Last week, I came home from the excellent farmer’s market, unpacked my groceries, and started cleaning produce. I removed green beans from their environmentally- and also bean-friendly paper cone, noticed that each bean was facing the same fucking direction, every last one of them, and I thought, ‘I don’t belong here.’
It was a rough week on the Betsy vs. Germany front.
This week, though, the market redeemed itself with a display choreagraphed to let me know that northern Germany, even in the dark doldrums of winter, wants me here. To wit:
- the excellent spice stand had just received, in addition to boughs of laurel with cascades of fragrant bay leaves and cleverly braided rosemary wreathes, entire branches of pink peppercorns. I brought home one branch with approximately three hundred peppercorns on it. They are pretty to look at and fiery hot. I think I will pack some in brine for holiday presents. Right now they are in a big vase with last month’s 100+ bay leaves. Beautiful.
- although most of the stalls at the market feature produce, meat, seafood, and cheese for consumption at home, there are a few stands that function as open-air cafes. My favorite is a stall that makes fresh juice and hot or cold soups. Their borscht is excellent, as is their tomato soup. When you order a juice, they ask if you want small or large, and they squeeze it fresh for you, but there is no decision to be made about the contents. You will be getting a carrot, apple, beet, ginger, and lemon mixture, and it is perfect. Although I typically bristle at the creativity-thwarting predetermination of life in Germany, this juice is the bomba and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
- and speaking of bristles, there’s a great little brushmaker that has beautiful little nail brushes and hair brushes and shoe brushes made out of boar bristles. I got some for Tobias for Xmas (shhhh!), and I love that they’re so grandfatherly. They will go well with his astonishingly fresh-smelling aftershave. (Sidenote – I sleep later than Tobias, who is often at work before I wake up. His morning ablutions are thorough, and often coincide with Frida’s first waking. He attends to her needs, then deposits her in bed with me until real morning starts around 9:00. When Frida and I get up, the top of her head often smells like his aftershave because she rests her head on his chin during their morning snuggle. Awww. When she was tiny, she used to sleep with her head in my armpit, which produced a somewhat similar effect. Somewhat similar. Somewhat.)
- and speaking of boars, one of the butcher stands at the market featured a real live butcher cutting up a whole wild boar. It had been skinned and gutted, and he was just removing the first shoulder when I happened by. He cut some bones and stew meat from the neck for the man in front of me, halved the shoulder for me, and told another customer to come back in 10 minutes for some ribs. He asked if we were going to use the meat over the weekend, offering to vaccuum-seal it on the spot if so. He was clearly professional (butcher-while-you-wait service, in clear view of the German populace, is NOT the time for Amateur Night,) and made clean cuts without thinking twice about where joints were. For his knowledge of anatomy, for the sharpness of his knife, and for the finished product, I give him an A+. For infection control, I give him a D: he cut the shoulder up as requested, put it in a plastic bag, handed me the bag, took my money, gave me change, and started to cut the ribs. What’s grosser, meat hands on your money or money hands on your meat?
- The butcher always wants to give Frida a little sausage to munch on as we shop, the lady at our favorite veggie stand gives her a fresh carrot, the sweet man who works at the French deli always gives her a beautiful little brioche, and the ladies at the handmade candy shop put an extra licorice in the bag for her. I don’t let her eat any of these items (choking hazards, egg-white allergens, nitrites, and tooth decay, oh, my!), which brings me my commuppance:
I shouldn’t be so easily offended by how aggressively well-organized my produce is. I have some control issues, too. I’m just very lucky to be able to allocate my time to washing my hands and preventing Frida from choking and exposure to egg whites/nitrites/sugar rather than to lining up individual green beans.
As if Hamburg is saying ‘good job, grasshopper, you have realized your nature and are now at peace with your world,’ it has been snowing heavily for the last hour and has turned dark, gloomy winter into sparkly, fun winter. Hurrah!
Amended to add: I just realized that the image I had of someone arranging green beans is all wrong. The beans didn’t need arranging; they were probably never out of order in the first place! Growing to harvesting to market to me, they all lined up perfectly until I dumped them in the sink!