Category Archives: Food

Idiomatic Monday: Wurst Will Be Wurst

I suppose it doesn’t take much of a grasp on semiotics to realize that culture will, come hell or high water, weasel its way into language, thus spawning idioms, but I’m here to tell you anyway.  For instance, what springs to mind when you think of America?  Maybe I’m coming out of left field, but if I were to take a swing at it, I’d say baseball.  (See what I did there?  Seriously, there’s a wikipedia page about this).  German is a whole ‘nother ballgame: when you think of the Vaterland, do you think of, say, this?:

Somewhere in that ballpark?

If so, you’re not way off base (alright, done with this) because happily, beer and wurst has had the baseball effect on the German language.  Take, for example:

An ihm ist Hopfen und Malz verloren
Hops and malt are lost on him = he doesn’t have a clue

Das ist nicht mein Bier
That’s not my beer = that’s not my cup of tea

Es ist mir Wurst
It’s sausage to me = it’s all the same to me

Seinen Senf dazugeben
To give his mustard = to put in his two cents

Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst
It’s about the sausage now = it’s do or die

In der Kürze liegt die Würze
Rick Steves translates this phrase this way: “In the shortness lies the tastiness” regarding the miniature Nuremberg sausages, but that’s an awkward translation, because really, who talks that way?  If you’re going to translate a colloquialism, translate it colloquially… so clearly:  “Boy howdy, these wee sausages pack a punch.”  (Incidentally, I also saw this phrase screen printed on a pair of men’s underwear in a tacky souvenir shop, which turned me off of the German language forever).

and the favorite of German professors everywhere:

Spiel nicht die beleidigte Leberwurst
Don’t play the offended liver sausage: don’t get your panties in a twist like I just did about a Rick Steves translation of a sausage saying.

The Very Beleidigte Leberwurst

Which leads us, ultimately, to this question at the intersection of food and baseball:

If the moon was made of spare ribs, wouldja eat it?

Denglish Dines and Bids Adieu


Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures.  Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest.  People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone.  A salad, they tell you.  But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.

-Laurie Colwin, Alone in the Kitchen with at Eggplant

This year is an experiment not only in living in Germany, but also in living alone.  Up to this point, I’ve been lucky enough to jump from parents to roommate to roommate, and so finding myself in an apartment all to myself in a foreign country was a bit of a shock to the system.  It has its perks, to be sure – I can cook and make mistakes without spoiling dinner for anyone but myself, no one gives a flip if I make deviled eggs for dinner and graham crackers with peanut butter and cinnamon for dessert, I can leave laundry on the ground to my heart’s content and listen to hokey folk music like it’s going out of fashion (or like it ever was in fashion) – but also, there’s a downside, like that time I made a sauce from a roux for the first time and immediately started crying into my plate because no one was around to care that I made a sauce from a roux.

Never before has my life so resembled generic and tasteless clip art. The box of tissues on the table is an especially nice - and accurate - touch.

 

Anyway, tears aside, here’s a few of the tastier concoctions that have been on my table lately (although I’m not giving you the secrets to my graham crackers with peanut butter; that one’s staying in the family):

  • Ginger-Honey Chicken Wings with Coconut Rice from Big Girls Small Kitchen – first time cooking meat, oh, since Joe was here.
  • Pad Thai from my man Mark Bittman – Beth and I made this in celebration of the new Asian grocery store that opened up in Bingen (so cosmopolitan!), but when we asked the grocer for rice noodles, he tried to give us a bag of noodles… shaped like rice.  We also made spring rolls… or spring wads, as they turned out to be.
  • Asparagus, Mint, and Lemon Risotto from Jamie Oliver – or variations thereof, as asparagus is still hard to come by.
  • Eggplant and Chickpea Baked Pasta, because when I’m at the grocery store, my mind works like this: “Oh, eggplant.  That looks good.  Oh, chickpeas.  I like those.  Hey, pasta, I want that.  Mm, cinnamon, that’s real tasty.”  And then I end up with a bag full of rhymeless, reasonless groceries.

While we’re on the topic of food, my old stomping grounds, the Special Collections Department at the U of A, just put out the first issue of their new journal, Arkansauce: The Journal of Arkansas Foodways.  Read the whole thing online, or write to dfworrel@uark.edu for a copy of your very own.

