Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ein deutschsprachiges Weihnachten

DH and I, with "the gang" (our Bible study group), after
decorating the house and Christmas tree
"A German-language Christmas," reads the title of this blog post. Now that I am back in the United States, it's easy to see that Christmas here is a lot like Christmas over there. You are probably aware that many of our cherished traditions have their roots in that Teutonic nation: decorated fir trees, braided Christmas bread, "Silent Night." For my Christmas Eve entry this year, here is a medley of Christmas celebrations from various places in Europe, ending in Deutschland:

The best of European Christmas:
http://www.viennaforbeginners.com/

This blog carries lovely photographs of Vienna, accompanied by nostalgic or quirky verse. (My favorite references US Poet Laureate Billy Collins.) Although I have spent only three days there, it makes me impatient to go back this summer!

The worst: In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) arrives on 5 December on a large ship, then transfers to a white horse. He is accompanied by Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), "a Moor," an actor in blackface.
Once a slave to Saint Nicholas, the many Peters (yes, he's been cloned) now each have a particular job to do: while one wraps presents, another bakes cookies; while one navigates, another still plays the fool to rouse the crowd while they wait for the Big Man. The Netherlands used be a great sea-faring nation, which included trade not just in spices but in people, too.

Fun fact to know and tell: when DH and I were in Chicago recently to attend the Lyric Opera and visit a few museums, we saw the 50 national Christmas trees in the Museum of Science and Industry. Each was decorated by members of a local heritage group to represent Christmas in Kenya, Egypt, Belize, Russia, Japan, and Scotland. Although the trees were spread out, it was easy to see that neighboring countries share some traditions, like the parades of children re-creating Mary and Joseph's search for room at an inn in Central and Latin America, or the emphasis on Epiphany in Eastern Orthodox countries like Greece and Ukraine. One fun fact we learned is that in Hungary, finding a spider web in the house on Christmas Day brings good luck. DH has been teasing me about (not) cleaning the house, just in case!

It's Academic: Joe Perry, UIUC History PhD, Christmas in Germany: a cultural history
Finally, I share with you a brief summary of a first book, just published by someone who graduated from my department a few years ago. In Christmas in Germany: a cultural history, Joe Perry reconstructs two hundred years' worth of holiday rituals and celebrations, from the Christmas tree (der Weihnachtsbaum) to Father Christmas (der Weihnachtsmann) to "the Christmas spirit" (die Weihnachtsstimmung), in order to explore how these seemingly timeless and universal traditions were constructed in the early 1800s as a reaction to the tumultuous Napoleonic Era. Like many Europeans whose lives and countries had been rearranged by the ambitious Emperor of France, Germans turned inward toward the private sphere and created the modern Western ideal of (bourgeois) family life. Perry shows how Germans developed a national emotional culture around the combination of Western Christianity and pagan festivals; however, this common culture still allowed for differences in class, confession (Catholic vs. Protestant, Jews), and politics. Ancient faith in the birth of God's son combined with modern consumerism (Kauflust--the desire to buy) and medieval pagan emphasis on light during the darkest time of the year--strands we still find in our American Christmases. Moreover, Perry argues that "This book moves beyond public/private dichotomies to argue that Christmas, supposedly a private family celebration, was and is Germany's national holiday" (7). It is the private, "feminine" side of national belonging, which historians have tended to ascribe to the more obvious, masculine militarism of public German nationalism. For the last 200 years, it has been one thing most Germans had in common, as whomever claimed to speak for "the nation" (Social Democrats, National Socialists, Cold War liberals, Communists) tried to shape how private individuals did or did not celebrate it. Perry also tries to write the history of German Christmas "from below," showing how some Germans pushed back against the contemporary narrative of what Christmas was supposed to be. In other words, the "war on Christmas" began as soon as it was invented as we know it.

However you do (or do not) celebrate Christmas, I wish you Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Experimental Cooking, I

I have been wondering how to include you, Dear Reader, in my dissertation research, now that I am home from Germany and spending my days either reading secondary literature--most of it probably uninteresting to you--or doing close reads of primary sources. That may be interesting to you, but only once I have figured out what I think it means in terms of my broader argument about ideas on food and bodies in early-twentieth-century Saxony. Both of my advisers have given me the green light on my dissertation outline, so while you wait for me to fill it in with case studies, here are some gustatory illustrations.

At the moment I am organizing and reading through the photographs I took back in September 2010 at the Dortmund Kochbuch Museum of the most famous cookbook in Germany, the Praktisches Kochbuch. Henriette Davidis (1801-1876) published the first edition of this practical cookbook in 1844; after her death the publisher contracted with a series of editors to continue capitalizing on her famous name. You can still purchase editions on amazon.de; the most recent edition came out last year (2010). What made Davidis's cookbook so famous in an otherwise glutted market of literature for middle-class housewives and daughters was that she wrote for beginners, describing how to prepare even basic kitchen staples like pickles, noodle dough, or flavored butters. Moreover, rather than merely "borrowing" recipes she tested the ones that she published. Later editors retained her name and often the format, but they also updated the recipes to reflect changing tastes, ingredients, and technologies (i.e. gas and electric stoves, refrigerators).

I have heard that one should not try out new recipes for parties or when company comes over for dinner, but that hasn't stopped me--or many of the users of the cookbooks from the early 1900s that I have been reading! I have attended two potlucks in the last week, and for each I tried out a recipe from the Davidis line of cookbooks. What made these recipes particularly challenging was not the translation from German to English or from grams into cups but rather the fact that they were written in the middle of World War I, when due to the incompetency of the various levels of government and the English blockade, many foodstuffs (like pork, beef, milk, wheat, potatoes, eggs, sugar, and coffee) became scarce for many Germans. Workers living in cities usually had it worse than the middle class, who could afford to buy on the black market (Schwarzmarkt), and the farmers, who simply refused to sell what they produced at the government-determined prices. I tried to find a balance between the historical frugality these recipes embody and the fact that I still wanted the results to taste good! Below are two recipes translated more or less literally from Luise Holle's Praktisches Kriegskochbuch (1916), with my comments in brackets.

