Döner Kebab and Deutschland

912MpAVgGzL._SL1500_While on a recent college visit with some students from the US, the topic of German food came up. We’d already experienced many culinary delicacies on our way, and they wanted to know what my favorite was. One mainstay came quickly to mind: Döner Kebab. This got quite a few skeptical looks. “Isn’t that Turkish?” one of the students asked. Yes and no, I said, and the explanation says a lot about modern Germany.

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Drinking Kaffee in Germany

You can tell when you have crossed the frontier into Germany because of the badness of the coffee.
– Edward VII (1841-1910, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert)*

I’m a devoted coffee drinker. I drink it wherever I am, especially in Europe. I’ve had coffee in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and even Slovenia. The Germans always rave about their coffee, but I think German coffee is highly overrated. There, I’ve said it. Now here’s why I say it.

First, there is no such thing as “German coffee.” Coffee trees don’t really flourish in northern Europe. All that Dallmayr, Hag, Jacobs and Tchibo coffee gets to Germany via Bremen, Hamburg and other European ports. That’s no different than the rest of Europe. Other than the type of bean, the main difference is the roast. (The brewing methods are pretty similar all across Europe.) The beans are usually Arabica, so that leaves the roast. And I think the roast is the problem.

A German Coffee
A “German coffee” is a type of cocktail made with Kirschwasser, coffee and whipped cream. That’s definitely not what we’re talking about here!

Germans generally like milder flavors. They really aren’t into spicy or pungent. That’s why “Mexican” food in Germany is not even close to Mexican. Foreign foods (Chinese, Indian, even Italian) get toned down for German taste buds. Continue reading

The German Past raises its ugly head

A couple of days ago I opened my local newspaper here in Reno and turned to the “Nation & World” section. Wow! A huge headline jumped out at me: “Germany links serial killings to neo-Nazi sympathizers: Turks are outraged by slow action.” The Reno Gazette-Journal rarely contains any news from Germany, but there it was – in bold print and with color photos!

I had been following this story in the German media for some time, but I was really surprised to see it so prominently displayed in an American newspaper, much less in my local paper, covering almost half the page. Labeled “Special for USA TODAY,” with a byline for Ruby Russell, the story began: “BERLIN – The first to die was Enver Simsek, 38, a flower vendor shot in the face in Nuremberg in 2000. The last was Halit Yozgat, 21, shot in the head in the Internet café he ran in Kassel, six years later.” Continue reading

“Almanya” in San Diego

San Diego kicked off its first German Film Festival, German Currents in 2011. It seemed to be a long time coming considering that there are an estimated 100,000 Germans living in the San Diego metro area and Orange County.

The festival opened with the screening of Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland, a movie written by two Turkish German sisters, Yasemin and Nesrin Şamdereli, about a Turkish immigrant family’s literal and figurative trip back to Turkey. The family’s patriarch, Hüseyin, leaves his hometown in a village near Anatolia during the initial Gastarbeiter wave of Turkish immigration in the ‘60s in order to earn what was considered big money working in a German factory, which he sends back to support his family. Although originally unplanned, the whole family, made up of his wife, Fatma, and their first three children, eventually join their father and move to their new home in Berlin. Hüseyin and Fatma soon thereafter welcome their fourth child who is their only child born in Germany. Continue reading