During a lovely catch-up phone session with Sarah, she requested that I write here about my love for butter. Although I do love butter, when I peel the paper off of a fresh stick I tend to think, not of my fondness for Sarah, with whom I have sacrificed many a pound of butter, but rather of how badly I need to send all of my tank tops, bikinis and short shorts to Goodwill. So, rather than celebrate that which has consigned my upper arms to, at the very least, cap sleeves, I will post a recipe for Sarah’s special salad dressing.
Mince one clove of garlic very finely*, place in a jar with a teaspoon or so of sugar and a big pinch of salt. Add enough good balsamic vinegar to make you try to remember how much you paid for the entire bottle, and how much of it you’re using now. Add dijon mustard with carefree abandon. Give it a good shake, and add 1/4 cup of olive oil (and if you Rachel Ray watchers automatically think, ‘EVOO, ya know, Extra Virgin Olive Oil!’, try to pry yourselves away from the TV long enough to practice saying either EVOO or Extra Virgin Olive Oil rather than both in succession.)
Mince up any herbs you have on hand, especially basil, and add them to the jar. Now shake it up for a few minutes, and use that time to remember the people that you love, that you’ve eaten many happy meals with, who are far away from you now but who might be really glad to hear from you even if you’ll spend your time on the phone with them poring over the details of your last few meals.
*of course I mean very finely. Wear your Sunday best and a fancy hat! Use excruciatingly correct posture! Keep up the standards in your kitchen! Mince very finely!
Today I left the house to get some coffee, stretch my legs, eat some lunch, do some work in a new setting, support local business, and increase my chances of running into people I like. I can do all of these at Bouldin Creek Coffehouse, so I went there. Sure as hell, as soon as I walked in I saw Becca-the-awesome deep in a meeting with other community activists, plotting the health and wellness of area teens. Hurrah!
I ordered my excellent coffee along with the best restaurant lunch ever: a spicy mix of red and black beans served over romaine lettuce with tomatoes, onions, pickled jalapenos and shredded cheddar on top, with some surprisingly good vegan cornbread on the side.
Hey, Austin! Thanks for reminding me that I love you, too.
p.s. Colorado, my next post would be about your beautiful mountains, clear air, sunshine and the incredible food produced in Olathe, but you just allowed your football team to draft Tim fucking Tebow. Are you kidding me with that shit, Colorado? No post for you!
One of the movies on the plane over was the Blues Brothers.
I got to go up in a huge windmill. It’s 130 metres tall! It had a series of tiny elevators to take you to the top. Once you got there you could feel the top moving in the wind. The fan/propeller/whatever blades were 50 metres long. The windmill produces enough power for 5,000 German households! It was so, so cool. And huge.
The window casements are really tight here. It makes things feel cozy and is good for reducing energy consumption.
The standard glass window and door setup involves a handle that locks the door when turned down, allows the door or window to open fully (with the hinge at the side) when horizontal, and when rotated upwards allows the door or window to open partially with the hinge at the bottom. Again, so cool.
There are approx seventy billion new cars parked in Bremerhaven awaiting shipment from the commercial harbor here. You know how when you say a word over and over it loses its meaning? When you drive by thousands of them in a row, BMW SUVs start to look like roaches.
It’s refreshing to see so may fit older people. Lots of fogeys are out and about riding bikes! Slowly, yes, but I think that lends a more dignified air.
The money is pretty.
The German word for cell phone is ‘handy’. Oh, it makes me laugh.
When you have a minor health emergency, you call a number and the doctor comes to your house to care for you. When pharmacies close for the night, they post the location and number of area pharmacies that are still open. So very helpful!
People typically remove their shoes inside their houses, but it’s a fairly cold climate. This, along with an overall tendency towards formality, means that people wear formal house slippers. Some are made from dark blue felt, some are like moccasins but darker, there were all kinds. I instead wore socks because on this trip I brought salsa and Mexican hot chocolate instead of slippers, which was fine until I stayed at the home of someone who wore shiny alligator slippers. Luckily, this person had a fine supply of guest slippers.
Which brings me to one of my favorite things (besides the lovely people, delicious food, beautiful scenery, thoughtful planning for social welfare, well-built and architecturally handsome buildings, sense of history, candid-yet-respectful conversation, etc.): a lot of ladies here have pretty big feet, AND they share my taste in shoes! Never before have I seen, borrowed, bought or envied so many pairs of quirky, comfortable size 42s! Germany is shoe heaven!