Christmas Cake [Weihnachtskuchen]
Stir 50 g lard or artificial fat [1/4 cup unsalted stick margarine] until soft, add 100 g fine sugar [1/2 cup] 1 egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of beaten egg powder [Eiersparpulver], a pinch of salt, 50 g diced citron [1/3 cup], 40 g raisins [1/4 cup], 30 g coarsely chopped nuts [1/4 cup chopped walnuts] and 300 g flour [2.5 cups] mixed with 1 packet of baking powder [??] to that and then fold in the stiff peaks of the egg white. Fill a long, prepared [greased] loaf pan with all but 5 teaspoons full of the batter, which one reserves. On the dough spread 3 spoons of breadcrumbs [omitted], then 30 g raisins [1/4 cup--actually, the rest of the bag of golden California raisins] and 30 g of grated nuts [>1/4 cup chopped walnuts] mixed with 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder, and pour the rest of the batter on top. The cake must bake 1 hour at moderate [gleichmässige] heat [on the advice of an older woman at church I settled on 325 F for 25 minutes].

I decided to forgo the historical accuracy of using some kind of powdered egg substitute in favor of one actual egg. Perhaps for this reason, my dough was rather dry--and that was with only half the recommended flour (according to a couple of online measurement conversion sites). However, I am proud of the fact that I beat the egg white into "stiff white peaks" the old-fashioned way.* Plus, it seemed a little silly to use the electric mixer for only a single egg white. Besides the cooking temperature, I also had to guess about the baking powder. Who knows how much and what kind of baking powder was in one packet sold in Germany in 1916? Today they contain 15g, so I went with 1 level tablespoon of my usual double-acting baking powder. However, on account of the dryness, the two halves did not bake together. The result was something more like Christmas Granola Bars than Christmas Cake. (See above.) I think next time I will go ahead and use a whole stick of margarine (or butter) and be even more judicious with the flour. As it is, I ate what we brought home from the party with milk for breakfast. That's an economical way of using leftovers Henriette and Luise surely would have approved of.


"Blarney," in progress: potatoes, 
cabbage, carrots (later: another
layer of potatoes, then onion)
For the second event, I knew the meat dish would be a roast, so I decided to make Falsches Irisches Gericht, which literally translates as "False Irish Dish." This cookbook has a number of foreign dishes--Danish Soup, Belgian Oven Dish with White Chicory, and Gypsy Turnips--so I am not sure why the title for this one is modified by "false." I am pretty sure the turnip recipe is no more authentic, but for some reason Holle felt the need to distance this mixture of potatoes, cabbage, and carrots from the Emerald Isle. Dear Husband suggested I should call this one "Blarney"!



False Irish Dish, or "Blarney" In a cooking pot greased with fat, heat 1/8 liter of water, lay finely chopped white cabbage in layers, raw potatoes cut in slices, and some finely chopped carrots in between. Spread salt and pepper on each layer, cook everything together for 10 minutes and put the dish in a cooker [Garkocher] for 2 hours. Only stir some fat into the dish at the very end, after spreading a few spoonfuls of onion cubes cooked light-brown [in butter].

This recipe reads like how I usually cook: with the exception of the strange precise-ness of the volume of water, no amounts or measurements are specified. I ended up using 3 large skin-on potatoes (or 6 the size of your fist), cut into thin-ish slices; several carrots peeled and halved short-ways (and long-ways if the top half was fatter)--I don't know how many(!); and most of a bag of prepared coleslaw mix to cut down on prep time. I hate to have Reste and would have used the whole bag if I could have fit it all in the glass casserole dish. I simply checked the water when testing the dish for done-ness every 20 minutes. In place of the slow-cooker I put it in the oven at 275 F for an hour. Although the butter-cooked onion smelled absolutely delicious, I had forgotten the salt and pepper, so I thought the result was not very tasty. (The other guests assured me otherwise.) Nevertheless, when re-using the leftovers, I am adding the rest of the shredded cabbage and some Kräutersalz [herb salt] that I brought back with me, so now this quasi-Irish dish will definitely taste German to me.

I anticipate doing more experimental cooking, if only because I like trying new dishes. But I wonder what impact this very subjective experience will have on my dissertation, if any. Does(n't) my project require that I know what common foods looked like, cooked like, tasted like--even digested like? If I don't share that sensory experience with my historical actors, if I merely re-use the words they used, I am afraid that my analysis will merely become a sort of citation analysis: "the description süsssauer [sweet and sour] often appeared in recipes for..." or "pikant [spicy] meant different things to different people...." On the one hand, it is objectively impossible to recreate boiled turnips from 1917 or Sauerbraten from 1933: the varieties of vegetables are more homogeneous now, the soil then was more nutrient-poor, my water is softer. More to the point, my taste history is different as an American in the 21st century than that of a woman of my age and class living in early 20th-century Saxony. For one, I have grown up eating more processed and packaged foods; Davidis couldn't know what Pepsi, Chef Boyardee, Pop Tarts, or pixie sticks taste like. Even though I don't eat/drink any of those things anymore, my expectations for sweet, salty, spicy, and other flavors are surely not the same as those of someone who grew up at a time when the recommended daily intake of salt was 15g[!] (it's currently 2.3g/day). This cultural variety is why Coke, McDonald's, and other globalized food commodities taste different in different parts of the world today. On the other hand, historians have long been in the practice of writing about societies of which they are not a part and cultures they have not experienced. Surely I can still come up with something interesting to say about foodways that are so different from mine, just as men can write about women in history, modern citizens can write about slaves, Americans can write about Germans, and so forth. Some scholars assert only personal experience can make one an expert in a particular category of identity, whereas others argue that being an outsider gives one a better perspective. I suppose with my food projects I am straddling the line a little bit. Come back to read more of my philosophizing about food and bodies, with the remove of an ocean and 100 years...


*--Unfortunately, I paid bodily for my re-creation: 2 days later I had shooting pain in my right shoulder, presumably my deltoid tendon complaining about the stress I put it through whipping that egg white. How did all those housewives did it for all those years??

Monday, November 14, 2011

Germany: now a familiar strange place

Me: Lace curtains: that’s how I know we’re in Europe.
Him: Is that all?

This exchange with Dear Husband took place in Vienna last November, but the curtains in the photo are from my kitchen in Leipzig (May). I compiled the following lists over my months in Germany as a way to remember what at first seemed different to me. In no way do they pretend to be comprehensive. These may not even be the "most important" differences between the two countries. But they are things I noticed in my daily life, and I would be interested to hear your agreements, additions, or corrections in the comments section below.


