Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Es schmeckt gut!
In order to get through Berlin, I only really needed one phrase:
"Ich möchte," meaning I would like.
[Apricot strudel at Mauer Park's bazaar.]
Here's what I would like when I travel: history, art, and good food. I'm that easy to please. I can disregard the tour buses, cathedrals, haunted city walks, and fanny packs all for a nice slice of cake or colors dashed on to a canvas. Thankfully, Berlin had all of the above and more and friends who enjoyed just the same.
The stories of how I met Anneke and Caroline mundanely involve pubs and lectures, but how we began our respective friendships always started and centered around eating. After several haphazard meetings through the Literature Society, Anneke offered her German hospitality (some of the finest hospitality you can receive) and invited me over to her flat for baked apples. As we cut through the perfectly flaky pasty crust into the apple cinnamony goodness, we cut past the awkward tension and formed a friendship that revolves around conversations over hot chocolate. When Anneke was still in Edinburgh, we would meet up every weekend to scope out the best cocoa in the city (it's at Spoon Cafe or Falko depending on which one of us you ask). In Berlin, we ordered schokolade once, but the close confidences continued.
[Anneke preparing mentally for the waffles.]
[At Prenzlauer Berg's Kauf dich glücklich for waffles that are as far from healthy breakfast food as can be, but make you never want a traditional waffles again after. Nothing else can measure up to waffles drowned in vanilla custard and cheerily dotted with cherries or a waffle smothered in whipped cream and strawberries. Notice the somewhat violent verbiage here, it is a full-on assault on your tastebuds in the best possible way.]
[Anneke should be a hand model.]
Caroline and quickly became friends due to our penchant for "studying" in cafes. You only need to spot me snoozing over my latte to know that more chatting and cookie consumption takes place in cafes for me than reading and I suspect the same is true for her too. Early on in first semester, Caroline and I were discussing our favorite cafes to read in before our lecture and before I knew it she had invited me to scope out the aforementioned Falko with her that afternoon under the pretense of getting our reading done. I fell for it, walked across town with Madame Bovary tucked underneath my arm, found Caroline at the cafe, became enraptured with my Linser torte and our conversation, and never opened the book. Sure, I lost a few hours of productivity, but I gained a new friend and I did eventually read Madame Bovary, in April. We ate our way around Edinburgh and I ate at most of those 25 cafes with Caroline.
[Caroline contemplating life over a slice of cake.]
Naturally, the one day I spent with Caroline in Berlin was on a cafe tour that spanned twelve hours and five eating and drinking establishments. I'm surprised my jeans fit this week.
["Pancakes" but not of the sort you'd find Juliet Binoche flipping up in "Dan in Real Life." These are filled with Camebert that oozed out too deliciously and messily to take a pretty photo. Sorry this photo is blurry. All German cafes are too dark to take proper photos of what's on your plate, I suppose they just want you to eat the food instead.]
[Halloumi wraps. These have led to my new expensive obsession with this type of cheese. Thanks, Caroline.]
[We also saw this. What does it mean?][Meet the deceptive Berliner Weissbier, a sour wheat beer that likes to disguise itself with fruit syrups. It looks like children's fruit punch, but it's surprisingly alcoholic.]
[Getting artsy in the Biergarten.]
[Biergartens aren't another seedy place people only frequent because they serve alcohol. No, they're outdoors, serve cake (like most German establishments do), and even allow children. It's like that scene in "Sweet Home Alabama" ("You have a baby. In a bar!") except much classier. Can't believe I just made that reference.]
[Caroline and I at a restaurant where the food was too delicious and the conversation too good for me to care that I had a camera to take a picture of it. Thank you, Caroline for the marvelous culinary tour!]
I know you're disappointed. Where's all the sauerkraut? The sausage? Don't worry, I'm not just a dessert fiend, I was determined to have a culturally relevant eating experience or at least the one my German textbook from this past summer suggested.
When we learned the food unit in my German class, the vocabulary list went like this:
das Essen- Food
das Brötchen- Roll
This led me to believe rolls were the foundation of German life, and indeed, Anneke made up the fantastic spread pictured above. However, after we consumed more rolls than I dare take from a restaurant's complimentary bread basket, she admitted she only eats them when she has visitors.
Another enigma of my German textbook was Currywurst. It sounded ominous, like bratwurst's nasty little brother, instead it was quite ordinary. Sausage doused in a ketchup curry sauce. When I asked about Anneke its origin, she mentioned how she once read a novel that claimed some restaurant owner was walking down the stairs once when she tripped, broke the ketchup bottle, and when she went to clean it up, she noticed it had mixed with the curry powder, and hey, it tasted pretty good. This isn't actually true, unsurprisingly. Wouldn't it be great if it was though?
Doner kebabs are all the fastfood rage (which isn't called schnellessen to my chagrin) in Germany and like all German food, the bread in the best part.
Here's the obligatory sauerkraut photos, except this kind has pineapple in it. I was so shocked, I embarrassingly took my camera out at the grocery store to get a photo. Anneke was equally shocked when I tried to explain Reuben Sandwiches to her.
Another grocery store score was Kinder's hippo. Yes, it doesn't really look like a hippo, unless hippos are all deaf, but it's the best hazelnutty chocolate combo ever.
Lastly, we decided to reenact JFK's famous blunder ("Ich bin ein Berliner" or "I am a jelly donut" even though he was trying to say "I am a Berliner." No article necessary.) as commemorated at the Check Point Charlie memorial. However, to avoid confusion, Berliner donuts are called pankuchen when in Berlin. However, I can get jelly donuts at home (or Bismarcks, which Anneke found hilarious), so we got some deliciously greasy thing at a bakery in one of the train stations. Germans have high quality standards for any bakery.
Next up, art!