Archive for ‘Food Writing’

January 18, 2012

Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen

I’ve finally recovered from jet lag and travel fatigue and caught up with my chores.  Which means that I finally had time to sort through my hundreds of photos from vacation.  And what I found on my memory card only captures one small portion of the time I had in Germany.  What I’m finding is that no travel story or photograph collection can ever tell the full story of a journey.  And I’ve learned that many people don’t want to know about my journey (or at least don’t know what questions to ask to get me talking).  So I’m telling it here, because I have to process it in some way, to understand it and come to terms with it.  It’s not a typical vacation story.  It has all the usual symptoms on the surface, but it was something else.  Something else entirely.

The first thing I did upon landing (after an unnecessarily long trip) was grab a (local German!) beer with my sister and bake a few Christmas cookies.  Afterward, I hopped on a train and headed to Saxony (Sachsen), where I lived for a year teaching English at a Gymnasium (Germany’s version of high school).  A good friend of mine still lives there with her husband, and over the next three days, the three of us went to as many Weihnachtsmärkte.  I am not normally a person who enjoys crowds and festivals, but we always managed to go when there were fewer crowds (i.e. before everyone else got off work), and had drunk enough Glühwein by the time the crowds arrived, that it didn’t matter anymore.  We just soaked in the beauty and spirit along with the cold and crowds.

Walking through my old stomping grounds and catching up with my friend was a wonderful way to start the trip.  Seeing it decorated and lit up for Christmas only made me more nostalgic:  the wooden figurines and glowing stars made in the mountains outside of Dresden; the little huts decorated with pine sprigs and filled to the brim with gifts, foods, and toys; the Sächsisch dialect spoken over steaming cups of Glühwein; the Frauenkirche peeking out from behind the Kulturpalast, a socialist remnant that houses the Dresdener Philharmonie today; and the beautiful museums and School of Visual Art that line the Elbe River, loaded with pleasure boats waiting to take the next group of merry-makers for a ride.

Traveling is a funny thing, and many people have written about it much more eloquently than I can here.  Nevertheless, my thoughts as I wandered the streets of Germany, were that it is at the same time an experience of extreme solitude and extreme connectivity.  My travel was solitary because it seems inconceivable to explain the effects these experiences had upon me, much less have the same experiences as others on the same trip.  Yet it had a sense of connection because it was impossible not to engage with the people, culture, and history of the places visited.  There is so much history that came back to me walking the streets of Dresden, Leipzig, and Hamburg.  History I had learned in what feels like another life, when I poured over German Studies books day in and day out; history I forged with my friends; and the palpable sense of history being made in the moment.

I mentioned to David that I was writing this post (I admit I’ve been writing it for over a week now), and I found it hard to connect my specific thoughts on travel with food, and he looked at me dumbfounded and said, “But you experience travel and memories through food.”

It is true: I rediscovered these histories not by sightseeing, though I did do a bit of that by visiting an amazing museum in Hamburg and attending concerts and even the Stuttgart Opera.  Instead of sightseeing, I engaged with these memories and experiences through Germany’s bakeries, restaurants, food stands, and the dishes I cooked and consumed with friends and family in their homes.  And I came home with my suitcases full of bread, candies, and chocolate (so much so that my family had to bring back things for me in their bags).

I spent my weeks in Germany eating Brezeln every morning, and especially caring for those from my grandparent’s neighborhood bakery (the master baker of which my parents are now good friends with); sharing pho with my mom in the restaurant she enjoyed eating in when she visited her mother in her last years; purchasing a Stollen from the best Stollen bakery in Dresden; cooking the same meal with my friend that we cooked years ago, a traditional Saxon meal of goulash, red cabbage, and Kartoffelknödel; wandering the Isemarkt stalls and having lunch at my favorite vegetarian stand; tasting the samples at the Fruchtgummiladen in Hamburg; taking a family outing to the Swiss grocery chain Migros and stocking up on cheese, pasta and chocolate (all of which the Swiss make the best); sharing homemade meals such as my sister’s Japanese lunch feast, Dad’s Linsen und Spätzle, Mom’s Krautkrapfen, and finally ending the trip by making a five-course New Year’s Eve meal for my family.  Each time I put something in my mouth a flood of memories came back.   In my time in Germany, I was traveling not only to another country, but to other times, places, people, and experiences.  And I had the time of my life.