What you will find in Germany:
What you will not find:
·   stuff you lost: a jacket with house keys in the pocket, presciption sunglasses or a cell phone in the library, a USB stick left in a computer…
·   trust: this means laptops left unattended in the university library, bicycles left leaning against buildings (many places), and the honor system for payment on public transit (with random checks, of course!)
·   good public transportation (due to high population density, economic disincentives to produce gas-guzzling automobiles in the postwar period, and environmental stewardship)
·   bike paths and even bicycle street lights—many have a handle you can hold onto while waiting for the light to change, so you don’t have to get off your bike!
·  certain baked goods: a wide variety of breads and rolls, pastries, “cheese cake”
·   Ausbildung = education. Even the store cashiers and cleaning ladies take courses.
·   water fountains; corrolary: no free water with your restaurant meal; some places will let you ask for tap water
·   trash cans on street corners, at least in Dresden, because eating is something you do when you are someplace, not when you are on your way to someplace. This means I often ended up carrying a banana peel or apple core a couple blocks, until I reached the next busstop.
·   ashtrays at busstops: as if by making it “inconvenient” to throw away their butts, smokers will quit. Yeah, right. They just toss them on the ground.
·   cookies, brownies, and cake: I think it has something to do with the baking powder. Also, in general, Germans prefer less sweet baked goods. Just the sight of your standard American brownie (fudge with chocolate chips, say) would send many Germans into sugar shock.
·   sales tax: sticker price of 99 cents means 99 cents
·   homeschooling. Since the mid-19th c. Germans have had a Schulpflicht: literally translated, the duty to go to school. It was originally conceived as a paternalistic responsibility of the state to care for its future citizens by educating them, but it is a burden for those parents who don’t want the state directing their children’s education.



A last observation that I frequently made is that I look German but—even with my best grammar and vocabulary—as soon as I opened my mouth it became blatantly obvious that "Frau Ehrenberger" was not German. Most people I interacted with were willing to work with my sometimes limited language skills.* Only once did a complete stranger (to me; he was a friend of a friend) make fun of me. She and I were loading my things into her car after a sleepover, and I was unselfconsciously prattering away in German with my broad American accent. “Was?” he asked her in front me. “Was ist das? Ist das Deutsch?” I wanted to say to him, “Hallo! Ich verstehe Sie!” but just mumbled a “Hi.”**

By contrast, a South Korean artist I met outside Dresden (who had good English from having studied in Boulder, CO), noted that she was stared at in her small town outside Munich. She was often the first Asian these people had ever seen. But some neighbors had taken her under their wing and regularly invited her over to drink beer and learn Bayrisch. So even though she didn’t look German, she often impressed shopkeepers by speaking in the local dialect!

Certainly much of my experience in Germany was filtered through my language skills, what I could or could not understand, what I could or could not express. Being in an English-language environment is my favorite part about being back in the United States. Okay, maybe my second favorite part, after having DH around all the time. And so it seems mete to publish this final missive from/about Germany a year after the above exchange about the foreign-ness of Europe being manifested in its curtains took place. In the title of this post I call Germany "now a familiar strange place," because I feel as if I understand or recognize some of what makes our countries different (hence, "familiar")--but they are still different ("strange"). I hope you have enjoyed reading along; I know I appreciated having a creative outlet for writing and for sharing photographs. Watch this space: over the next months I may post every few weeks with some update on my dissertation research and writing; and definitely stay tuned in June 2012, as I accompany DH on a choir trip to Central Europe. We'll post more stories and photos for you!


*--My German definitely improved, but the variety of topics I encountered sometimes strained my vocabulary. High-school German, for instance, does not provide one with words or phrases for church or Bible study. And my research taught me about medicine, food, and even agriculture but not always what I needed for discussing current American economics or politics, which were popular topics with acquaintances.

**--"What?" "What's that? Is that German?"  "Hello! I understand you!"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On my work, part II

Me in the Elbe River while back in Dresden in July 2011
I had the nagging feeling that half-written posts were waiting to be finished and published--and I was correct! This is the companion to my last post (several weeks ago); a retrospective remains to be illustrated, and that will end my "Germany entries," conceived/written while I was still in Europe.

In the first part of this post, I discussed some of the quirks and annoyances about archival and library research. You may have wondered why I want to go through all the trouble! That's easy: I love research, because I love the thrill of the chase. The slightly ADD part of my psyche relishes when a search for one piece of information leads to another and another and then connects back to something else I already knew. This means I often end up opening multiple browser windows while looking stuff up online, as my thinking branches off in one direction after another. Then I have to work backwards to reconstruct the bits of knowledge I was after, like so many parenthetical comments or tangents in a conversation with myself.

Another thing I like about research is finding sources that referenced each other, or at least the same event. I have plenty of sources, too many probably, so that’s not a problem. And I could say many things from each of them. However, when more than one source mentions the same question or controversy, then it feels like that event really happened and isn’t just a fragment from an archive or a figment of my over-active (or desperate) imagination. Now that I am outlining, I am pulling these inter-textual references together into case studies about various concepts, like food for the sick or the pleasures/dangers of home canning.

I always like finding stories, too, especially about patients or other ordinary people. The last project I worked on while in Dresden was seven copy books of letters written by a nutritional chemist working in or just outside Dresden. The copy books included both personal and business letters, so I could learn about both his work and his family life. Because there are so many letters from this person, who hasn't been written about in English yet, I will probably include him in at least two of the six chapters in my dissertation.

As I transition from researching to reviewing to writing, maybe I will introduce you to this character in a future post. There are joys and frustrations about writing, too, and those will probably be subjects of musings (or rants) as well. Finally, as fun and as frustrating as the privilege and duty of research can be, I honestly want to devote a larger portion of my career as a historian to teaching. I am TAing for the History Department for the first time this semester, and now that I am beginning to settle into a rhythm with that new task and identity, I expect to share some of what I learn about myself as a teacher and about history for non-majors. As you can see from the photograph at the head of this post, I've barely gotten my feet wet in the wide river of the historical profession.

Monday, October 3, 2011

On my work, part I

June 2011 in Haus 1, Staatsbibliothek in Berlin
Laptop + old books + camera = ready to work!


Doing archival research for one's dissertation--and especially going abroad to do so--is something of a rite of passage for history graduate students. This probably applies to disciplines like anthropology, sociology, and archaeology, too. Once you've condensed your dissertation proposal into the neat package necessary for travel grant applications; jumped through the hoops of visas, international health insurance, and local institutional affiliation; and then actually lived and worked in a foreign country for 6 or 10 or more months, it's like you've entered a special club. "Oh yeah," you can say to the first-year graduate students. "I've already been to [insert comparatively exotic city] to do my research. I'm writing my dissertation now." It's true that getting to live and do research in Paris, Mexico City, Moscow, or Johannesburg is a unique and privileged opportunity. How many of my high school or even college classmates have gotten to do the same? Most American Germanists prefer large and metropolitan Berlin, but even living 7 months in Dresden was a wonderful experience. It's no cultural backwater. I'll be telling stories about it for the rest of my life.

