Despite all the papers, exams and classes that seem to fill my time, I have found time to look through pictures and reminisce on a period in my life, which pivoted it, even at my youthful age, into a new direction I never thought I would veer toward. The only experience that tops it is the birth of my daughter. My time spent in Germany for that short month was a turning point in my life. It opened doors and brought people into my life who will be forever friends. I also tasted a lot of food or saw food from a new perspective.
In Germany, their culinary experience is their own. Yes, they have vegetarianism and steaks, but they have their own specialties, such as schnitzel, soft buttered pretzels, spätzle, and bratwurst to name a few. Pork is not something I tend to eat, but it is very popular in Germany. The standard schnitzel is made from pork. We make it at home, but from chicken. I decided I would not allow my culinary prudishness to keep me from trying at least a few new things. I want to take you on a culinary journey in Germany, where the foods they love range from traditionally German to exotic. Just as we have Mexican restaurants all around, they have Mediterranean and poutine.
Germans are culinary seekers themselves, although we don’t hear of it as much except for the usual suspects. They have a set of taste buds all their own. My first meal was in Frankfurt and it was not German. I tried poutine, a Canadian dish, (but not traditional poutine) for the first time. It was a shredded chicken teriyaki styled poutine and so delicious. I chose a German beer according to its labeling. Another aspect that is slightly different in Germany is continental breakfast in hotels. There are lots of breads, meats, cheeses, jams, and Nutella. These would be the types of breakfasts I would enjoy every morning in my host family’s home. Sundays there would also be some sort of egg. It was the first time I ate a soft-boiled egg.
One of the reasons I was excited to experience a homestay was because I would have the opportunity to eat with a real German family and become a part of their family for a short period. Beate is an amazing cook and I tried and ate things I would not have otherwise such as this creamy cucumber salad she made. She was inventive. No meal was ever the same. She always had some sort of sweet bowl of fruit or yogurt accompanying the meal. There was always a level of fresh to balance the heavy. She made chicken, bratwurst, fish. I miss meal time with them when I struggled to understand the German and was immersed in their culture. I miss sitting with them in the evening before bed watching television. But I digress.
There were times when I would eat lunch away from their home or even dinner, and there were many times Beate made sure we had a lunch box so we could pack some of the meats, breads and cheeses for the day. This was something they did not have to do, but did because they cared. My first week in Kassel, Germany, the module I had chosen was only the early morning language classes, so that left a lot of time for exploring. Some days I would explore with new friends, but there were days I wandered on my own.
It was one of those days I decided to try currywurst despite the fact that sausages are not something I tend to eat or even like. I didn’t know how to order, but managed to get a currywurst with a sweet ketchup like sauce and a roll. I had also discovered a soft drink called Äpfelshorle which is apple juice and seltzer. I found a table on the sidewalk and enjoyed a summer day in Königsplatz as I indulged in the delectable treat.
One treat I found in abundance was ice cream and I discovered Zimt Sahne Eiscreme (cinnamon ice cream). I have yet to find it here in the United States so I have to go back just for the ice cream! Another popular treat in Germany, or at least the part of Germany I was in, was waffles. There were different waffle shops and I don’t mean for breakfast, but like an ice cream shop or bakery. There were many ways to order a waffle and they were big. I ate one with vanilla ice cream and Nutella. My mouth waters at the memory. It was here I also tasted rolled ice for the first time. Doner kebab is very popular and very affordable. It is a quick easy meal or snack to pick up when in a hurry and there are many to choose from in Kassel. I ate a few doner kebabs myself.
Of course, there were foods I tried that I did not like so much, but those were few and far between. Food is very much a way to connect with other people, even enjoying while learning about the Brothers Grimm. One of my favorite meals was the mac n’ cheese-like spätzle at the pub we had class in and a big salad to go along with it. Spätzle is a small, thin dumpling poached in boiling water, much like pasta, and can be seasoned in many different ways. It was a time of exploring new foods and crossing boundaries I otherwise would not. I miss the food, my host father’s homemade jams and my host mother’s meals. I even miss the opportunity to share an American delicacy: Taco Tuesday!