A week had passed since I arrived in Germany, back in June. I was pretty tired of eating out, and I wanted to cook something at home or at least have food in my fridge. So, as anybody would do, I went to the supermarket.
I know! There’s nothing fantastic or worth writing about going to the supermarket… Except when you have absolutely no idea how things are called in German and you end up spending two hours wandering around the halls and starving.
That’s exactly how my first experience in a German supermarket was: Not normal. At all.
This is a preview of The German Supermarket Experience…When You’ve Just Arrived in Germany.
On my yearly visits to Germany I realize how the once familiar becomes unfamiliar, which often leads to funny situations. A few years ago I wanted to bake an American cheesecake. At the grocery store I paced up and down the cooler section several times looking for eggs and eventually asked a sales clerk. He stared at me, then walked me to a different part of the store with a shelf fully stocked with eggs. I stood there perplexed and it dawned on me that in Germany, unlike in the United States, eggs are often not refrigerated.
This is a preview of German Cuisine: Making Eierlikör.
We had several inches of snow at Thanksgiving. Our house with its lit windows created a winter wonderland look – like the gingerbread house in Hänsel and Gretel. It put me in the mood to make a gingerbread house.
As I looked through recipes and assembled ingredients and patterns, it hit me that I do not know much about the origin of the gingerbread house tradition. I vaguely recalled a witch’s gingerbread house as the crime scene in Hänsel and Gretel, a fairytale by the Grimm Brothers.
This is a preview of Spoonfuls of Germany: The Truth About Hänsel and Gretel.
Sweet German Christmas specialties are the only area that seems to be untouched and untainted by the stereotype surrounding German cuisine.
Every Christmas season, German producers ship their goods all over the world, in wooden boxes and colorful metal tins embossed with winter village scenes. During GDR times, Salzwedeler Baumkuchen, the famous tree cake consisting of a mass of layers, was nationalized and the cake was produced solely for export. This not only brought in Western currency but it eventually ensured the survival of that unique tradition.
This is a preview of German Cuisine: Holiday Bread.
For Thanksgiving 2013, I made an all-German menu from my cookbook: Roasted Duck Stuffed with Rum-soaked Raisins and Apples, Potato Dumplings, and Spiced Red Cabbage.
I usually do not like cabbage yet a while ago I decided it was time to take my cabbage dislike head-on. With very few exceptions like okra and celery root, I have always loved vegetables. The more I am centering my cooking around vegetables from my own garden and locally grown, seasonal produce, the less it seemed excusable to avoid an entire vegetable family. Putting a cabbage dish on the Thanksgiving table was part of my self-designed aversion training.
This is a preview of German Cuisine: Warming Up to Cabbage.
My knowledge of German history is piecemeal. This is not due to lack of interest. In my high-school days the State of Hessia had done away with history as an independent subject of study and blended it with geography, political science, and social studies. A court later ruled that the State Government had to revoke its curriculum – too late for me when I graduated in 1984.
This is a preview of German Cuisine: The King’s Dessert.
In the last decade, two edible wild, or semi-wild, plants have seen a huge comeback in Germany: ramsons (Allium ursinum, “Bärlauch” in German) and elderberries, especially their flowers. Maybe I should not call it a comeback because I doubt that ramsons, the European cousin of ramps, was ever so omnipresent as it is today. Walk into a German supermarket in the spring and you will find ramsons in every possible form, mixed into cheeses, breads, or sausage. And almost every restaurant has something with ramsons on the menu.
This is a preview of German Cuisine: Eat Your Elderflowers.