What we’re eating, German edition

photo by André Karwath, wikimedia commons

photo by André Karwath, wikimedia commons

I haven’t given you much detail so far about what we’ve been eating in Spain. That’s partly because I’ve been focusing on cooking it rather than describing it, and partly because I’m quite the common denominator–though the set of ingredients I have access to in Spain is somewhat different than the set of ingredients I routinely use in Massachusetts, there’s plenty of overlap, so I make many similar things, and we haven’t had a lot of occasion to be fed by the locals. I certainly will post some more on food in Spain in the future. But as we’re now in Germany, I can talk a bit about food here.

So far in our visit to Kiel, I’ve been entirely on the receiving end of food preparation. Liebling’s husband, Chiquito (an ironic nickname from his LDS mission in Argentina–he’s 6’2″) is a great cook, and has made us a variety of tasty things. He is also German by birth, so even when there isn’t really cooking involved, he knows the sorts of elements to assemble in typical German ways.

For example, several dinners have been Abendbrot, evening bread, with a basket of various breads, some cheeses, sometimes Aufschnitt, or cold cuts, possibly jam, and tea (herbal–frequently German, very Mormon). A typical German breakfast is very similar to Abendbrot, though Chiquito made us some porridge to supplement it one day. I haven’t done a running tally, but I think Brot has featured at nearly every meal. It seems like Germany would be a hard place to try a low-carb diet. (Are you noticing a pattern? German nouns are all capitalized, “proper” or not.)

photo by Schwäbin, wikimedia commons

photo by Schwäbin, wikimedia commons

Last night on our bread we spread Mettwurst, raw ground pork sold in a sausage casing. I couldn’t help thinking of Mr. Bean and his Steak Tartare. We liked ours more than he liked his. We’ve also had Feldsalat, or field salad, something apparently very typical, which Chiquito’s German parents living in Canada can’t get and miss greatly. I understand that it is also known as Rapunzel, and was the green that resulted in the peasant family’s daughter being hauled off to live with a witch in a tower. It was very delicious, but I like to think I wouldn’t have urged el Guapo to go raiding in order to get it for me.

At a potluck lunch (potluck is not very German, but very Mormon) we had a chance to have Kartoffelsalat, or potato salad, as well as Pizzabrötchen, which despite the hybrid name is very German, a sort of biscuit with cheese and ham chunks baked into it.

Jelly, and indeed jelly and jam making, are typically German. Many people associate the making of preserves with bygone days, either long gone, as in pioneer days, or at least old-fashioned, as in 1950s. In Germany it is quite a popular seasonal activity, done by many people, and supplies are readily available, as is advice on the process, available from random shoppers standing nearby while you look vaguely puzzled by the package of pectin/sugar mix. The jelly we currently have to go with our Brot (either for Frühstück, Mittagessen or Abendbrot) is Holunderblütengelée, jelly from Elder flowers, made by Liebling.

Today for lunch we had a delicious meal, but it was Israeli, prepared by my daughter’s good friend. Lentils and bulgur cooked together, served with a salad of tomato, cucumber and onion, garnished with yogurt. Very simple, very tasty. I watched briefly for part of the preparation, as I’m always interested in learning new recipes. I was reminded of the way that a description may not always get you very far. I watched as a small frying pan of diced onion sizzled away waist-deep in oil. How much oil puts onion pieces waist-deep, you ask? That was my next question. The reply was, “just a little.” When I use just a little, it’s a teaspoon. This looked more like a third of a cup. So my visual gave me much more information than his verbal. I might not be able to transcribe the recipe, but I’m willing to try to approximate it sometime.

Our one trip to the grocery store gave us a bit of a feel for some differences: their chocolate comes in scads of varieties and is uniformly better than anything I get in the US (I know good chocolate can be hunted down in the US, but here at a German discount store it’s just stacked up in splendid piles on pallets). They’ve got a huge variety of cheeses, and substantial breads, very crusty. In the north here there is a lot of fish, in various sauces (curry or sweet or salty, with apples and beets, for instance). There’s a lot of fizzy water, in different levels of fizz. Apfelschorle, apple juice with fizzy water, is very typical–it’s not fizzy apple juice, but apple juice with fizzy water added. It’s not uncommon to dilute juices.

I’m told herring salad is in the forecast–I’m sure I’ll have more to report on before we head south again. As a parting tidbit I note that Merriam-Webster gives the origin of “delicatessen” as Delikatessen, obsolete German. Essen is the German for both food and the infinite of the verb to eat. And it’s time to start thinking about dinner.

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