With that said, Denglish will be out of commission for the next week or two – I’m off to Berlin for a schmooze-based Fulbright conference, then to Copenhagen for herring, then a bff from back home is visiting.  That’s two weeks of having company with dinner; while elated, I hope I remember how to converse.

Denglish Dines and Also Goes to Parties

Life here can be so weird.

Half a year ago and half the world away, I entered my house back in Little Rock one final time to a surprise send-off party.  Then, out of pure shock, I promptly exited the house.  At any rate, the life of the party was not me, oh no, but Kyle, who attended from Connecticut via video chat.  He said he felt like a dismembered child, whose limbless, digital state necessitated that mom carry his face around when he wanted to move.  He was especially lucky in securing a spot right by the cheese dip, so he could watch family members catch Velveeta dripping off their Fritos all night long, the lucky dog.

Ol' Legless also acted as photographer for the night, thanks to Skype features.

But oh, how the turntables have turned.  Saturday night was my chance to act the part of skyped-in dismembered family member.  This weekend marked my dad’s 50th birthday, so naturally a running-themed surprise party complete with personalized water bottles and race bibs was in order, and I would, of course, be doing a great disservice to my readership if I failed to talk about it, seeing as the partygoers make up roughly all of my readership (for you stray passersby out there, 1) you’re lost, and 2) to understand this, you have to know that my dad runs.  A lot.  So much so that in my mind, running ten miles sounds like a walk in the park, even though I myself couldn’t manage half a mile if pressed).

Now was my time to shine as Skype photographer.

And I may have been legless, but I wasn’t useless.  As the aunts prepared the house for my dad’s arrival, I got to shout out directives like “Look for birthday candles in the drawer!  No, not that one!  No no!  The one over there!” while gesturing wildly, if futilely.  And then I got to look at my younger cousins’ tongues in great detail as they watched themselves make faces at the camera.  Luckily for me, I was situated not by the crock pot, as Kyle was, but by the drinks, which provided ample opportunity to sneak pictures of priceless moments like this, my grandma sporting a sweatband pouring herself a glass of blush:

and moments like this one, my grandpa tickling my cousin’s baby, who I haven’t even gotten to meet yet:


and of all the people I care about most having a perfectly good time:

and of the men in my life, which makes me so happy and seem so conspicuously absent:

Happy birthday, Dad!  Wish I could have been there.

But things go on here, and I continue to devise ways to amuse myself, which brings us to the second installment of Denglish Dines. As I mentioned earlier, my life here can be so weird, and that extends to food too.  I came home from school yesterday to find that I had no staples – no bread, no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no vegetables – nothing from which to throw together a normal meal.  But like heck I’m going to the grocery store, and so I was forced to fashion something out of the hodgepodge of ingredients I do have, which turned out to be a dinner that, if submitted to Allrecipes, I’d call “Lori’s Tropical Dream Curry” or some such.

So check it:

I never claimed to be a food photographer. Just a skype photographer.

Rice boiled with coconut milk, garlic, and ginger (inspired by this chickpea curry); curry sauce made with yogurt, more coconut milk, and cinnamon (just be sure to turn the heat down way low or it’ll curdle); fried garlic and ginger crisps (inspired by this fried rice), and mango slices cooked until tender and slightly brown (inspired by the mango that’s been hangin’ out in my crisper).  Aromatic, slightly sweet, with just a bit of crunch from the fried sprinkling of garlic.  Why I have coconut milk and mango but no eggs, I cannot explain.

Just another part of life being weird here, I guess.

Denglish Dines: The First Installment

As promised earlier this week, here’s my first edition of telling you what I’m eating on Wednesday nights, now officially titled “Denglish Dines” (a title not approved of by the boyfriend, who, when I ran the name by him, only whined “Lori, why does everything have to be alliterative with you?”  Dear, don’t dispute that my diction is downright my decision, and your dissension only makes me more determined).  Alternatively, depending on how you feel about alliteration, this could be titled, “Why I’m Not a Food Writer.”

So, Beth came over, which was a nice change from no one coming over ever, and we attempted a recipe found at The Pioneer Woman, Savory Tomato and Feta Crostata, which is fancy-speak for girly pizza.

