Fan That Whines

It’s hot. In Hamburg. That’s why it’s news. Yesterday it was over 36 degrees and this morning when I woke up it was still 26. Here’s how it goes down in Hamburg when it’s hot.

  • You see a lot of people wearing pantyhose/nylons under short shorts. The wearers must think that it is impossible for Hamburg to get hot enough to justify bare legs, or they’ve made the modest choice in the comfort vs. modesty department, or they know something about nylons that I don’t (like that actually when the nylons get hot enough to melt they produce a lovely evaporative cooling effect?) I’m sure that there’s some more modern word for nylons, but I haven’t thought about them since 1992 so I don’t know what it is.
  • Tobias and I have an ongoing conversation about whether or not the baby is getting sunburned. I flutter around shading her hands with my shadow and turning her srtoller away from the sun at every stop light, Tobias points out that after 7 hours outside yesterday, including a swim outside at noon, the babe isn’t even a tiny bit pink.
  • Our new fan starts making a high-pitched whining noise after two days of use. WTF, FTW?
  • The professional cyclists who race in yesterday’s 250+ kilometer bike race get WAY too close to their support cars as they are handed replacement bottles of water through the window. Tobias assures me that this is normal. I say it’s not normal, not the hairless sinewy legs, nor the full-body white Lycra, nor calmly riding 2 feet away from a car while travelling 40 kph.
  • We realize that we don’t have a dinner plan at 9:00 pm, so we throw together some gazpacho that is awesome even though I forgot both the garlic and the red onion. We agree that turning on the stove to heat water to peel tomatoes* is folly, and throw the tomatoes whole into the food processor instead. Here’s a quick recipe for super fast* gazpacho:
-a bowl of tomatoes, preferably a mix of types
-one red pepper, diced fine
-one cucumber, diced fine
-the inner ribs and leaves of celery, diced fine*
-2 Tablespoons of your best vinegar (balsamic, white whine, red wine, sherry, apple cider, you name it.)
-2 Tablespoons of your second-best vinegar or lemon or lime juice
-1 heaping teaspoon of sea salt or 1 scant teaspoon of table salt
-lots of black pepper
-1/4 cup or so of olive oil
To make: put the tomatoes in the food processor and process until mostly smooth but with lots of recognizable bits remaining. Pour the tomatoes in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and eat one serving, refrigerate the remainder. As you eat the leftover gazpacho over the next days, tinker with the mix until it’s exactly how you like it. Some things to add as you go along:
-bread crumbs or big crunchy croutons*
-garlic, or chopped garlic mashed with a boiled egg
-finely diced red onion
-worcestershire or steak sauce*
-slices of fresh mozzerella* (this is fantastic if you use the kind that’s packed in water and made with bufallo milk.)
-basil, oregano, parsley, etc.
I love that the first bowl tastes so good – it’s refreshing and light and cool – and that the next bowls taste like they’re getting close to perfection. Ah, summer.

*oh, were you looking for an authentic gazpacho recipe? Lo siento. Here I have thoughtfully indicated the cues that show you the inauthenticity of this recipe. Omit the celery, the croutons, and any sauces containing both fish and raisins**. Also, you’ll want to peel your tomatos, add more like a half cup of olive oil, and then spend hours fiddling with the seasonings before realizing that there’s just too much vinegar. Too bad you can’t even it out with sugar, that would be inauthentic to el maximo.

**looked at the ingredients of your steak sauce lately?

For Nan and George and Whoever Else Needs It

Turns out that Cracklin’ Oat Bran has more sugar per serving than Cocoa Puffs, more than Cap’n Crunch, more than Fruit Loops. Instead, here’s a pop song to brighten your day. It’s by a long-ago Austin band called the Defrockers and it’s called She Rocks, and it’s located on myspace music here:

I think that my sister is the keeper of one of their last living CDs, so I was especially pleased to find some of their music through google. She Rocks is a favorite song mainly because the beat, well, rocks, and the chorus is, um, compelling. There are some lyrical gems, too. About two minutes in, Fitz says the following:

I knew her in sixth grade, and seventh and eighth.