In between though, I had a constantly nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I still can’t put it into words, and interestingly I think that was the nagging feeling.  The feeling that this trip was beyond words, at once so simple: a vacation in Germany; and at the same time so complex: a returning home, to the past, and to a future that has yet to write itself.

 

November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving friends!  I hope you all have safe travels today and enjoy the holiday. This is my first year celebrating Thanksgiving not with family (I count my JYA Thanksgiving as a family event, as well as my Fulbright Thanksgiving, because those two years were so intense and awesome, and we all bonded as if we were related).  I was sad at first, but then a dear friend from childhood asked David and me to have Thanksgiving with her, and now I know it’s going to be a great holiday.  I can’t wait to spend the entire day tomorrow cooking and eating with her and her husband, and Friday and Saturday lounging around (and packing their house for a cross-country move – sad!)

 

 

Thanksgiving for me is about family, and about community.  My good friend Kristina organized a bunch of musicians, artists, and other friends of hers and edited a community cookbook.  This isn’t just any cookbook – it’s probably the best community cookbook you can have!  It was organized through an online community, and its story is pretty amazing.   I love the book, I love the recipes, the art, and the obvious fun that comes out of the book.  It’s clear these are cool people, eating awesome food, and I kind of want to be friends with each and every contributor (there are over 50 people who worked on this book)!

If you’re looking for a great new cookbook, consider Cook Food Every Day.  100% of proceeds of your purchase goes directly to the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the book has raised over $1000 dollars, and there are still books left.  Click over to the Cook Food Every Day blog where a PayPal donation gets you your very own copy of the book.

Also, Kristina writes a pretty incredible blog called No Gluten Required.  I recommend it whether or not you eat gluten.  She’s currently got a pretty sweet round-up of Thanksgiving recipes up!

April 18, 2008

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.

April 9, 2008

Libraries and Chocolate

The other day I was exploring the Cambridge neighborhoods I work in, mainly trying to find Formaggio Kitchen and a fish shop next to it. David, who isn’t a big fan of fish, wasn’t going to be home and I wanted to prepare a tilapia for dinner. On my way back to the T stop, I stumbled upon some buildings that looked similar in architecture to some dorms at Smith College, my alma mater. I knew I was close to Harvard, and when I inspected one of the signs more closely I smiled (I may have even uttered an “Oh!” out loud, but only the birds can tell you if I did or not). On a white background in clear lettering stood “Radcliffe” and underneath it “Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.”

I’d heard about the Schlesinger Library, the only of Harvard’s many libraries that is open to the public. It houses many documents on women, and is famous for its cookbook collections. They archive all of Julia Child’s personal papers, as well as her own library of cookbooks. They also have Marilyn Monroe’s cookbooks (I’ve heard it’s quite a small collection), among many other collections of both famous and pedestrian women.

April 4, 2008

The Writer’s Notepad

It’s high time for another post with the writing I’ve been doing in my food writing class. Since my last post on the topic, I’ve interviewed a bunch of people, and written several essays. Here is my midterm, a mock feature article. I was inspired one day last fall when I saw a dump truck that said something about composting. I couldn’t read the company’s name in time, but months later I stumbled upon it again. The following is the product of my “sleuthing”:

Don’t Forget to Take Out the Compost

While some consumers are thinking of ways to afford hybrid cars or support alternative energy sources, others are turning to simpler solutions. Some are discovering that composting can reduce the amount of waste they produce. Garbage has gone green, thanks to Save That Stuff, a local recycling service that has begun offering composting options to local restaurants, universities, and businesses. Participants are finding that they are not only saving the environment, but saving money too.