An Expat Thanksgiving in Germany

It’s that time of year again. If you were in the United States right now, you wouldn’t miss a beat in knowing what I was talking about. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Although this great American tradition is not celebrated in Germany, expats and their friends gather and have learned how to search and seek in order to create feasts in the new Heimat just like they would have back home. If you’ve joined an expat group or community of some sort, there’s usually an organized potluck. Since I’ve been in Germany, there have been years when I’ve celebrated multiple times (up to three) in a year to none at all. In addition to participating in the potlucks, I’ve hosted and invited others including all of my husband’s department colleagues one year and my German in-laws another.

In an effort to replicate the family feast, questions arise as to “where can you get … in Germany”?  Access to ingredients have changed over the last decade and availability of certain foods also depend on regions, but with some planning you shouldn’t have any problem checking off everything on your Thanksgiving shopping list in Germany these days. Otherwise, it might be time to improvise and introduce a new tradition in your new home.

Expat Thanksgiving

With some planning, a traditional US Thanksgiving can be replicated in Germany. Photo: Jane Park

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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

Not Käsespätzle again please …

The night we moved to Berlin we drove around in a snowstorm desperately trying to find a restaurant with a kitchen still open at 10pm on a Tuesday evening. Not knowing the neighbourhood, we dashed into the first warmly lit place we saw, hoping not to slip on the thick crusts of ice covering the pavement. What luck – it was a vegetarian restaurant, and they were still serving! My memory may be skewed by the simple relief of satiating my hunger on that bleak night, but the meal has stayed with me as some of the most delicious I have ever eaten. With both of us vegetarian, that the whole menu was meatless certainly helped. In due course, it became our favourite local restaurant; the surefire go to place when we had friends to stay. Such was the quality of the food and the subtlety of the flavours that we knew even the most committed meat-eaters would enjoy it. Continue reading

On Food

I have long believed that food in Germany is better than food in the United States. This was mostly based on (literal) gut feeling: since about age 14, my life in America was a battle with my digestive tract. I spent many nights as a teenager awake in bed with incredible stomach pains.  College cafeteria food kept me alternating between states of pain and nausea for the duration of my stay there. However, I grew up on healthy foods: fresh fish, vegetables from the garden, etc. As kids, we were restricted in our junk food allowance and never was a breakfast cereal to have more than 12g of sugar per serving. I actually thought I ate pretty well and considered myself a Foodie from an early age.

In retrospect, that self-perception is a little embarrassing. Continue reading

Living the German Way in San Diego – Part 2

The sun is still shining here in San Diego. After 6.5 weeks of being homeless, living in hotels and staying with my parents in Pennsylvania, my family and I are finally installed in our own house, which we now call home in a neighbourhood called Kensington. We are gradually settling in to our new lives here.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

The Germans in my house, namely my husband and two daughters, are enamored with the ice maker in our refrigerator, insisting on having ice in all of their drinks. My older daughter stares enraptured at the microwave, witnessing cold rice going in and hot rice coming out. We didn’t have a microwave in Germany by choice, and I wouldn’t have bought one here except that they seem to be standard equipment in most houses.

We tried the Bavarian Rye bread, which had been recommended by the German members of the North County deutsche Spielgruppe, from Trader Joe’s. My husband said it wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t eat much of it. I begged him to make me some Kässpätzle this evening. It was a nice treat for someone else to cook, but even though he did an excellent job, the Spätzle just didn’t taste the same. It was because of the eggs. Continue reading

Buying Bio (Organic) in Germany

Long, long ago, in 1992, when I first came to Germany, I, at the tender age of 21, had no real idea of what “organic” even was. Who did back then, except a few hippies and tree huggers (ha, ha). I had a few older and wiser friends with small children who bought bio products from under the bridge at a vegetable market in Freiburg, but at the time, I hardly even cooked, so I certainly didn’t understand the need to buy groceries at twice the price, when the fruit and veg looked battered and worn, even from the beginning. I was used to shiny (waxed) American apples and giant onions, ramen noodles and frozen ravioli. After a couple of years in Freiburg, when I went back home, I felt like an immigrant from some far away country where there was nothing available but a sad looking parsnip at the grocery store in the dead of winter. All that selection, all that food, all those giant boxes!

The next step in my transition towards bio came in 2003, when I moved back to Germany after five years in Michigan. I had a colleague at my new workplace who raved about the joys of organic. She only bought organic eggs, and insisted they tasted better. I thought she was crazy! What difference could it possibly make, I thought? Why do you have to have organic peanut butter — that oily concoction that you have to stir before eating? Again, I was not ready to shell out extra for an organic egg or anything else organic. Continue reading