Essentially, it’s  a flour and basil crust, filled with cottage cheese, feta, egg, and oregano, and topped with tomatoes “layered in concentric circles,” “concentric” obviously being the operative term.  It was mediocre, we both decided; better than the rice we enjoy every other night of the week, but not exactly the aromatic Mediterranean dish suggestive of Grecian sunshine and sea breezes we were hoping for.  The flavors just weren’t coaxed out to their full potential: the fresh basil in the crust was lost in a dusty poof of flour; the cheeses didn’t pack a punch.  “Needs onion,” I mumbled through a mouthful, but that’s not a critique unique to this recipe, it’s just what I say about most foods.

So much for "decoratively crimped edges."

By no means a failure, but my favorite bit may have been discovering that the only way to buy basil at my grocery store is in a little pot, so I walked the whole way back to my house with my nose buried in the basil pot.  So earthy!  So alive! So refreshing, like the first whiff upon walking into Ozark Natural Foods!  Such a world away from the cold, gray German winter, so suggestive of Grecian sunshine and sea breezes!

But, like all good things, my basil pot too had to come to an end, and a scraggily one at that.

Wait, did I say the best bit was the basil pot?  I take that back, for the best bit was watching Sense and Sensibility during the chilling/cooking/cooling periods this recipe calls for (what a diva a crust can be), and by “watching Sense and Sensibility,” I clearly mean googling pictures of the guy who plays Willoughby, because really.

I mean, really.

Also, he’s married to Emma Thompson, which makes me love her and hate her all the more.  They even met on the set.  I bet HE didn’t mind that Sense and Sensibility is alliterative.

Anyway, tonight’s recipe is found below, and remember, it’s best when served with an unseasonal fruit salad (I just couldn’t resist those strawberries), complemented with a markedly mediocre wine, and followed by a handful of cheap sugar wafers. Continue reading

Milestones and Idiomatic Mondays

Last night, something remarkable happened: at the stroke of midnight, my time in Germany reached its half-way point.  149 days gone, 149 to go.  I feel sort of obligated to reflect back in some meaningful way… but I’ve been keeping this blog precisely so I wouldn’t have to do that.  So instead…

I’m going to take this moment to introduce a few “featurettes” to Denglish: first, Idiomatic Mondays (I thought, very briefly, of calling them “Idiomanic Mondays,” but soon decided that inducing those groans just wasn’t worth the effort), in which I introduce a weekly German idiom/proverb/saying because nothing’s funnier than a direct translation of an idiom from a foreign language; and second, some yet-to-be-named Wednesday night recipe (all I can think of are strained alliterative titles like “Wednesday Whistle Wettin'” and “Hump Day Hash” which I like because it sounds vaguely dirty), because Beth and I have begun to cook together once a week because we’re both beginning to tire of eating rice alone in our rooms, night after night.  So, thought I might throw the recipes we try your way.  Sorry boys, they’ll be vegetarian.

So, to kick things off, a proverb that bridges the two, and which I like because my brother used to have a novelty tee with this phrase printed on it, it’s just that clever:

Man ist, was man isst.
(Man is what he eats.)

The funny thing here, though, is that the conjugated form to “to eat” (essen) is “isst” and the conjugated form of “to be” (sein) is “ist“, which, conveniently enough, sound identical… the joke, of course, is that when spoken, this proverb is simultaneously “Man is what he is” and “Man is what he eats.”  Out-punned, English language.

 

If this phrase held, I would look a little less "fresh-from-the-garden-y," and a little more Nutella-y.

Making Christmas

I’ve fought the Christmas post.  I have.  There’s no way to spin a Christmas post in a way that hasn’t been spun before: I’ve mentally written and rewritten, but by the end of it, I’m always either a Scrooge or a Buddy the Elf, heartlessly cynical or mindlessly feel-good.  Really, I feel myself to be more the father-in-A-Christmas-Story type – I like a good Christmas, but also, I’m in it for the turkey.  A nice medium.

