Germany Questions That I Keep Forgetting to Ask

Why are the egg yolks so yellow?
Are we sure it’s safe to serve sushi at room temperature?
How do I tell if unpasteurized cheese is rotten?
Why are Levis so expensive here?
How are there no bike wrecks with so many bikes?
Why is there no mold when it’s so damp?
Can I really park on the sidewalk?
If France is that close, why don’t we go there every day?
Why can’t I find sauerkraut at the grocery?
…and one that I won’t ask, but will wonder about eternally…
Why is the word ‘Deutchbag’ so funny?


One nice thing about not speaking the language is that YOU can decide what things really mean without the inconvenience of truth and accuracy. The German word Suppe – does it mean Supper? Super? Soup? Ooh, maybe all three! Here are the two soups I made last night. They were souper!

The One With Beans
-2# of dry Anasazi beans, picked over, washed and soaked for four hours in hot water, then simmered with plain water until falling apart
-2 big pieces of speck (bacon), cut into tiny cubes and browned
-1 big sweet onion and 6 cloves of garlic, sauteed in the speck pan
Add the bacon and onion mixture to the beans, along with:
-a can of tomato paste
-a huge handful of chile powder
-the zest of an orange
-the finely chopped stems of one bunch of cilantro
-a tablespoon or so of salt and about a teaspoon of pepper
Simmer for 15 minutes or so, then stir in the juice of one orange and one tangerine if you have one. Mash some of the beans up so that the texture is mostly creamy with a few whole beans.
Serve with fresh cilantro leaves.

The One with Beets
Sautee an onion and some garlic in some olive oil (if you’re lazy, and/or efficient, you can do this in the pan you cooked the bacon in.) Deglaze the pan with about a cup of dry white wine. Add:
-2 cups of fresh pumpkin in bite-sized chunks
-4 beets, also in bite-sized chunks
-3 parsnips, ditto
-grated fresh ginger, about a teaspoon
-the stems and greens from the beets, cut into pretty tiny pieces
-a teaspoon or so of szechuan peppercorns
-4-5 cups of water with two cubes of chicken stock stuff (I can’t remember what this is called in Engrish – poultry cubes? Chicken granules? It’s the stuff in the yellow and green box that you can use when you don’t have any chicken stock. I found an acceptable substitute called Tavuk Suyu, packaged in neither English nor German but some other language with a different alphabet, made by a company called… wait for it… Bizim Mutfak. I’m pretty sure that Bizim Mutfak is a really bad swear word. It sure sounds like it when you say it out loud.)
Simmer this just until the beets are tender, and serve, if you’re in the vitamin-starved state that I apparently was, with a side of spinach.

These soups were very nice together – the orange in the beans went well with the ginger in the beets. Good thing, because that’s what I ate for breakfast and likely what I’ll be having for lunch.
I went a little bezerk in the produce shop yesterday, so tonight I’m going to make brocolli soup and a zuchinni/squash gratin. With a side of yams.
After all of this, my insides will be all the colors of the rainbow and I will be able to see atoms rearranging themselves in the dark.

OMG! Collarbones!

Things that are not fattening:
-being too lazy to walk down five flights of stairs to get groceries
-asking for the menu, being asked ‘Klein oder grosse?’, saying, ‘Um…klein?’ (and thinking, what the hell, they have small and large menus here? I didn’t know that! Oh, wait, maybe she misunderstood…), and being brought a small glass of wine instead that you clearly won’t drink because it’s 10 am on a workday.
-self-banishment from the downstairs restaurant because not only do they think you’re a wino, they think you’re a conflicted wino because you ordered a glass of wine at 10 am and then left it full on the table.
-meusli, apparently, because it’s what I’m left with and I’m shrinking down to a nub.
Thank God it’s the weekend! T and I are going to eat and eat and eat, and then we’re going to have ice cream.

On the off-off chance that this will totally impress you, I would like to point out that I brought Tobias a selection of tasty, attractively packaged food substitute product bars from the U.S. [because a) I thought that it would be funny, what with his love for meusli, to addict him to high fructose corn syrup, and b) the man is whippet-thin, and I think that part of the reason is that he forgets to eat during the day] and I have yet to crack into his new stash of Tiger’s Milk, Mojo, or Clif bars. I guess I’m really not that hungry.