But I'm not writing my dissertation now. Because writing a dissertation is more than merely reading some old documents in archives far away and then coming home and writing about it. For starters, I did very little reading while I was in Germany. On the advice of my advisers, I spent my time there collecting; now that I'm home again sharing the mortgage and grocery bills with Dear Husband, I am finally getting around to reading some of the mountain of data I collected.

But I'm not even supposed to be doing that just yet. My advisers want me to sort through that mountain, looking for sources that stand out for their uniqueness and potential, so that over the course of this semester I can refine my chapter outline. Next semester I'll start writing my dissertation.

Until then, I thought I would share some reflections on the process of doing archival research, day-in and day-out. For one, it is temporally different than the work I had done with primary sources while I was taking graduate classes. Earlier, I would either order something through inter-library loan, or I would go hunting in the stacks at our library. Then I would snatch time between this class and that meeting to read, analyze, and write a paper by the end of the semester. Living abroad to research, researching in the archive or library became an all-day, every-day task (even most Saturdays). It had a very different rhythm.

What I liked least about my work were the physical aspects of it. For instance, at the Staatsbibliothek (State Library) in Berlin, the chairs at the table with the microfiche readers were so high that although I was at eye level with the machine, I had to point my toes for my shoes to even touch the floor. By contrast, at the Hauptstaatsarchiv in Dresden, the chairs were too low for the tables, which made typing for long periods uncomfortable. The reading room there was often cold, so during the winter in Dresden I brought a heavy shawl and used it as a lap blanket. Meanwhile, summer in the un-air-conditioned library in Berlin meant sometimes warm afternoons (although not many) when we had to collectively decide whether to use the drapes to shut out the sun--but also the breeze. And nowhere was I allowed to eat and work at the same time (for obvious reasons, I might add!), so although my mental energy might have been high, if my stomach was cramping, I had to stop working long enough to eat, which sometimes interrupted my rhythm. Other times I had to stop to wash my hands because the old ink/paper/bindings left a dust that irritated my skin after a while. I developed pretty good hand hygiene before eating! On the other hand, while a cleaner activity, looking at microfilm for hours on end often led to a stiff neck (the screen tends to be set too high) and to dead brain cells (the film…never…ends…).

All this work on sources from the past requires a lot of technology, both new and old. As the photo at the head of this entry suggests, I depended heavily on my laptop and digital camera for photographing sources. This was both free and convenient, because those thousands of photographs weigh no more than my laptop. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I got to Berlin, the screen on my laptop died. It had flickering some in Leipzig, but I had hoped to make it back home. No such luck. I was able to find a computer store near my new apartment that was so...convenient: my laptop lived there for an. entire. month. Thankfully, my roommates in Kreuzberg were sweet (if not predisposed to cleanliness), and one lent me an old laptop of his. Unfortunately, it was an Italian laptop set to the German keyboard. That made taking notes in English tricky! (Germans switch Z and Y, for instance.) Then my landlord loaned me the German laptop in the photo above. It was old but fast, and once I figured out how to get it to talk to my camera, I could get back to work. Next time: some fun stories from my research.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where I worked, Part II (Leipzig und Berlin)

This is the second of two posts about the places at which I conducted my research while in Germany. Apologies for the delay in publication; teaching, reading my notes, and putting the finishing touches on a book manuscript have been taking up my time.

First: Saxony's second city. I went to Leipzig in order to work in the rich collection of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (Germany National Library). The two houses in Leipzig and Frankfurt am Main collect everything published in German since just before WWI. The big old building with beautiful mosaics in the lobby and pretty stained-glass windows in the cafeteria (left) dates from the same time, so many of the city tour buses pause in the circle drive for the tourists to snap a few photographs. When eating outside on the steps I often felt like part of the attraction. I liked working in the large main reading room, with its dark wood floor, walls, and desks. The desks each had a classic green-glass hooded lamp, which when glowing in the evenings lent the appropriate mood for doing research in early-twentieth-century ladies journals.

My hair was still short in May!
Small dome in Haus 1
Door handle to Haus 1
Speaking of mood, the characters of the two houses of the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin are very different. Haus 1 opened with great fanfare in early 1914, and its domed main reading room is supposed to have been quite an impressive sight. Unfortunately, the cuppola was damaged during WWII air raids, and it was finally dismantled in the 1970s. Haus 1 lies on the famous boulevard Unter den Linden, just a few blocks east of the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), and it ended up in East Berlin. There it suffered the architectural outrage (to read about it now) of having a couple of ugly book towers erected to hold the collections. The building is currently being cleaned and renovated inside and out, and a new glass cube main reading room will open early next year. On Die lange Nachte der Bibliotheken (Long night at the libraries) we were allowed a glimpsed at the as-yet unfinished reading room. Even though the entire place is essentially a construction site, I rather preferred the older style and even the noise to the visually interesting but strictly quiet Haus 2 on Potsdamer Platz. Plus, Haus 1 was closer once I moved to Prenzlauer Berg in July. With the division of the capital city, the library was also divided, and a newer, more modern building constructed in West Berlin in the 1960s contains the more recent collections. It is an architectural marvel of white and concrete and glass, of shapes and lights and uneven, open balconies. The open hours of Haus 2 were shorter than at Haus 1, so I was only here twice: once, to photograph a book that exists in single-copy in the Handwriting Collection; and once on Die lange Nacht der Bibliotheken to hear a radio drama set in a library. If you ever get lost in a library late at night--well, sometimes you don't want to be found...

Haus 2, Potsdamer Platz

The last place I worked in Berlin was at the Bundesfilmarchiv (Federal Film Archive) at Fehrbellinerplatz in Wilmersdorf. Part of the Platz is surrounded by the rounded “wings” of two Nazi-era buildings. From above I think they are supposed to be eagle-shaped. (The red structure in the photo to the left is the entrance to the U-Bahn.) I worked in the building across the street (right). Although the collection itself is impressive, I was underwhelmed my first day there. Visits are by appointment only and consist of you using the machines in an archivist’s office. However, this was helpful for me, since some of the 1920s hygiene films I looked at came in the mundane formats of VHS or DVD, but others were on film reels, and I had never worked with those before. I went back for a quick half day on my last day of research in Germany. I marked a few films for stills I want for an article I'm thinking of writing, and I watched a few more films. I was interested to note that both an advertisement for canned meat and a public health film on good diet used the idea of a fantasy land of too much food--they date from the post-WWI period, when Germans were finally able to buy and eat food after the long "hunger blockade" by the Allies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where I worked, Part I (Dresden)

The next several posts are about where and how I worked in Germany. I spent my days in one of several libraries or archives, each with its own character. For the first seven months, most of my time was at the Dresden Hauptstaatsarchive (Main State Archive) in its temporary quarters on the grounds of the military barracks north of the city (photo left). There wasn't much to do or see in the area. The building used to house the state and university library, before that moved to the campus in the middle of town. At the beginning of June (after I had left Dresden), the archive closed and moved to its recently renovated house in the Regierungsviertel (Government Quarter) in the Neustadt, much closer to the center of town. It should open in the new/old location near the river next month.  
One tram stop to the north lies the small Stadtarchiv for Dresden. The reading room with its modern furniture lies on the fifth and top floor, with a large (shaded) skylight to let in the sunlight (indirectly). To the right is a view from the stairwell looking south, toward the river and the Neustadt. Train tracks ran right by the back of the building, so we could often hear trains and whistles while we read our old documents.

