Thursday, February 9, 2012
Thinking Globally, Eating Locally
Ever since we arrived a week ago, we've been thinking about food more as Germans than as Americans. Partly, we choose this because we love the German way of life so much, and partly it is forced on us because we are here. Bread, for instance, is a much bigger part of German life than it is of American. Well, a wider variety of freshly-baked breads seem essential here. There are little bakeries every 10 steps in shopping areas, on every neighborhood corner, and there was even a little bakery (for emergency snacking) at the big Home-Depot-type store we visited last week.
The first bakery item I had to eat after we'd arrived was a butter-brezel. This is a large, salted preztel, with one large soft section and the rest thinner and crispier. Butter-brezeln have been sliced through the soft section and carefully,
evenly spread with butter. They are a much beloved snack for all the reasons we loved bread-and-butter as children, but with added salt and
textural interest. The huge variety of breads and
rolls draws me to visit a bakery pretty much
every day, so we can have some for breakfast, snacks, and sandwiches.
I've also been cooking local
products every night, in part because I can so easily buy them and they all look so good.
One of the first meals I made was soup with Maultauschen, which are a regional specialty a little like ravioli, made with a huge va
riety of fillings. I made a broth with beef bones and vegetables, and simmered the Maultauschen until, like ravioli, they rose to the surface and were tender. These, I think, were filled with minced pork and herbs.
Pork, of course, is the meat of choice here. Beef and lamb are available (chicken and turkey are
too, but aren't considered exactly a meat), but pork, like bread, comes in stunning variety. I purchased these pork "steaks" pre-marinated in an herb sauce, pan-seared them and served
them with potatoes accented with onions and, of course, bacon.
There are far more sausages than I could begin to describe. Among my favorites is Nurnberger Rost-Bratwurst, which look like little breakfast links but taste much better. I browned them in my frying pan and served them with salad, potatoes with onions and bacon again, and a
gourmet vegetable blendof slivered fennel and sauerkraut. I found the recipe for the latter in "Trinken und Essen", a gorgeous German version of Gourmet and gave it a try to experience something new involving sauerkraut (which
proved to be just an accent to all the other flavors). I'll be happy to sketch out how to make it.
Some other day I'll devote an entire post to spaetzle, the simple German form
of pasta. I make my own back home with a spaetzle-maker which forms soft, flattened pea
-sized bits which I serve with parsley, chives and butter. Spaetzle can be bought here both dried and fresh, and I haven't had a bad version of it yet. I've now experienced spaetzle made with potatoes, which give the dish a firmer and more substantive texture.
This plate was lunch from a dazzling buffet at a huge downtown department store (like Jordan Marsh in the olden days) and the potato-spaetzle looks like little, pan-browned logs, here mixed with sauerkraut.
My main question at this point is, why aren't Germans hugely obese?