Culinary delights

As you know I’m living in Germany now. Have been for the past years. And let me tell you, it was a culture shock, especially when it came to food. Hard to believe, is it? After all, we are neighbouring countries, speaking the same language … well, kind of. But we do understand each other most of the time. (If not I just nod enthusiastically, smile and say something like “yes, that’s right”. Works every time!)

When it comes to food I regularly get bouts of goose bumps and severe shuddering, making me wonder how I will ever survive German culinary delights.

1.) Schnitzel: Austria is famous for crisp and wonderful Schnitzel. With the simple sides of potato salad (without mayo, mayo is a definite no-go), French fries, potatoes with parsley or pea rice. Imagine my goose bump moment the first time I saw strange tomato or champignon sauces poured on top of the crisp bread crumb coating, soaking everything through. I couldn’t look. I really couldn’t. These poor Schnitzels, what a crime to have them suffer such mistreatment.

Once, it must have been in the first couple of months here, I was very adventurously buying a schnitzel with cauliflower on top, gratinated with cheese, at a hot food counter. Oh boy, mistake, big mistake … because what couldn’t be seen underneath the cheese was a huge serving of sauce hollandaise covering the cauliflower. I still shudder just thinking about it. And that was over three years ago!

2.) Speaking of sauce hollandaise … it seems every vegetable side dish is swimming in it, which is so unnecessarily cruel to the poor limp broccoli, carrots, peas, beans, cauliflower. I have learned to think ahead when ordering and add my cute Austrian touch by telling them in a strict disgusted voice, “no sauce hollandaise, please!”

The only vegetable deserving this low in calories sauce is asparagus. But only that! Everything else … don’t let me say it again, it’s just too horrible!

3.) Another German weirdness is curry ketchup. Basically the secret of the world famous German curry sausage is the red tomato curry sauce resembling hot curry ketchup. Well, “Currywurst” is a delicious dish in its entire combination with crisp French fries on the side. But … imagine my surprise being served curry ketchup to a cordon bleu because “that’s the only ketchup we have”. And I’m not talking about being adventurously ordering a cordon bleu at a food cart (probably my schnitzel would have been better there too), but a higher priced restaurant. You should have seen my astonished facial expression …

4.) Since we’re talking about Ketchup! You could say I’m a ketchup connoisseur, my survival depends on it. My favourite is an Austrian brand called “Felix” and my first grocery shopping trip was not very successful in this regard. Imagine my surprise and despair when I had to discover that my brand was not available! What does one do in desperate times like these? Buying one bottle of every brand I could get to sample them …, in the hope to find an acceptable replacement. Yes, my dears, you are guessing absolutely right. My taste buds were very unhappy, and that’s an understatement! So, every year, when I come back from my weeklong Austria trip, half of my car is full of ketchup bottles … the other half is reserved for … other foods I can’t live without. (To the utter entertainment of my colleagues … but this will be the topic of another posting altogether.)

5.) Balsamic cream: I love balsamic vinegar. In every combination. With walnut flavour, honey, raspberry, plain … just love it and always have an assortment of various balsamic vinegars at home. And now get this: balsamic cream. Drizzled lovingly over every single dish that leaves the mediocre restaurant kitchen in order to “decorate” the food, may it be your soup, main course or dessert. It just looks sooo lovely … and tastes so incredibly vile. At least to those who have a little taste left. I’m trying to picture a passionate Italian cook, seeing a Caprese salad (mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil, red wine or balsamic vinegar) spoiled by … balsamic cream. Mamma mia!  È un orrore! I may not be Italian, but I still think it’s one of the worst food inventions ever.

6.) Apfelstrudel: an Austrian classic. With filo pastry dough, apples, raisins, bread crumbs. Puff pastry is a definite no-go and not fit to be called Apfelstrudel. Sadly, even in Austria you occasionally have to suffer this abomination!

7.) German bread: it’s either fluffy or pumpernickel. It took me three years to discover a bakery which has the kind of bread I’m used to: a compact sourdough rye bread which nearly tastes like my favourite Austrian bread. It’s an hour drive away, but I don’t care! Should I ever run out of the huge amounts of bread I import from Austria, I have a backup plan!

8.) How do you like your French fries? With plain salt, right? Me too! Just never get that here! They have this strange orange “French fry salt” which kind of tastes like chicken rub … so far I haven’t dared ordering my fries with plain salt. But it’s definitely on my schedule soon …

Oops, sorry! Hope I haven’t bored you too much with my culinary culture shock … I’ll post a very short one next week, I promise! Have a great culinary weekend!


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