The Sächsische Landes- und Universitätsbibliothek (SLUB) occupies the ground floor and two underground levels on the campus of the Technische Universität Dresden, my host institution. Great earthen bunkers covered in grass and trees were erected around this university library, giving it a protected (defended?) feel. I snapped the shot below one evening when it had been raining. It seemed to me like the students’ umbrellas had cropped over their lockers like so many colorful mushrooms. I came here to look at microfilm of the local newspapers and to scan old books with the BookEyes (PDFs weigh a lot less than copies and are better for delicate books).



A couple of days I worked at the library of the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden. Although the building is mostly an aseptic white with dark floors, the library is much warmer, with lots of wood for the book shelves and desks. Unfortunately, that library closed without warning for renovations in February, and it did not reopen before I left the country. I hope that I was able to get what I needed last winter.


A last site in Dresden was the Institut für Geschichte der Medizin (Institute for the History of Medicine). They have a small library of books, some or which aren’t even in the online catalog with the rest of the university library's holdings. I photographed promotional materials for the Lahmanns Sanatorium-Bad Weiβer Hirsch in their conference room, which also contained several cases of old medical instruments, like the one in the photo to the left. The ladies here were extraordinarily friendly, and when they found out my last day with them happened to be my birthday, they bought ice cream cake and rote Grütze (red berries sauce) so we could celebrate!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Left Behind

This post--the last about my travels--is the counterpart to the one I published last September on packing to leave for Europe. As always, it is amazing how much stuff one can collect in (almost) a year, in my case mostly papers and books (see photo). I ended up lugging about 25-30 pounds of belongings from Berlin through Poznan to Warsaw. I thought two weeks' worth of clothing was plenty to pack, so I was surprised to come home and discover I had an entire bureau and a small closet full of clothes! Over the next couple of weeks I will post a final few retrospective entries about living and researching in Germany, which will bring this first phase of my blog to an end.


After packing to leave Berlin at the end of July, I made two lists: one of things that I acquired in Germany, and one of things that got "left behind." Here they are:


Acquisitions:
Bible (Die Gute Nachricht)
bike pump
books
books
photocopies
CDs with scans of documents
2 DVDs (one a gift, one I purchased, unfortunately both Region 2)
expensive air mattress I bought for the cave-camping trip on Christmas Eve
external harddrive (I was starting to get panicky about losing my photo collection, which is too big for the free online storage sites)*
Handy (= cell phone) and charger
USB stick
vegetable peeler

Cast-offs:
bank statements (I had to print these out every month, or the bank charged me a fee for mailing it)
bicycle and bike lock (sold online)
drying rack for laundry
the "little pot" I bought to cook oatmeal, soup, and single dinner servings 
lunch box (worn out)
2 pairs of sneakers (1 worn out, 1 too small)
pair of dress shoes (worn out)
pair of khakis (tangled in my bike chain one too many times)
shower poof
toothbrush
Tupperware I bought in Germany (what I brought over with me I carried home again)
umbrella (broken by the wind)
vase for the dozen red roses DH sent when things got stressful over the summer
wicker basket my Christmas present from DH came in (fruit and more fruit: does he know me, or does he know me?)


Although Dear Husband traded me for a larger suitcase on one of his visits, and he even carted home some winter clothes, photocopies, and books for me, when packing up I still found myself with juuust enough carrying capacity. Or rather, capacity to stuff my belongings into an enclosed container and drag or otherwise lug it behind me. I still had my winter coat, a lighter and a heavier jacket, my bicycle helmet, and a steamer basket that I didn’t use as often as I thought I would, since I usually ended up cooking my vegetables with the potatoes in a little olive oil. For the trip through Poland I also had an extra bag of apples, snacks, and rolls with what was left of my meat and cheese. I figured I had already paid for this food, could eat it whenever I was hungry, and wouldn’t have to worry about factoring as many meals into my budget of Polish zlotys. Although I am used to buying just as much food as I need for a week, I discovered that I am reeaallly bad at estimating how long toiletries like shampoo and shower gel last. At least I was able to repack the rest of my laundry detergent into a little juice bottle. I opted not to mail anything home, because I found that even a not-very-heavy small-medium box could cost 30 Euros (= $40) to mail to the States. So because books are heavy (= expensive), and because I have heard horror stories of research notes getting lost at customs, I would have ended up mailing back clothes and lugging the books and a ream of copies anyway. Cheapskate me would rather endure the sweat and blisters than pay the money. As it was, I ended up paying over 100 Euros in luggage fees for the privilege of traveling with all my stuff.



*--The external harddrive made the journey in my suitcase. I sat in an exit row, and a thought occurred to me while reading the emergency landing info: "If the plane goes down, I lose my suitcase; that means in order to save 10 months' worth of research photographs, I would have to take my laptop, which is against the rules. I may not "meet the requirements" for sitting in the exit row after all!"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poland, Day 2: Warsaw

I liked Warsaw. I formed my first impression of it while walking around the center of the city, looking for my hostel (I had written the address down incorrectly). An hour and a half later, I arrived, tanned from so much sun, and itching to get started with some real sight-seeing. An hour later I had showered, changed, and found a castle open on a Monday. Off I went.

One neat feature of the city I had to get used to was the underground pedestrian passages. Instead of having to cross large streets and deal with the traffic, pedestrians go down some stairs, along a hallway, and up again to re-emerge on the next corner. Some of the tram stops are accessed this way. Meanwhile, the passages are lined with shops for computer parts, books, baked goods, etc.