Got the nerve around high school to ask for a date.

But she’s a cheerleader, hangin’ out with the jocks.

And I was a loner, hangin’ out with the stoners but when she walked by my locker, god, she rocks.

She Rocks.




p.s. I just played this song for the baby about eight times and she LOVES it. Yay.

p.p.s. Fitz, who is a total joy, and I used to work together as short order cooks at a place with pretty good burgers (now also defunct.) This time together was made memorable by Fritz’ singing, my inability to convince him that the name Defrockers was funny because of the inclusion of the work frock (Betsy: You’re ladykillers, right? You’re De-Frock-ers! Get it? Fritz: No.,) and because our other coworker, Andy, used to dip his hand in the onion ring batter and then in the deep fryer. Wonder what he’s up to now?

A Solution to the Solution

After two years of splitting time between the States and Germany, the scales have finally tipped: for the last year, I’ve been in Germany 90% of the time. This has done wonders for my sense of direction here in Hamburg, and has helped my German considerably, but there are some side effects. I’ve had what I’m pretty sure is a really bad haircut for most of the last year, but I don’t have access to my usual touchstones with which to compare (i.e. is someone in Austin, Texas wearing my haircut ironically? If so, my haircut is bad.) My familiarity with American customs is slipping away. Let’s play…

Only in Germany

how to play: read through the list below, and tell me if they do things the same way in America

  • Dremel Pedicure – during the foot-buffing stage of a pedicure here in Hamburg, the technician brings out a suitcase-sized machine with various cords and attachments. The device is basically a rotating grinder with various grits, and is used to grind down your foot calluses. (If they’re in the same league as mine, they’ll get very hot during this process.) It only takes a minute, the cloud of smoke/dead skin isn’t too noticeable, and it is certainly easier for the pedicurist than any other method I’ve seen. The first time it happened I thought that I’d just lucked onto an enterprising salon that found a clever way to defray the cost of its woodworking hobby, but the dremel technique has been used at every salon I’ve been to since. Has anyone else had this happen? Or are these salons just keeping machinery on hand in case me and my centimeter-thick calluses happen along?
  • Naked Waxing – You’re about to come under the impression that I spend a lot of time in spas. I do, but only once or twice per year, and only then because it takes so long to tame my eyebrows. At the waxing salon here, you are laid out on a table under a bright fluorescent light like you’re at the morgue, and, like a stiff in their compartment at said morgue, you are completely naked. This makes tremendous sense when it comes to not getting wax on your clothes, but it’s the first time in my waxing history that a modesty towel (or sheet) hasn’t been employed – one salon I went to in the States actually offered a disposable paper thong. Is naked waxing a new worldwide trend? Is it only in Germany? Or, god forbid, did I just misunderstand the instructions? 
  • Alternatives to  Choking – Heimlich is a German word, and yet the Heimlich Maneuver is not practiced in Germany. I was baffled to learn that vast stretches of time in the fifth grade here are not dedicated to teaching kids how to be heroes in the event that they come across someone who is a) choking and b) small enough that a fifth grader’s arms can reach around them. Was all of that training worth it? Have you ever used the Heimlich? Is it safe for me to raise a family in a country where no one is familiar with this simple lifesaving technique? Or is choking actually just an American problem? If so, how American do you have to be to be a choking hazard? Is little half-German Frida out of the woods? 
The United States and Germany are thousands of miles apart, they were on opposing sides of a war not that long ago, and they have different languages and systems of government. It’s not surprising that there would be some cultural differences, but little inconsistencies like the ones above seem all the more crazy when I look down the cereal row at the local German grocery store and see a wall of Special K. I need to take my cultural ambassador duties a little more seriously. Think of it: my legacy in Germany could be the introduction of Cracklin’ Oat Bran! No more dry-ass flakes of diet cereal for you, fiber-conscious Germans! Soon, you will be treated to sweet, crunchy nuggets so tasty that they don’t even need milk*!
*Warning: tossing back handfuls of dry Cracklin’ Oat Bran may be a choking hazard.