Picking the Right Äpfel

FoodApples are one of those marvellous foods which fulfil all requirements – at once delicious, nutritious, versatile, and practical in form. Boiled eggs, though slightly more fragile, are similar. It is unsurprising then that apples form and have formed a staple part of my diet since before I can remember. The lunchbox from my school days almost always included at least one apple, at university apples were one of the foods I would buy in bulk and still get through, at work an apple is my afternoon pick-me-up, and my children can be near certain that they’ll find an apple in their lunch box too.

But, for all this good will, the transition between apple eating in England and apple eating in Germany has not been a smooth one. Indeed, over six years ago, in the first months after our move to Berlin, during the peak of apple season, my relationship with apples floundered. The range in the standard supermarkets was very limited. I couldn’t find the sorts I liked from the UK. The apples I could find always disappointed – they didn’t taste good or they lacked an essential crispness. Not content simply to move onto another fruit, I sought expert advice. Continue reading

Schäl Sick: Life on the Wrong Side of the Rhine

kalk postHere in Cologne, people tend to scrunch up their faces a bit when I tell them I live on the “other” side of the Rhine. And not in Deutz, close to the river and the city, but Kalk, deep into the hinterlands of the Falsche Seite. Kalk is a neighborhood with a reputation for criminality and limited opportunities, some of which is deserved. But when you look deeper, it’s not hard to see why more and more people are abandoning the Old City, Belgian Quarter, and Ehrenfeld for the bright shores of the right bank.

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All Day School (Ganztagsschule)

Here in Eppelheim (near Heidelberg), there has been a lot of controversy about the new Ganztagsschule that started this school year. There had been talk of it for ages, but it finally came to fruition for this school year. However, many, many people are unhappy with the way it was implemented and with the results of that.

Last year sometime there was a survey of all parents asking who would be interested in sending their kids to all-day school. Apparently 51 parents said they would be interested in the school, but the survey was unverbindlich (non-binding). The next thing we heard, they were closing the Hort and no one had a choice any more. We always knew that the first graders would have to do Ganztagsschule, but the 2nd – 4th graders were supposed to have a choice in the  matter. Now, for working parents, there is no choice. There has been an uproar since, especially because they changed the pricing scales for the so-called Randzeiten (7-8am and 4-5pm, plus Fridays from 12 noon and during school holidays). Because the state is no longer subsidizing the care, and is instead putting money into the all-day school, many people are paying a lot more for a lot less. The costs worked out well for us because they based them on the number of kids under 18 in the household. But I can imagine that single parents or parents of only one child will really be forking it over for the child care. What a mess! Continue reading

Birthdays at Work (or the Joys of Raw Meat)

My first job here in Germany was in a publishing house (Verlag in Freiburg, and that job was actually my first real job after college. It was certainly a different way to be indoctrinated into the world of work. It was the early nineties and it was the Schwarzwald. Freiburg is still a pretty hip town, but in small companies like the one I started in, they stick to tradition. Almost everyone was per Sie with one another, despite the fact that many of them had been working together for years. After a year of having two Americans and one Canadian in their midst, they loosened up a bit and we were almost all per Du.

Birthdays at work, depending on the company, usually involve the person whose birthday it is bringing in something to eat. At my current company, it might just be Sekt and Brezeln for my small department. At my husband’s company, some people bring in three-course elaborate meals for the whole group, which is 40 people. This year I made American cakes and cupcakes for the whole lot. They were a happy bunch after the sugar rush! Continue reading

Foods that are hard to find in Germany, part 2

Hyde wrote a blog about this topic last year, but here are my thoughts…

I have been living in Germany most of my adult life, and for the most part, I have learned to move past the few foods that I really miss from the US and just simply live without them. I moved here in my early 20s, and to be honest, I really couldn’t cook. At that time, I missed things that I would hardly consider “real food” at this point in my life — things like Kraft macaroni & cheese, frozen ravioli, and Reese’s peanut butter cereal. I still miss the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I still crave proper tortilla chips and easy jarred salsa that isn’t full of sugar, but otherwise, I have learned to make do.

So when I am using my American cookbooks, I often have to either substitute or just not make certain recipes because the ingredients are non-existent or very hard to get. Most of these things are convenience foods, or at least canned foods. Here are a few, off the top of my head. Continue reading