I figured Warsaw was too big and cheap to resign myself to walking everywhere--not mention the blisters from legging it around Poznan--so my first day I rode a streetcar and a bus to the Old City and took the subway home at night. The public transit system seems pretty extensive, and the website comes in English. But there are few ticket automats, so I ended up riding schwarz (black, i.e. illegally) on the first leg of my journey, because I couldn't figure out where to buy a ticket. (It turns out most of the sidewalk newspaper and cigarette kiosks sell them.) There are no maps or schedules or signs or announcements in the buses or streetcars, so I nearly missed my stop once. And riding on a weekday at rush hour meant squeezing into a bus with a LOT of Poles. But I got where I was going:


I took a tour of the castle in the Old City. After the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (not to be confused with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943), the Nazis leveled what was left of the city and blew up the castle in retribution. It has since been rebuilt in its original style and grandeur. I marveled as I always do at the money and effort that went into the artwork and decorations--like the beautiful ceiling painting above--that only a small percentage of the population ever got to enjoy. All of the signage here also came in English, as it is a popular tourist spot.

I wandered around the Old City, looked at the Vistula River, and treated myself to a traditional Polish meal of summer soup and compott (water in which prunes and other dried fruits have been steeped). I drank my compott cold, but it also makes a tasty warm drink for cold days. For some reason it reminded me of apple butter.

Warsaw is a big, busy, international metropolis. From the viewing platform on the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science the next morning, I could see signs on buildings for Coca-Cola, Siemens, Peugeot, and other foreign companies.

Stalin gifted this enormous building (first photo above) to the Polish people in 1955, and it is still the tallest building in the country (42 stories). Its several wings house a cinema, a museum, a conference hall, and even a university. The techno mermaid to the right wields her sword outside the Museum of Science and Technology. I was really looking forward to seeing their Glass Woman, but the ticket lady in her limited English didn't offer an explanation for why I couldn't buy a ticket for that. Instead, I looked at a charming set of sometimes witty model train vignettes; at some mining equipment; and at their collections of phones, computers, cars and motorcycles, washing machines. Maybe half of the labels were also available in English, so I had an even more extreme reaction of glassy-eyed wonder/stupor to these context-less objets d'science. They did translate a couple of paragraphs about the Enigma machine the Poles used to break the Nazi's code during WWII, which was cool. And I got to bid farewell to the United States' space-travel program at the museum's display on the Apollo missions. In one room, an elderly gentleman explained hands-on physics experiments to me (in Polish).

My last stop was to the Frederic Chopin house and museum. It opened at noon that day, but it was free, so I figured it was worth trying to spend an hour or so there before picking up my luggage from the train station and heading to the airport. Unfortunately, they only had spots left from 4pm (my plane took off at 4:30!). Thankfully, the girl working the ticket counter took pity on me and gave me a pass anyway. Like the Museum of Science and Technology, the Chopin Museum stakes its claim to fame on its collection of objects and memorabilia. Unlike the MST, however, the Chopin institution recently reopened with a glitzy, new, high-tech exhibition. You can see a draft manuscript of an etude and then touch your pass to the nearby computer screen for a video about Warsaw or Paris when the composer lived there (with subtitles in your language, too). It was pretty neat. Dear Husband would have loved the room in the basement on Chopin as a composer. Soon it was time to go.

A woman from Barcelona and I snapped each other's photograph on the observation deck of the Palace of Science and Culture.

I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I had frustrating and sweaty experiences traveling from Berlin to Poznan, from Poznan to Warsaw, and then to the airport for my return journey. The two days I spent in the capital of Poland were warmer than I had expected, and my luggage really was quite heavy. So more than once I found myself in a bathroom, taking a sponge bath so as not to offend my fellow travelers. Good thing I remembered to pack my towel!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poland, Day 1: Poznan

When my visa was up in Germany, I took a little detour through Poland on the way home to the States. I figured I should take advantage of my time-limited proximity to this country to experience something new and different. My two-day trip was neither as wet nor as cold as I had expected. I brought the rain with me from Berlin, as if the train were towing the rain clouds behind it. Two and a half hours later, I got out at Poznan, "the historical capital of the Wielkopolska Region, where the Polish State was born 1000 years ago," according to the city's website. "Posen" was also once the capital of a Prussian province, after Poland was divided between Germany and Russia in 1815. Unfortunately, a wet Sunday afternoon was probably not the best time to try to get a feel for Poland's fifth largest city (pop. 550,000). 


I had not planned an extensive itinerary for this trip, hoping rather to have good weather to wander about and take photographs. On account of the rain, however, I decided a museum visit would be a better/drier way to learn about the city, so I paid 5 zloty (no Euros!) to see the Museum of the History of Poznan. Alas, it turned out to be a stereotypical small-town museum of objects arranged more or less chronologically by theme (guilds, portraits, books and artisanal products, "19th century"). Maybe 1/2-3/4 of the little printed labels had been translated into English. Although the paragraphs about each room explained the groupings of the pieces, there was no real narrative. So I finished early at the museum. Little more educated than when I went in, and with several hours of somewhat drier daylight and visiting hours at other attractions ahead of me (until 6pm, according to what I could find online), I decided to go ahead and walk around. I usually have a pretty good sense of direction, but between the rain and a hodgepodge of streets, my mental compass utterly failed me, and I got lost twice in three hours. On the upside, I saw a little bit more of the city, which is on a river and which has an impressive amount of green space.


From the train station to the emperor's castle to various dilapidated buildings, much of Poznan is under construction. Because the city is known for its architecture, this state of being half-finished is probably a common one in its 1000+-year history. For instance, the Rathaus (left) was first constructed in the 1500s in a northern Italian Renaissance style; the main hall with its creative ceiling is original, but other parts were renovated just before WWI or after WWII. The emperor's castle has a medieval exterior and a New Objectivity interior dating to the 1930s. Across a wide meridian stands the building for the Prussian Academy of Arts and Sciences with a stepped facade (think Amsterdam). On the meridian stands a monument to the "Poznan Uprising" of 1956 (first image above); what is remarkable is that the monument was privately funded and opened already in 1981, at a time when Poles were pushing back against the one-party system, but well before the official end of socialism. It combines two important national symbols, the cross and the eagle. Eagles also appeared in a memorial to those who died defending Poznan during WWII (bottom image). 

Despite the fact that I had developed blisters already (my German sneakers rubbed right on my pinky toes), I figured I had enough time to walk 2km across the city center and over the river to the Cathedral Island. That was actually worth the visit. The main attraction, the cathedral (right), was first built in 698 and since revised, destroyed, and updated. In its current incarnation, some new artwork tempers the very old art and architecture. Outside stands a life-sized statue of the late Pope John Paul II. Then it was home to the hostel, where I took a hot shower, ate the leftovers I had brought for dinner, and enjoyed the free wireless internet.


