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