Babysitting My Mom – Part VI

On the blog before last, I promised to talk about German food.  German dining and German food differs vastly from what we are used to in America.  

In America,  fast food reigns over the masses . . . giving people all sorts of health problems, from obesity to behavioral issues that comes complete with SWAT teams and CNN coverage.  When it comes to fast food dining, everything is made of plastic, from the forks we eat with to the booths we plant our McButts in.  

However, if a person doesn’t want to eat their food from styrofoam, they can always go to a proper restaurant.  In larger towns there is an amazing variety of restaurants and foods to choose from . . . from ethnic food to fusion to beef and potatoes.  But no matter where you choose to dine, there will always be three things on an American  menu – coffee, soda, and french fries. 

However, in Germany dining out is not a form of casual entertainment.  Actually, I’m not sure why there are restaurants in Germany at all.  Germans don’t like eating in them, and the proprietors openly resent people showing up and asking for food. 

When you show up at a German restaurant, it will take the hostess several minutes to acknowledge you standing there.  Then, it will take an additional 15 minutes for her to seat you . . . and when she does, she will seat you at a tiny table with complete strangers.  This is because Germans refuse to waste anything.  Anything  includes air molecules.  I guess that kind of unquestioning togetherness can be expected from a culture that uses nudity to advertise everything from vacation travel packages to mayonnaise.  But if you request a different seating arrangement, or show by body language that you didn’t want to wait 45 minutes for service, you will be utterly ignored until you are forced to leave . . . or do as my grandmother used to do – take everyone’s orders, get up, go into the kitchen, and bring the food out yourself. 

By law, Germany cannot fatten their food animals with steroids and hormones for a quick slaughter, which alters the taste of the meat to an unbelievable degree.  My first experience with eating meat while in Berlin began with being handed a paper-thin (this is not an exaggeration) slice of something pale pink.  I draped the transparent slice – if you can call it that – on my buttered slice of bread.  Germans call this a sandwich.  Making your sandwich with 2 pieces of bread – and with any spread other than butter – is considered as greedy and as uncouth as licking your neighbor’s plate when they are done eating.  And while I am on the subject of bread . . . German bread is a meal in itself.  It is black, chewy, hearty, and contains more roughage than a wood chipper.  Perhaps that is why their sandwiches consist of only one slice.  Two slices of bread would cause an intestinal hemorrhage.  But, to be candid, the flavor of German bread is far more robust and satisfying than anything America produces.

But to get back to the meat . . . I took a bite of my sandwich.  It was the most delicious cold-cut I have ever had in my life.  But – and this was the unnerving bit – I had no idea what it was that I had just swallowed.  It didn’t taste like anything I had ever eaten.  So I asked my mother what animal my slice had been shaved from.  Her response scared me. 

She said, “Guess.”

When I was growing up, my mother – having gone through the starvation of WWII – thought that anything was edible if ingesting it didn’t kill you immediately.  I had once found a dressing-covered caterpillar in my home-grown salad.  My mother had called it protein and told me to eat it. 

Thank goodness the meat turned out to be ham.

Visiting salad bars in Germany is also quite an experience.  In America, salad bars contain fresh vegetables, toppings, garnishes, dressings, and dishes like three-bean salad, or cold pasta.  German salad bars, however, contain, at the most, six tubs of various pickled objects on a bed of smashed ice.  There are pickled things on a German salad bar that most Americans didn’t know could be pickled . . . like radishes.

And never, ever, ask a German server for a glass of water.  Germans do not drink water.  They say it is for bathing, not for drinking.  They will offer expensive bottled water on the menu, but they will tell you, “Nein!” if you try to order it.

This is the view from a restaurant window.  I took this picture while my mother argued with the server as to whether or not I needed water.  We had just escaped from a bus where I had been sufffering from a bad case of motion sickness.  We got off before I could vomit on a nearby Fraulein and her Schoenhut.  We spotted the restaurant and entered it in hopes of scoring a sip of water so I could swallow a couple of dry Dramamine tablets.

It didn’t happen.  

Now I will leave you with a few pictures – until next time . . .

The restaurant where Mom ate some kind of pig's joint that was bigger than her head

The restaurant where Mom ate some kind of pig's joint that was bigger than her head

At a restaurant near my great-aunt's house in the Berlin section of Frohnauer

At a restaurant near my great-aunt's house in the Berlin section of Frohnauer

Mom and Uschi coming from a coffee bar in the East Zone

Mom and Uschi coming out from a coffee bar in the East Zone

. . . when I will talk about relatives . . .

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Babysitting My Mom – Part VI

  1. Mallory says:

    Did you eat the caterpillar?!?!?

  2. ~ifer says:

    So what is your favorite kind of German food? I miss German food, and oddly enough, what I miss the most is the Turkish food they sold at the kiosks in Berlin… ooooh! and Pommes Frites with curry ketchup

  3. Thea Phipps says:

    No, I didn’t eat the caterpillar… but I actually got a spanking for wasting food.
    I’m serious.
    Once when I was 5 I accidentally dropped a piece of those hard ribbon candies that I was sucking on in the toilet. Mom got it out, gave it a quick rinse, and handed it back to me.

  4. Thea Phipps says:

    I absolutely LOVED all German food, ~Ifer. I can’t decide on a favorite, but the foods I miss the most are: chocolates, their salad bars :) , ANY of their meat – including prawns, the potato dumplings, and their hard boiled eggs, if you can believe it. Their hens lay the best eggs (and I am not an egg fan unless it’s in a cake). I loved the way they put capers in everything, too. I never got to try the Turkish food, though. I wanted to, but Mom always headed for the seafood kiosk in the markets. It’s funny, but you can’t eat German food in the States. It’s not the same because of import/export laws. To ship anything to America, they have to put in preservatives. Nothing is like German food IN Germany. The only thing they can’t cook is noodles. They boil pasta for 30 minutes.

  5. Lisa Bauer says:

    I remember my German grandma serving us pickled cows tongue… I liked it before she told me what it was. From tehn on we learned not to ask. She also would not allow grease of any kind to go to waste, you were to sop it up right out of the pan with bread immediately!

  6. Thea Phipps says:

    Ugh! I came home from second grade once and the house stank so bad. Mom was boiling a cow’s tongue for our dinner. We had mustard and cow’s tongue sandwiches (2 slices of bread). It took me three hours to get it down.

  7. JB says:

    Now I do want to go to Germany to taste the food. You crack me up about the restaurant service however.
    Foreign countries are so interesting.
    My neighbor used to say it was extra protein when dishes come out of the dishwasher with flecks dried on the plates. yck.
    My sister said eggs in Australia taste incredibly good. Maybe in AZ and Germany they are very fresh?

  8. Thea Phipps says:

    German food is great! I think the eggs are different because they’ve never been allowed to feed the chickens arsenic and hormones like they do in the U.S. I know that Australia is the same way. So I wonder if that’s it? My husband grew up on a ranch where his parents raised chickens commercially and the feed they were to feed the chickens was considered hazardous waste if not disposed of properly.
    By the way, we hear about the Tsunami coming your way. Hope all stays well.

  9. JB says:

    Thanks Thea, Yes, the tsunami was minimal, yay.
    What you say about feed explains a lot. It didn’t make sense that having the eggs fresher was the difference because as kids we had an egg farmer who brought us fresh eggs every week and my sister said the ones in Australia tasted better.
    Guess what? Today is my birthday and my daughter sent me your book CHARADES WITH A LUNATIC.

  10. Thea Phipps says:

    Yay!!!! Good for you!! :D