Worth It

You know how sometimes you hear a rap song and suddenly you get the feeling that you’re really cool? Like you should be in slow motion, wearing huge sunglasses, and nodding knowlingly in time to the music, even though you’re in your car on the way to the grocery and people can totally see you. I had an experience lately that is the oh-my-God-I’m-a-selfish-bitch! crappy equivalent of that good rap feeling: I made my taxi driver wait on the curb while I ate delicious noodles on a ride between LaGuardia and Newark ariports.
Here’s why I’m that kind of asshole:
-I had the time: a 9-hour layover.
-the noodles were made right there! The restaurant was a hole in the wall with three tables and a marble slab. The noodle-maker cut off a hunk of dough, slapped it for awhile on the slab, rolled it into a rope, and then pulled it, laced it through his fingers, pulled it some more, and viola! It was noodles! He cut them off, dropped them into a bowl of soup, and brought it to my table. Was I impressed? I could barely close my mouth enough to chew. He was so smooth, so expert, that I’m still wondering how it feels to be that good at something. Cool.
-it was in Chinatown, which is kind of on the way.
-it was totally the taxi driver’s idea. We were talking about how hungry I was (‘we’, obviously, in the looser sense of the word,) and he mentioned his favorite noodle place. I asked what the name was, he said there wasn’t one, I said oh, that sounds just perfect, and he said I think you’ll like it if you have time. Sold.

I don’t think that it’s possible, even in the face of being that person who makes her driver circle the block while she has one more dumpling, to ignore the nameless restaurant recommendation of ones cab driver.
As a palate cleanser, and to regain some measure of respect in your eyes, may I recommend Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Hypnotize’.


Here ye, here ye, I have an announcement: paper money in different colors is tons of fun! It feels weird and crispy, it has pretty pictures and a shiny metallic emblem in one corner, and it can actually buy delicious things. I went to ye olde wine shop today, traded in a few crinkly bills (complete with different sizes for different denominations,) and walked out with a tremendous 93 bordeaux! The wine merchant, obviously impressed with my ability to say, in German, ‘Excuse me. Do you speak English?’, asked for a price range. When I tried to quote Pretty Woman to him (you know, the part where she tries to go shopping and gets shot down and comes back to the hotel with wads of cash to find the most helpful concierge ever who then teaches her the correct fork,) we both coughed politely and moved on… to the ridiculously-expensive-for-Europe bordeaux section.
You can buy a good, rich, expressive mid-range cab/merlot here for less than 5 of the big coins. Sidenote – let’s remember how good Canada is to us: Looneys and Tooneys, anyone?
You can buy a day-if-not-life-altering, changes-with-every-sip, oh-I-could-smell-this-smell-forever, why-don’t-they-make-lipstick-this-color, what-dinner?-I’m-not-really-hungry-let’s-just-have-cheese cab/merlot for 15 Euro.
For 32.61 Euro, I tasted something that gave me a swooping feeling. It made me greedy and carefree at the same time. It was all of the fruits of the world, plus the earth itself, and the spires of cathedrals and the world’s greatest yawn/stretch. It is, I realize, a bit indecorous to be speaking about alcohol this way (I should reserve these feelings for the joy that giving to Doctors Without Borders brings,) but hallelujah that something, anything, tastes this damn good.
And all in exchange for some dirty paper Euro that wasn’t even a twinkle in its mother’s eye 30 years ago! Europe, I don’t know what the P or the E stands for, but sometimes I love you.

What, No Hamburgers?

Hamburg, my love for you just got kicked in the gut. It took a knee to the cheekbone on its way down, and now it’s sprawled on the street, spitting out teeth and trying to to stop puking so it can breathe.

It’s one thing to piss in my face with your daily rain, I have an umbrella and a sun-lamp; I can take that.
It’s one thing to schedule reggae shows exactly on the days that I will not be in town; my man at the record shop around the corner gives me the hookup on gems from Jamaica and New York that are better than your stupid ‘Holla, Hamburg!’ shows anyway. (A German accent layered over the word ‘Irie’ is completely unbecoming. Completely. It gives me chills.)

