she could possibly survive because the Russians were getting closer. They broadcast to the Germans that they were coming and would kill ten Germans for every Hungarian the Germans killed.

But she had always had very cold feet, and was afraid her feet would freeze walking in the snow in her open-toed house slippers. Then she would get gangrene and die. So she mentally commanded her feet to warm up, and they did.

Magda and her friend were held in a nearby house under lock and key. It was very cold, so they begged their guard to be able get something to help them stay warm. He allowed them to go the hall closet and each grab one winter coat. The friend put her hand in one of the coat pockets and found a master key for the house. But they still had a guard in front of their door.

After a few days, all the guards went out. So the two women quietly went out and started walking away. Then they saw one of their guards walking towards them with an unknown officer. They knew he saw them and they expected to be shot or taken prisoner. But he engaged the officer’s attention away from them and made a small hand signal for them to keep walking. They were safe.

Magda found out that the person who had reported them lived in the next apartment, but wanted Magda’s apartment. This woman did Magda’s hair and babysat George. I asked Magda how she felt about that neighbor. She said that she forgave her because war brought out the best in some people and the worst in others.

The name “Pandi” came about because the Russians wanted everyone to have Hungarian names and Platz in more German/Austrian. Magda wanted a name she could call her own and not borrow another family’s name. So the just made up “Pandi” with the idea that it sounded Hungarian.

Pandi’s Family  Jewish Background
His family’s Jewish heritage comes in part (according to legend) from a Hungarian chieftain who fell in love with a Jewish girl and wanted to marry her.

Her father said “no” unless he converted. Because he was the tribal leader, he couldn’t convert alone and still lead, so he converted his whole tribe. The Germans much later considered the descendants Jewish, but the Jews did not acknowledge him. So they were Jewish enough for the Germans to kill them, but not enough for the Jews to accept them. Go figure.

That’s why it took something like 30-years for Pandi to receive any cash reparations from the Germans. With the reparations, he was able to buy a cottage on Lake Balaton (sold several years ago).

Mountain Man Pandi in 1973

13 Jan

Thanks to Phyllis Kasper. Taken on Mount Whitney.

This is what Pandi wrote on the back of the photos:
1. The dynamic duo standing on top of the U. S. of A., (contiguous, not including Alaska), raising the flags of the Hungarian People’s Republic and d’Etat Libre Quebecois (Roy forgot the stars and stripes and flew his shirt-tail instead).

2. The first day of the ascent, 4 pm. Our aging but determined hero pants his way past the 12,000 ft level. I didn’t have cyanosis, just some glacier-cream to keep the lips tender for a warm welcome on returning.

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Calling for Pandi Photos

4 Jan

Pandi At Sculpture in BudapestWORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Janet Uren is collecting images for display at the Ottawa Memorial on January 22.

If you have photos of Pandi, new or old, please send them to:

Photo taken Sept. 2006 in Budapest
by Patti Brunelle.

Memorial for GEORGE PANDI 1936 – 2011

3 Jan

When: Sunday, 22 January 2012, 2:00 to 4:00 pm
Where: The Auditorium, Elmwood School, 261 Buena Vista Road, Rockcliffe, Ontario, Canada   Map

For Pandi, please join us for a celebration of his life. Contributions of Pandi-appropriate afternoon fare will be appreciated if possible and convenient, as well as stories, readings and toasts in his honour.

Please let us know if you would like to speak and also to help us to spread the word. All Pandi’s friends and colleagues welcome.

RSVP one of the below by 14 January 2012:
Gail Graser, 613-233-2982 or garchdale[at]hotmail[dot]com
Janet Uren, 613-842-4913 or  janet.uren[at]wordimage[dot]ca
Judy Young, 613-567-5756 or judyyoung[at]drache[dot]ca

Pandi’s Early Montreal Life

8 Dec

Thanks to Judy Y. for passing this link along:

Our place in Montreal
The Rosemary on Metcalfe Street
by George Pandi

My Canadian life began in July, 1957, in the kitchen of the Muskoka Sanitarium outside Gravenhurst. I was a diligent immigrant, ready to learn the language, customs, social behaviour—I had trouble only with the food. The cuisine at my workplace gave me mild culture shock. No wonder; we had Ontario hospital meals by an English chef who used to cook in the army. I moved to Montreal after two months.. Read more…

Originally published in 2007.

Pandi was Good Company

8 Dec

Story by Dr. Russell Osantowski

Pandi visited us, here in Henderson, NV, a couple of years ago. We showed him the sights and had a wonderful time with him. He told me that he kept his childhood home and would not sell it because that is where he would live when he retired. He was deeply committed to this. I always enjoyed his company.

3 Pandi Stories: Children & Cooking

8 Dec

Stories by Dr. Teddy Osantowski

1. Pandi had to help with a 3 year-old kid when I visited him in San Francisco. Stuart (age 42 now) liked to run wild. At Muir Woods, Stuart was running and we were afraid that he would fall into one of the ravines, so Phyllis told Pandi to put Stuart on his shoulders and keep him there. Poor Pandi had to walk around Muir woods with a squirming kind on his shoulders for a long while. He was quite gracious about the inconvenience.

2. Scott, a five year old kid, (who is now 45 years old) refused to eat. Pandi reminded him that he wouldn’t grow strong so Scott developed an appetite immediately. I was pleased that Pandi knew how to handle little ones.

3. I did not know that Pandi was a gourmet cook. I once tried to help him make dinner but he told me that he could handle it. I noticed that his kitchen looked like Julia Child’s. When I told Phyllis that he refused my help, she informed me of his ability as a cook. I was so embarrassed to know that I had cooked for him when he visited us in Illinois. I never would have had the nerve to cook for a professional.

I promised that if he ever visited me again, I would not cook for him. I’d be too nervous. He was amused by my decision.

Hungarian Journal Obituary

7 Dec

Dear Everyone,
A short obit has published on the website of Hungarian Journalists Association in Hungarian:

Győri Péter