Poznan was nice. It felt like a small city. I only wish that I could have had some company while I was tramping around it (the student who invited me out to visit her family there was actually on vacation at the same time I was). Next day: Warsaw.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monkey Rock

When I went back to Dresden in July to finish up some archival work and to celebrate my birthday, I stayed with German friends. One of them grew up just outside Dresden during the DDR and has fond memories of hiking with her family in the "Saxon Switzerland" (Sächsische Schweiz), so after a leisurely breakfast on Saturday we caught the train out to Bad Schandau, a famous spa town on the Elbe River. We took the ferry across the river and then rode on the only Strassenbahn in a German national park, the Kirnitzschtalbahn, to Beuthenfall. At exactly 1pm we set out into the woods and up.


Our first goal was the Affenstein: Monkey Rock. In the 1960s Rudolf Hänztschel cobbled together a(n unauthorized) climbing route that quickly grew in popularity. The government tried to shut it down in 1998, but after local hiking groups complained--Germans take hiking very seriously--the park district relented and agreed to repair the "Häntzschelstiege" (link has video). Among those attempting the 160m (525ft) ascent that afternoon, we were the only ones without helmets, harnesses, or gloves. My friend had made this climb so many times that she finds such accouterments unnecessary: the key was to hold on tightly and to only move one hand or foot at a time.

I won't lie: the climb was heart-pounding. It was, as my mother's family says, "truly dangerous." The edited, eight-and-a-half-minute video in the link above gives you an idea of the climb up the cliffs and crevices to the plateau above. Once on top, however, the paths were more or less level and the views were gorgeous. We took some photographs to celebrate our achievement and then hiked to a popular lookout point to eat lunch (left). It's hard to believe that whole area used to be under water.

Next on the agenda was the Idagrotte, a cave carved out of the sandstone first by water and then by wind. Eventually we came to the "never-ending" wooden staircase dooown off the plateau. We hiked across the valley and then up to the second largest arch in the park, known as the Kuhstall (Cowpen). After stopping for ice cream we clambered up the Himmelsleiter (Heaven's Ladder) to one more vista point, where a medieval castle once stood. (They apparently kept their cows in the formation below, hence the name.) I found the sight of so much green beautiful. Then it was time to walk down the windy slope back to the Kirnitzschtalbahn stop from which we had set out 4 hours earlier. It was 5pm, and we were spent, but what a wonderful afternoon it had been!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Connect the Dots!


View European Travels 2010-2011 in a larger map


Travel is still on my mind, so while I sort photographs and write up posts about my various summer adventures, I thought for my first entry since returning to the United States, I would share this map of my European peregrinations. If you click on the link, you can see the entire map and also descriptions of what I was doing in each place. First stop: Copenhagen (September 2010). Last stop: Warsaw (August 2011).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I ate that! Take 3

German Home-Cooking 1
Blutwurst + Kartoffeln + Sauerkraut (+ Salat)

When I mentioned my experience with calf liver to a chatty old lady at church the next day, she told me that she thinks the apples and onions are the best part. And actually, she prefers chicken liver. And had I tried another Berlin dish, Blutwurst, yet? When I was in England last month for that food and drink history conference, we were served black pudding one evening, which is the same thing. I also found that tasty. So I agreed to take her suggestion to purchase some fresh blood-sausage from a butcher, as the packaged ones are supposed to be relatively tasteless. She recommended I pair it with boiled Kartoffeln (potatoes) and Sauerkraut “verfeinert” (“refined”) with Lorbeerblatt (bay leaf) and Speck (bacon). Because I am cleaning out my pantry in preparation for returning home, instead of buying white sauerkraut I used some of the Rotkohl (red sauerkraut) I already had. I cooked the basil potatoes with their delicate skin on (even my sources from around WWI suggest that). And I served the warmed sausage slices with a green salad without the typical German dressing of lots of oil and vinegar. The meal was very delicious! I would eat that again.


American Home-Cooking
Shrimp Couscous + Mixed Green Salad

While I was back in Dresden for a quick, one-week research trip, I stayed with two sets of friends, and of course we cooked and ate together. To thank the first couple for their hospitality, I offered to make an “American meal” from a personal recipe, which is as follows:
      Shrimp Couscous
Shrimp, thawed (+/- shells)
Broccoli, with long stems
Boxed coucous, any flavor
Craisins
Pine nuts, toasted if you like
Olive oil
Garlic, minced
Start boiling the water for the couscous. When the olive oil and garlic are hot, begin cooking the shrimp. When the water has boiled, add the couscous. Meanwhile, steam the broccoli. Just before the couscous is finished cooking, stir in the craisins and pine nuts (if you toast them, put them in the oven at the very beginning of the cooking process). When everything is cooked, spoon the couscous mixture into individual bowls, arrange the broccoli around the edges, and top with shrimp.

This is a very fast meal that you can prepare in about 15 minutes once you’ve got the rhythm of the individual ingredients down. My hosts found it an unusual combination but they liked it very much. They are born and raised Saxons, and Saxony lies miles from the East Sea, so salt-water seafood is a relative rarity for them. Apparently they hadn’t had Garnelen (shrimp) before. We ate this with the usual German salad with oil and vinegar.


German Home-Cooking 2
Pellkartoffeln + Quark + Leinöl

The next night, my hostess cooked a traditional mitteldeutsche (Middle-German) meal for us of Pellkartoffeln (boiled potatoes) and Quark mixed with red onion and linseed oil, the way she used to eat it in the Mensa (cafeteria) at her university in Thüringen (a state next to Saxony famous for Martin Luther and Wolfgang von Goethe). The red onion is pungent and the linseed oil is nutty, making for an interesting flavor combination.


German Home-Cooking 3
Spiegeleier + Kartoffeln + Spinat

At my next hostess’s home, I got to try a combination I often came across in my research in Leipzig on women’s journals from the 1910s to early 1930s. For all its reputation of being meat-heavy, much German cooking uses other sources of protein and calories...like blood sausage, quark and linseed oil, and eggs. This meal is really well balanced: protein from the egg, carbohydrates from the potatoes, and balast from the spinach. I don’t know about its vitamin content, however, as the spinach is usually boiled, chopped, and then cooked again with butter and/or cream and maybe some nutmeg (my hostess used packaged frozen spinach). If I make this at home, I will cook the spinach less, if at all. I added some fresh cherry tomatoes for color.



