Posted in November 2012

Lebkuchen Schmidt Nürnberger Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen Schmidt - Nürnberger

Lebkuchen are soft cookies. I don’t know much about them, but I know they can be absolutely delicious. Sometimes they have a lot of spice. Sometimes they have more sweetness. Sometimes they have awesome pockets of jam in the center. They all seem to have a giant communion wafer stuck to the bottoms, which feels like you’re eating a cookie off a sheet of paper.

I picked up these in a stored dedicated to Lebkuchen. I walked in and was immediately overwhelmed with all the different products, most of which seemed to focus more on the detailed tins than on the cookies themselves. I picked these because they had some guys on the package who advocated for their deliciousness.

Lebkuchen-Schmidt Gentlemen

But as it turns out, they’re not so trustworthy. The cookies were average. I think they were the sweeter variety, and I’m more interested in tracking down the spicy versions. I want a mouth full of Christmas spices, with jam. Anyone know where I should start?

 

Red Meat Packed In Fat, Sliced Thin

I enjoy pretending that Germans eat disgusting meat. Partly because I enjoy making fun of Germans, and partly because the meat often looks disgusting. But we’ve lived here long enough to have learned two important things:

  1. Anything you buy at the Metzgerei (butcher shop) is delicious.
  2. That disgusting thing lying there without refrigeration is phenomenal.
Thin-sliced Meat

I’m not even sure what animal this is from.

We stopped by a local Metzgerei to order a turkey (yes, you have to order them here), and in the process I fell in love with some cured sliced meat lying behind the counter. Deep red, sprinkled with fat, and surrounded with a thick edge of fat.

Since we’ve moved to Germany, I’ve made an effort to not be impulsive. Otherwise, I’d come back with two slices of every cured meat behind the counter. In the past, I was able to resist buying random meats for two reasons:

  1. My German was awful, and “ten slices of that meat-block, two from the left, with the black speckles; no, not THAT one, the one behind it” was just beyond my abilities.
  2. There were so many other great things to experience!

Now, of course, the novelty of tiny cars and cobblestone streets is wearing off. Standing there in line, surrounded by amazing meats, and with enough German under my belt to order whatever the heck I please, the temptation was too much. And then Alissa kept saying “do you want anything? I’m about to order. Anything at all? Some meat maybe? Just a few slices?” I cracked.

YES! YES, I’LL TAKE ALL THE MEAT IN THAT PRESENTATION STILL LIFE SITTING ON THE PROP WOODEN CUTTING BOARD!

The guy behind the counter literally slid everything off the cutting board onto a piece of butcher paper. I started hyperventilating in anticipation.

Now I’m sitting in my underpants, eating slices of greasy meat with my fingers, and sipping Makers Mark.

Sometimes impulses really pay off.

Our First Piece of Furniture

Our First Furniture

I realize we’ve only been here for 7 months, but it’s time we had a table. Thanksgiving is coming up. You can’t have Thanksgiving without a table. Everybody knows that.

And it folds! We wanted something that would expand to seat 8 in a Thanksgiving-like setting, where it’s totally fine to have one guy hanging off the side of a corner, but small enough for our tiny apartment. It folds up to a mini-table 11 inches deep (2.794e-4 km), to throw against a wall when we don’t want it taking up valuable empty space.

And now, nobody can claim that we don’t have furniture! Take THAT, Texas friends!

 

Konstanz

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of my success capturing Alissa in marriage, we bought the wrong train ticket, and headed toward a small town in Germany called Konstanz. We finally know enough German to understand the conductor when she yells at us, and Alissa knows enough German to argue back. Pretty awesome. After a minor 25 Euro fee, we made it to our destination.

Konstanz is on a giant lake, right above Switzerland. The area around the lake is supposed to be beautiful in the summer, but in the winter it’s just a cold lake next to a nice old warm European town, filled with hot tea and beer breweries. So we didn’t see much of the lake. We did walk by it once.

Lake Konstanz

I didn’t try my best to take a good photo.

In the morning, we decided to walk to Switzerland. As we headed out of our hotel room and into the early morning streets, we realized that we both forgot our passports back in Stuttgart. What happens at a border crossing when you don’t have your passport? Do they shoot you? Prison for life? Maybe just a quick punch to the face? We didn’t know. But Switzerland was right in front of us! Maybe we should risk it! If we were separated and tortured in some kind of crippling way, wouldn’t it be worth it for a glimpse of real Swiss cheese??

Switzerland Border Control

You can’t tell from the photo, but they have lasers mounted to kill intruders.