But since I obviously have so far failed to channel this voice of reason (and besides, that particular voice has already used up the good lines. “Fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian”), I’m just going to take the path of least resistance, slap a title on this blog that could just as well be the title to a dysfunctional family Christmas comedy, and we’ll take the feel-good route.  So grab a cup of cider, hunker down in your one-horse open sleigh, and off we go!

Christmas has always retained an element of the Santa Claus.  Even after my parents sat me down and broke the news to me (a sad sort of milestone in any child’s life, but mine was sort of cutened up by my response: I cried and, through my tears, asked if Kyle knew), Christmas has always just sort of happened.  I buy a few gifts, I bake a few cookies, sure, but other than that, the chaotic family gatherings, the Christmas tree, the lights on the house, the parade of stop-motion Christmas specials on TV are all going to happen, irregardless of how much effort I exert to make sure that it all amounts to the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Santa Claus might as well drop presents down the chimney, for all I knew.

But then Christmas season started to roll around this year, and I realized with a sort of sinking feeling that the halls don’t deck themselves.  And with the arrival of a boyfriend impending, I felt, for the first time ever, the weight of making sure that Christmas feels like Christmas, an especially tough task when you can’t buy a tree, you have no capacity to bake a single gingerbread man, you’re not surrounded by family, and radio stations aren’t blaring “Last Christmas” at you like it hasn’t been out since 1984.

At first I thought it would be okay.  BFF Monica and her BF were going to fly in for a few days, and we imagined ourselves having some sort of sophisticated ex-pat X-mas, and I wouldn’t have to worry much about food because gastronomically speaking, the two of them make up for everything Joe and I lack.  And more importantly, I’d have someone here to share the blame with if Christmas just sort of didn’t show up to our dinner party, the floozy.

But then Monica’s visa application fell through, courtesy of the British Bureaucracy that Stole Christmas, and we were both left to tackle the Holidays on our own.

My Christmas spread out on my dining room table.

And I’ve tried my darndest to tackle them: I made a Christmas tree out of construction paper and glitter and set presents to my teachers underneath; I made the fried pecans my Grandpa makes every year (considering the still-charred kitchen ceiling in my parents’ kitchen, no small feat); I’ve prepared lessons on Christmas in America; I’ve searched for recipes that will amount to a memorable Christmas feast for two while still adhering to my strict two-burner policy; I’ve googled and googled for videos of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer to, as of yet, no avail; and if the radio won’t blast “Last Christmas” for me, I’ll do it myself, gosh darn it.

But then I found that, despite my determined, if forced, “Christmas! Will! Happen!” efforts… Christmas happened anyway.  Like cuckoo clockwork, it snowed the day after Thanksgiving, and Germany transformed into a giant gingerbread village, and the local Fulbrighters and I have, accordingly, been on a Christmas Market rampage

Lebkuchen at the market in Frankfurst

(current tally: 10, with at least 3 more in the foreseeable future).  As if this town couldn’t get any cuter, I was handed a piece of chocolate at the post office when I sent off a post card.  Advent wreaths and calendars and concerts have been springing up, and lebkuchen has been making a regular appearance in the teachers’ lounge.  My parents sent over some presents  to make sure I’d have something to open on Christmas Day, a gesture that made me tear up, and one student, when asked what he’s wishing for this Christmas, said “A laptop and more of those pecans.”  Joe insists that this Christmas will be a memorable one even without family/traditions/gift exchange, because we’ll be together, and, you know, in Germany.  And come to find out, Germans love “Last Christmas.”

Frankfurt

And if I can’t be around family this Christmas, that’s the best I could ask for (neverminding the Monica’s visa bit): a beautiful and bauble-bedecked area, a family to miss this Christmas, a boyfriend coming to spend the holidays with me.

And now feel free to cue to the final scene of any Christmas movie ever made.

Over the Fluss and Through the Wald

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany?  Or even more pressing, what is Germany thinking in not having Thanksgiving?  Sure, sure, Germany doesn’t have the tale of pilgrims-meet-indians-and-flourish-in-a-short-lived-but-heartwarming-coexistence, but surely it sees value in eating yourself into a gravy-induced stupor, the only coherent words coming from you at this point being “Well maybe one more sliver a pie’ll do me.” Which brings me to this: What is Germany thinking in not having pie?