But it’s another thing to serve me, in my favorite cafe where the server and I have finally begun discussing something more than the weather, a slice of fig, bacon and rosemary quiche with the old Hamburg surprise in it. You knew what was coming, Hamburg, and you watched that surprise wind up and let rip, and you heard my ‘oof’ and you watched me try not to cry long enough to pay the bill. You knew, you slimy bastard, that that quiche had potatos in it. Damn you, Hamburg, and your fucking potatos.

So now, my love for Hamburg is sitting up and wondering what the hell happened. It has a headache that will last for most of the week, and it won’t be able to find a dentist that takes its insurance to fix its broken teeth. In a few weeks, its clothes might not fit anymore, its skin might look ashy underneath its freckles, and it might get new lines around its mouth that make it look older than it really is. Hamburg, it’s up to you. Either you give me brand new ways to like celery root, a core-shaking display of contemporary art (preferably including sculpture,) and a smile from a stranger at least weekly, or the love dies. Got it?

p.s. the accordian that plays from 2-10 pm right below my window is no longer charming. Quite the opposite.


As it turns out, I love Wynonna Judd. I don’t know if I always have and just forgot, or if I fell in love with her when she said, after singing a Merle Haggard song containing the line, ‘freedom ain’t free’ at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival and receiving a mildly enthusiastic response, “Oh, come ON, people, I just said the words ‘flag’ and ‘America’! That’s all you’ve got?” Then she laughed and went on to some great bluesy number that her mom would just hate.

George ate seven ears of corn at the festival, I ate five, and we never even broke into the butter/salt tables because the corn was delicious by itself. It goes through a gas-powered roaster unshucked and comes out perfectly: steaming hot, a little nutty from the burnt silks, and tender but with kernels that burst when you bite them.

Good News/Bad News

Bad News:
Apparently the worldwide eel population is catastrophically low, and we won’t be eating eel for much longer.
Good news:
At a terrific sustainable sushi place in Seattle, I ate Non-Nagi, which was made of catfish. It turns out that the sweet sticky sauce is the thing that makes unagi/non-nagi/whatever delicious. If it wasn’t too late to save the eel population from certain extinction, I would totally stop eating eel right now!

You Say Tomato, I Say Tom…ican’tbreathe.

Do you know that feeling when someone tells you about a person who finished their nineteenth Ironman triathlon, and you’re thinking ‘that’s impressive. I feel lazy.’ and then they say ‘…nineteenth Ironman triathlon, and they did it with only one arm!‘ and you’re mind is blown and you’re not really the same again for an hour or so? My friend Paul makes me feel like that:
Paul is super smart, and capable, and nice, and immediately offered to have me over for dinner when I mentioned that I was in Portland (especially kind given that he hadn’t heard from me since we graduated from college, which was over a decade ago…)
He cooked salmon and leek paella. Over an outdoor fire. This kind of daring makes my mind melt.
He is a tremendous cook, and makes interesting and delicious food from local produce. He makes his own stock. Including lobster stock.
He likes living in Portland, and has a happy setup with a lovely wife, a cute puppy, and a really neat house. He doesn’t mind his two-hour daily commute. Because he commutes on his bicycle.
The thing that really gets me, though, is that he loves food; he’s good at it, he’s interested in new ingredients and layered flavors and enjoying every bit of it, and he’s allergic to tomatoes.

There is no justice in this world. Paul is a wonderful person, an upstanding citizen and a triathlete. He gets a Community Supported Agriculture basket every week full of in-season produce, and it’s early August. He deserves to eat tomatoes.

Off Topic

Lifetime first: a male flight attendant just complimented my shoes. This is remarkable because I am not, and have never been, stylish. Unless stylish is a haircut designed to hide bed-head, a college-long commitment to coveralls, and an adulthood wondering why I’m always the youngest person in Chico’s (in my defense, I travel for work and their clothes are seriously comfortable. Not that I’m defensive or anything.)
To round out the excellence, the shoes were also complimented by none other than my dear brother, who is funny and kind and who recognizes the rocking of board shorts as appropriate for most occasions but who is not, shall we say, attuned to finery.
I am allowing myself to conclude that the universe, from the parts with a serious aversion to shirts (brother), to the parts who smell better than I ever thought possible (flight attendant), loves my shoes.
The shoes are soft brown ballet flats with an orange stretchy band around the whole foot. They have a laughably large toe bangle that is gold and orange metal, and they make me feel very special. In a my-shoes-are-orange kind of way. Which is the best way.