Of course it was! We walked through border control without them even noticing. Could have been too early in the morning for Swiss government employees. Could have been our ninja skills, blending in as locals. For whatever reason, we found ourselves at a farmers market in Switzerland. I say farmers market, but it was really a collection of five stands, set up in a small intersection about 50 meters from a plaza with electrical hookups.

We got some cheese and a bottle of fresh yogurt from one stand, and a few kinds of weird bread things from another. We paid in Euros, even though they asked for Francs. We didn’t have any Francs. The yogurt was delicious, and since we didn’t have any utensils (or manners), we drank it.

Alissa Drinks Swiss Yogurt

We still have the bottle because we didn’t want to go back and say “Hello again! We just went out back and drank the yogurt like animals. We got it pretty clean by wiping it out with leaves.”

A large part of the country speaks something called Swiss German. It’s like normal German, but reeeeally strange. We could understand people without much trouble, probably because we only understand 60 percent of what people say anyway, so the weird words and odd accents don’t phase us. We did notice it though. I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say it’s a bit like the way someone from Minnesota sounds to someone from South Carolina, including weird alternate words. Like “pop” and “soda”.

We ninja’d our way back through border security and spent the rest of the day wandering through Konstanz. The huge church in the center of town was surrounded with large cobblestones. A glass window in the center of the square looked down into one of the last surviving Roman fortresses, which was awesome. The streets were quaint. I’m pretty sure we walked down every street there. We walked a lot.

Street near Joh. Albrecht brewery

That red building in the photo is a house brewery called Joh. Albrecht, which we just ran into without doing a single bit of research. We normally research our trips a bit, but this time we just wanted to explore.

We like house breweries. There’s something comfortable and homey about them. They have shiny copper kettles and stained wood floors. Old photos of men in overalls shoveling grains decorate the walls beside hop and beer advertising. Old mugs and bottles sit on high shelves, and the food has always been delicious. Joh. Albrecht was no exception.

We’ve adopted the German habit of spending far too long in a restaurant. It’s really nice to spend three or four hours just sitting in a warm bar, trying every beer they have on the menu and ordering delicious food. We almost went back the next day, and that’s saying something. The beer was unique and great. The Kupfer, in particular, was fantastic. Described as a ‘malty, mild dunkle”, it was probably the best dunkle I’ve ever had. The Weizen was quite good too, and the Messing (“the hoppy, bitter light beer”) was yet another example of Germans stepping (slightly) out of their typical styles. I would not describe it as bitter, but it had a nice full, unfiltered, bite-into-fruit-while-standing-in-a-field sort of flavor.

Joh. Albrecht Copper Kettles

They had a modern brewery downstairs. Silver pipes and large kettles. The kettles were pretty great; they had water pouring over the sides, presumably to cool the fermentation. And they had wart fermenting in large open tubs.

Joh. Albrecht Wart Kettles

Delicious, delicious new beer

During our walk, we stopped in a bar for some hot tea. You know how bars sometimes leave a bowl of peanuts on the table? This one left peanuts and week-old Lebkuchen (a spicy gingerbread soft cookie), piled artistically on top of each other.

Dry Bar Lebkuchen

That piece of white Lebkuchen was terribly dry. Alissa wouldn’t even try it, so I had to finish it all myself. Gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Toward the end of our stay, we passed an art store that had a giant photo of the Brooklyn Bridge in the window. It was focused on the exact spot where we got married. It’s pretty great to have been married in a spot that the rest of the world appreciates as much as we do.

It’s been a crazy year. We quit our jobs, gave away most of our things, and moved to another country. Through all the stress and excitement, we’ve found a place we really love to be. And think of all the great things we get to do THIS year!

Happy Anniversary, Darling!

 

The Life and Death of Twoface McPumpkin

He began his life as a pumpkin that sat on our floor for a few weeks. Right before Halloween, we both took a crack at giving him a face; one on each side. We only had a paring knife, so we had to make do.

McPumpkin, Day

He looks happy, but he has guts hanging behind his eyes.

He was born to delight and terrify the neighbors, and we propped him up on a plant pot so he could look out over the edge of the window, giving fellow Stuttgarters a delight or a nightmare, depending on how he was turned.

McPumpkin at Night

At the right angle, you could get his reflection, underscoring that while he gave the world a happy face, his evil side wasn’t so far away.

McPumpkin's Reflection

Then I came home one day to find this.

McPumpkin's Death

Suicidal? Was he pushed? The mystery may go unanswered.

There were a lot of disgusting pumpkin juices all over the counter and floor. Did you know that rotting pumpkin juices stain marble? Well, they do. I tried cleaning it up with this generic cleaner that we use a lot. However, the main ingredient of this cleaner is vinegar, and vinegar ALSO stains marble.

Things have really spiraled out of control in this household.