Luckily for me, Thanksgiving wasn’t too hard to procure.  The Fulbright Alumni Association in Frankfurt hosts an “American style” Thanksgiving every year, featuring a whole turkey for every table!  And they tried.  They did.  All the components were there: the sweet potatoes, just served in boiled wedges, not mashed with brown sugar and pecans.  The stuffing, they just had the nerve to not serve my grandma’s.  The green beans, just served mixed with herbs and cauliflower rather than with the subtle compliments of cream of mushroom

Fulbright Thanksgiving, which pales in comparison to my family's Thanksgiving, as indicated by the poor lighting, poor photo editing, and not-quite-appetizing coloring of this photograph.

soup and fried onions.  The mashed potatoes, except… okay, here’s where they really missed the mark.  All of these sides came out in small-ish bowls, and we helped ourselves family-style.  When they brought out the mashed potatoes, Beth leaned in to me and whispered, “Wait, we each get our own bowl, right?”  No such luck.  The bottom layer of my plate was decidedly not mostly mashed potato.

Really though, it was wonderful that the Fulbright Association hosted this meal: it is, in a microcosmic sort of way, indicative of what this year has meant to me.  Living abroad is, by default, the cultural exchange J.W. Fulbright wanted this program to be; every day involves some amount of reassessing what I’m used to in America, and seeking some way of making it work here, if not foregoing it completely, or conversely, improving upon it.  A car?  I’ll make do with a bike.  It’s my American life, Germanized, as this dinner was an American dinner, Germanized – and when it comes down to it, I’m of the mind that pre-dessert schnapps wouldn’t be a bad tradition to implement in my own future Thanksgiving feasts.

But, appreciative as we were, we American Teaching Assistants were not to be satiated by a German attempt at our favorite meal; lacking a proper feast, we would do it ourselves, and this time, it will be smothered in gravy and bound by cheesy sauces, and there will be a regulation amount of mashed potatoes.  So, we did just that, and I’m quite impressed by our resourcefulness.  We deviled

A Thanksgiving plate with all the fixins' properly piled

our eggs, we stuffed our mushrooms, we made made rather than open a can made cranberry sauce (a revelation), we had Stove Top stuffing compliments of Joe and the postal service (which still had the nerve to not be my grandma’s), we topped our green beans with fried onions.  And it was delicious.  There’s that sense of comraderie I’d been missing, as we ate until we all slumped in our seats, and as we took a walk around Bingen, and as we went back to Beth’s for seconds.

That sense of comraderie was negated the next morning, when I got up at 4 in the morning, expecting to hit up some sweet deals at the Kaufhaus, and maybe hit a few Bingeners in a struggle for the last half-priced souvenir bierstein.  Imagine my disappointment to find they don’t celebrate Schwarzer Freitag here, either.

So that, I suppose, takes me to where every Thanksgiving blog should wind up: a list of what I’m thankful for this year (please excuse my sap).

  1. Thanksgiving.  What a wonderful concept for a holiday, which I take for granted when I’m stateside.
  2. America, which I also take for granted when I’m stateside.
  3. A fantastic group of Fulbrighters here, if their willingness to come together and transport casseroles and cookie doughs via train for a Thanksgiving dinner isn’t indication enough of how fantastic they are.
  4. A fantastic group of friends back home, who make the thought of getting back to America that much more attractive.
  5. A wonderful family and a best friend of a brother; sometimes I can’t believe my luck in winding up with them.
  6. A boyfriend who ships me Stove Top and who didn’t bat an eye when I told him I’d be leaving for a year, and who hopefully sticks with me despite being stuck at a measly number 6 on the “What I’m Thankful For” list.
  7. This experience, which has given me a chance to live in a beautiful part of the world, experience things in a new way, meet new people, develop new skills, and reinforce that this is not what I want to do or where I want to live forever.  I love it, but I am incredibly thankful that this year has not brought up some identity crisis I’d have to struggle with; instead, I only feel more strongly that library science is the route I want to take – and having some sort of rough outline of the future, even if this isn’t it, is definitely something to be thankful for.
  8. You, for reading.  Thanks for taking some interest in my year.

Happy Turkey Sandwich Week.  That bit, at least, I don’t miss.