Czech Restaurant Food
For my birthday, my friends took me out to Goldenes Prag, a Czech restaurant in Dresden with a good reputation. I ordered a traditional Czech meal of pork and dumplings with gravy, because it reminded me of my family’s two trips to the Czech Republic. When I asked if it came with any vegetables, the waiter said yes, Preiselbeeren (think cranberry sauce). Anything green, I asked? He suggested a salad. So in the picture you can see the cucumber salad I got, which consisted of mostly peeled and thinly sliced cucumbers in a creamy dressing. That’s a nice white wine from Thüringen behind my plate.


“German” Restaurant Food
Salat + Gebratene Pfefferlinge

Last dish: one day I met my Doktorvater (dissertation adviser) for lunch at the famous Markthalle in Bergmanstrasse. We ate at a vaguely Italian restaurant. He had a salad with goat’s cheese, I a salad with lightly cooked mushrooms. Fresh lettuce plus toppings is a combination I enjoy, but it is not a German formulation. However, the little mushrooms called Pfefferlinge are a national favorite, so I thought this was a nice fusion with which to conclude my food posts.

As always, I wish you, Guten Appetit! Lass es Euch schmecken! (May it taste good to you!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I ate that! Take 2

This post is dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Sue, who shared my interest (obsession?) with food.



This is the companion post to one I put up last summer, about my usual diet while in the United States; like the next one I will post, however, it is sparsely illustrated. This is because I was waiting for “a typical week” to take the series of photographs, but between frequent moves (4 times in 10 months, not counting traveling to and from Germany) and a changing schedule depending on my research, it never seemed to work out. Instead, I decided to practice my vocabulary by making up a typical Tagesspeisezettel (daily menu) and offering it to you in German and in English.

Tagesspeisezettel
1. Frühstück (immer mit Obstsaft)
Winter: Haferflocken mit Birnen, Rosinen, und Milch gekocht + Zimtzucker und manchmal Nüsse
 Sommer: Joghurt und Müsli + Obst oder Beeren
Wochenende: Eierkuchen + Obst + Zimtzucker oder Rühreier + Gebackenes + Obst

2. Frühstück
Banane + gekochtes Ei



3. Frühstück 
Gebackenes + Obst (gewöhnlich eine Apfelsine)

Mittagessen
Belegtes Brot: 1 oder 2 Scheiben Brot, Senf und Käse oder Frischkäse, Gurke, Fleisch
+ Möhren + Etwas Schokolade (besonders Ritter Sport) + Chips (ab Berlin)

Snack
Apfel + Butterkeks mit Erdnusscreme oder Nutella oder Studentenfutter oder Salzstangen oder Keks

Abendessen
Gebratene Kartoffeln oder Reis + Gemischte Hülsenfrüchte oder Linsen + gefrorene Mischgemüse
Nudeln + Tomatensoße (manchmal mit Kapern) Gemüse
 Dosenfisch + Reis oder Kartoffeln + Salat + Rotkohl
 Gebratene Kartoffeln + Kirchenerbsen + Kokonußmilch + Curry + Gemüse

Nachtisch
Apfelmus (nicht gezuckert) oder Gummibären oder Reiskeks mit Apfelmus (oder Nutella)



Daily Menu
1. Breakfast (always with fruit juice)
Winter: Oatmeal cooked with pear, raisins, and milk + cinnamon-sugar and sometimes nuts
Summer: Yogurt and muesli + fruit or berries
Weekends: Pancakes + fruit + cinnamon-sugar or Scrambled eggs + baked good + fruit

2. Breakfast
Banana + hard-boiled egg



3. Breakfast
Baked good + fruit (usually an orange)

Lunch
Sandwich: 1 or 2 pieces of bread, mustard and sliced cheese or spreadable cheese, cucumber, deli meat
+ Carrots + Some chocolate (especially Ritter Sport) + Chips (as of Berlin)

Snack
Apple + Butterkeks with peanut butter or Nutella or snack mix or pretzels or cookies

Dinner
Pan-fried potatoes or rice + Mixed beans or Lentils + Frozen mixed vegetables
 Noodles + Tomato sauce (sometimes with capers) + Vegetables
 Canned fish + Rice or Potatoes + Salad + Red cabbage sauerkraut
 Pan-fried potatoes + Chickpeas + Coconut milk + curry + Vegetables

Dessert
Applesauce (unsweetened) or gummy bears or rice cakes with applesauce (or Nutella)


The Gebackenes (baked goods) sometimes included treats like Mohnschnecken (poppy seed spirals) and Pfannkuchen (jelly donuts, aka Berliners), but usually I bought some kind of roll and either made a peanut butter-jelly sandwich with it or spread it with mustard and cheese or maybe butter and Lachsschinken (prosciutto?). To illustrate how serious the Germans are about their baked goods, the rolls I could choose from included plain wheat, whole wheat, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, mixed seeds, something with carrots in it, rye, and Dinkel. Dinkel—as one of the ladies at the German Cookbook Museum in Dortmund explained to me—is unripe wheat. It’s a common enough result of trying to grow wheat this far north that it often can’t fully ripen. So someone decided to market it as a specialty product that is supposed to be particularly good for you. I don’t know if the health claims hold up under scrutiny, but it’s yummy enough.
 
You may notice that the dinners are largely meatless. I was trying to eat vegetarian for reasons of health, finances, and environment. I had a hard time getting enough calories while bringing my meatless dinners to the library (to eat and then keep working), so I introduced canned fish, mostly for the sauces, which are a tasty alternative to the Kräutersalz (herb-salt) and Basilikum (basil) that has been my main seasoning here. Here’s an array of fish dishes:


The produce selection has been quite good. Italy and Spain are to Europe what Florida and California are to the United States, although some fruit also comes from as far away as South Africa and Peru. I have tried to buy German and/or organic where possible. When I lived in Kreuzberg I had the option of joining an organic co-op, and if I had been living in the area longer than a month I would have. But I didn’t think it was worth the trouble for so short a stay and just tried not to look at the difference between the member and non-member prices.

Basically, my diet is very similar to what I ate in the United States. I still graze throughout the day, and I eat mostly the same variety of foods. What is different is that there have been more baked goods and less meat and variety at dinner. I have also started eating some foods that I didn’t used to, like kiwi, eggs sunny-side-up (Spiegeleier), and tomatoes (especially cherry, grape, or other small varieties). I also now know I like some less common foods, like rote Grütze (basically a sweetened mixture of various red berries like Stachelbeeren), calf liver, and blood sausage. Probably what I eat back at home won’t change very much, but I am definitely looking forward to a change in how I eat, namely sharing the cooking and eating of dinner with DH!