The Writer’s Notepad

This week’s Writer’s Notepad developed out of an in-class writing assignment, in which we had to describe in detail a food we eat every day. I’ve adapted it to make it more interesting for the blog, and given a bit of background information I found searching the web.

Cream of Wheat or Grießbrei?

I go through stages of preferred breakfast foods. Last year, in Radeberg, I ate cream of wheat (Ger. Grießbrei) every day for breakfast. I’ve never had a recipe for it. It’s the first thing I learned to make on the stove. In kindergarten I spent half days at school, and for lunch my mom and I would cook a pot of cream of wheat, as even with sugar and cinnamon it’s considered a verifiable lunch food in Germany. I remember my mother teaching me to stir constantly and all over the bottom of the pot to prevent anything from burning. It was the first culinary technique I mastered, and I had it down pat before I was six.

I had a routine every day in my sunny Amelie kitchen to turn on the water kettle for tea and pour whole milk in a pot to boil on my two-burner hot plate. Sometimes I’d get side-tracked and the milk would bubble up and overflow in the bat of an eye. The stench would then penetrate the whole apartment all day.

The proportions were always eyeballed, which is why I’ve never blogged about it before, but the goal remained the same: a thick custard of minuscule wheat kernels, cooked to their swelling point and held together by creamy starch. I quickly learned that whisking in the tiny granules produced a fluffier, more delicate cereal. I also learned I liked the smallest grind possible, which adds a velvety texture.

Just before sitting down I would steep the tea and pour a glass of Multivitaminsaft. This is a juice made from tropical fruits and available at any German supermarket. One sip tickles your tongue with the pleasures of many different flavors and is much more stimulating than regular orange juice. Its acidic, fruity flavor goes nicely with the tannic tea and thick, sweet Grießbrei. To me that year, nothing was more satisfying than sitting down to this wholesome, steaming breakfast every morning.

I’d make it now, but no American brand of cream of wheat I can find grinds the wheat the right way. Americans insist cream of wheat should be made from hard wheat. Both Cream of Wheat and Farina brand cereals (which are the closest things I could find in the States), use farina wheat, which as far as I know is a hard wheat. However, Germans only use soft wheat (Weichweizen) for their Grießbrei, and reserve Hartweizengrieß for noodles. Using hard versus soft wheat creates a very different texture, one which I think is undesirable.

Thus, aside from getting a box from my sister (who found it at a German specialty foods store in Harrisburg, PA), I am forced to eat another favorite breakfast food here in the States: bagels and cream cheese. But that’s a post for another day…

2 Comments to “The Writer’s Notepad”

  1. I am glad to hear that you are enjoying the Grießbrei! I found lots of other great things at Josie’s German Foodmarket and Delicatessen. German students and faculty here at Dickinson College are HUGE fans of Josie’s Apfelstrudel and Bienenstich desserts. Josie’s is in Mechanicsburg, PA:

  2. Hallo Kerstin!
    Ich werde jetzt mal so einen Grießbrei kochen, zum ersten mal. Ich habe nämlich Grieß in meinem Schrank gefunden, den wahrscheinlich meine Mutter gekauft hat als sie hier war. Ich hoffe, ich bekomme auch eine ‘velvety texture’. Was für ein schöner Ausdruck.

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