While I tend to think that milk products are better matched with tea and honey, bread and mustard, or Rotel’s hot tomatoes than with fish, there is one recipe that I like. It’s delicious, nutritious, easy, and tastes kind of special even though the ingredients are pretty tame. AND IT’S FUN TO SAY!! Say it with me, people, MATJES HERRING! The emphasis is on the first syllable, the J is pronounced like a Y, and the pronunciation of the RR is a complete free-for-all: the very nice lady at the fish counter understood me even though I got nervous and rolled the rr in a Spanish way. The German way is to get the rr halfway swallowed and then pronounce it. I can’t quite get it right, but herring is a fun word to practice on because the word travels around in your mouth: the first part of the word goes down the gullet, and the second part comes right back up. OK, so, now that we’re all nice and hungry:
Matjes Herring in Cream Sauce
-sour cream and/or creme fraiche, about a pint altogether,
-peeled sweet apple in big dice
-chopped onion, rinsed if it’s very strong, in strips
-either big hunks of cornichon or some capers,
-lots of black pepper, a bit of honey and some mustard,
-filets of pickled herring, preferably the fresh kind that’s not too salty, cut into bite-sized pieces
mix the above together (it can stay in the fridge for a day at this point,) serve atop
-hot hot boiled potatoes.
The sauce starts out quite stiff, and then gets liquidy when it’s on the potatoes. The herring is surprisingly melty, and the apple, onion and pickle are nicely crunchy. It’s delicious!
p.s. I was going to tell you all about the specs for the size of the apple and onion chunks, but I have exhausted my supply of jokes about German engineering. Just make them kind of biggish.
I’ve been driving around Bremerhaven today to get ingredients for tonight’s special Bremerhavian dinner (and, yes, the shopping list includes potatoes. And fish.) Because my driving skills are completely awesome and barely take any attention, I am trying to learn German whilst driving. Because my language-tutorial-acquisition skills are not awesome at all, I am teaching myself German via the medium of German public radio. I’m hoping that I will come out with a beautifully clear, not-too-fruity accent that cannot be tied to a specific region of the country. Hahahaha. In the meantime, I’m trying to listen enough to sort out where words begin and end. Some words are already familiar enough for me to recognize! Words like Deutsch and Obama.
I continued this listening practice in the grocery store, where it is called “eavesdropping”. Imagine my excitement when I heard someone say Brod, the German word for bread, while in the bakery section! Wow, I felt like I was really getting the hang of things! OK, now imagine my excitement when, in the toothpaste aisle, I heard someone very clearly say Fleischsalat. I about fell over. Is there fleshmeatsalad-flavored toothpaste? Or did I happen upon another person who says fleischsalat over and over because it’s so much fun to say? What were those words that surrounded the fleischsalat? …which brings us to today’s game:
The Words Around the FleischSalat
how to play: decide which of the following is the most likely scenario, and then, like me, live the rest of your life not knowing what was actually said.
a.) My meatsalad has a first name, it’s F-L-E-I-isch. My meatsalad has a surname, it’s S-A-L-A-T…
b.) Did you hear about the tourist who died from eating expired fleischsalat? Did they not know that dates are written Day/Month/Year? Did they not understand that this system for writing dates is perfect and that no other way is logical?
c.) Mmmm…fleischsalat. Fleischey McFleischsalat. The Fleischsalatinator. Fleischelsteinerhosen. Saaaaalaaaaaat. Salat. Slt. Saaalaaat. etc.
So… tonight I am cooking dinner for eleven Germans. Ten of them I have not yet met. Here is what they will know about me after tonight’s dinner:
-I make bouillabase without fennel and without saffron and without fish stock (apparently my grocery list wasn’t as clear as it could have been and it’s Good Friday in a country where church and state are firmly not separated, so the goddamned gas stations are closed never mind the saffron-and-fennel stores.)
-I swear, even on Good Friday.
-I wear a combination of dirty and wet clothes (did you know that Germans don’t routinely have clothes dryers in their homes? Me neither!)
-I know very few words in German other than the words fleisch (meat), salat (salad), and fleischsalat (you guessed it, and it’s my very favorite.)
-Of all of the wonderful inventions American ingenuity has produced, including electricity, the internal combustion engine, and super awesome movie stars, for my guest’s dining pleasure I am someone who smuggles in Peeps.
I think that’s enough for one evening, don’t you?
Epilogue: Dinner was tons of fun, the Germans were patient, kind and funny, and the soup was saved by the addition of nearly a full bottle of sprightly white wine and a good dose of salt. The Peeps were a big hit with the one child in attendance. Her comment can, I think, be roughly translated to “Mmmm. These taste like evil! How many of these can I eat before I have kidney failure and diabetes?”
If you think too much about what an egg really is, you won’t want to eat it anymore. Somewhere in the egg is the blueprint for a beak along with all of the proteins and fat it needs to build one. The same is true for feathers. Where do those instructions for beaks and feathers go when I eat the egg?
There’s not enough queso in the world to make that thought taste good.