Tag Archives: Food culture

Deutsches Museum – A Quest For The Quirky

I want to go to the museum.” Those were the words I never thought I’d hear. Ever. Not from the mouth of my brother. But he said them. And off to the museum we went. To the Deutsches Museum in Munich, to be exact, whose ample bowels are a splendid repository of science and technology paraphernalia. Germany has come up with¬†quite a lot of this stuff over the years.

I won’t bore you with the fascinating details of the various exhibits (not being sarcastic for once, I love all that stuff!) – my photo hunt was rather aimed at the quirky side of things.

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Like this staircase! Without…

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…and with people on it ūüôā

Or these windows reflecting a building site:

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Knitted coral reef, anyone?

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How about some knitted…

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MEAT?!?

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“Meat oysters” – don’t ask…

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Ditto. So much for “the food of the future”.

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Abstract art? No, mum and bro as seen by a heat sensor camera

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Structure of a crystal

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Can’t remember… something do to with microprocessors

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Ship’s propeller

Some rooftop views:

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Beautiful Munich ūüôā

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People swimming in the Isar… it was a hot day!

 

I shall leave you with some famous last words (as displayed on a wall behind the knitted coral reef):

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Waiter, There’s A Moral Dilemma In My Lunch!

I did a very bad thing. No, not recently. It must have been seven or eight years ago. It happened at the end of a shopping trip in Brent Cross, North London. After trudging through the aisles like two people who only ever go shopping when they absolutely have to, my friend and I decided to reward ourselves with a nice lunch at Wagamama, which, back then, was still quite a hip chain of Asian fusion cuisine.

I’d eaten there a few times before, but my friend hadn’t, so I recommended a tasty stir fry, which she duly ordered. I can’t remember what I had, but I do remember that I only enjoyed the first two forkfuls of it because of what ensued.

The food arrived, looking all fresh, healthy and delicious. We started to tuck in.

‚ÄúOooooh! Yummmmmm!‚ÄĚ My friend‚Äôs eyes grew wide and then closed slowly¬†as she¬†slipped into a trance of eating pleasure. ‚ÄúThis is just the best tofu I have ever tasted in my whole damn life!‚ÄĚ

My cardiac activity seized for a few seconds.

This was not tofu.

I had forgotten to tell her to substitute the chicken.

My friend had been a faithful vegetarian for the past quarter of a century. Until 40 seconds ago. How could I have made such a terrible mistake?

She clearly had no inkling that there was anything amiss. And why would she? After all, she was having lunch with no other than moi, a professional nutritionist attuned to people’s special dietary requirements.

I kept smiling as convincingly as I could muster while trying to make all the right food appreciation noises – no easy feat when your airways are constricting.

What was I to do?! My panicked monkey mind went into overdrive. Coming clean about my oversight and apologising profusely would probably be the right thing to do. But what good could possibly come of it? Lunch would be ruined, a good meal wasted. Right now, at least one of us was still enjoying it.

In fact, I’d never seen anyone take such delight in their food. For a fleeting moment, I wondered how someone, who went that gaga over some run-of-the-mill strips of chicken breast would react to a juicy slab of beef teriyaki or a soft-as-butter, slow-roasted lamb shank.

Nobody was being harmed here, I reasoned to myself. This was not a case of food allergy. (If anyone was experiencing all the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, it was me!) And the chicken had already been very dead for quite some time. I was, in fact, not only saving my friend’s stellar lunch experience, but also an animal from having given its life in vain. And it could have been worse Рthat could have been pork there on that plate. (My friend was not only vegetarian, but also Jewish.)

At this point, she turned to one of the servers who was rushing by, balancing¬†several steaming bowls of ramen on his tray. ‚ÄúHey, I just loooooove your tofu! So chewy! How do you get it to have a¬†texture like that? Could I talk to the chef? I need that recipe!‚ÄĚ (My friend was not only vegetarian and Jewish, but also American).

The bed of coals I was sitting on had just got hotter by another thousand degrees.

Coals

The waiter, a pimply young man on the minimum wage, flashed a flattered smile in my friend’s direction, but he did not Рto my infinite relief! Рrelay her request for a personal audience to the chef, who was up to his armpits assembling meals for the lunchtime crowd.

After what seemed like an eternity, during which I remained hell-bent on engaging my friend in spurious conversation to draw her attention away from both the ‚Äútofu‚ÄĚ and the wait staff, we finally cleared our plates.

‚ÄúHey, how about dessert?”, I asked, staring longingly at the door. “But not here, you know what these Asian places are like – crap sweets.‚ÄĚ A blatant lie, at least where Wagamama is concerned. But I had no intention of prolonging this torture.

We paid and I leapt into the neon lit mall, which, at that moment, appeared to me as welcoming as a fragrant spring meadow populated by purring kittens. We headed straight for Millie’s Cookies. And never has a box of hydrogenated fat, sugar and food colouring washed down with coffee from a paper cup tasted so good.

Jane, if you’re reading this, I’m really, really sorry!

Ready For Your (Belated) Women’s Day Special…? Chew On That, Bitches!

If you were lucky enough to be female AND in China on 08 March 2016, someone may have presented you with this to show you their appreciation:

International Women's Day China

Love those perky little mushrooms…

What’s this? I hear you ask.

It’s not chocolates.

It’s not flowers.

It’s not Gloria Steinem’s Empowering¬†Fudge Brownie Cubes.

And – thank God! – it’s not a bag of salad either.

It’s dried BEEF STICKS. In a gift pack.

Premium jerky, if you will. Six of them, individually wrapped. Promoted¬†as a¬†“special treat for women” on yesterday’s joyous occasion that was International Women’s Day. The purveyor, Sentai Foods, with a reported¬†slaughtering capacity of 30,000 cattle per annum, is evidently China’s most emancipated meat processor.

This is what is says on the packaging:

“You see, this is what REAL women like to get their teeth into. Shoo, shoooo all you little vegan princesses clutching your mewling bairns to your bony chests¬†down The Sustainable Oat Flake Caf√© while completing the¬†multiple choice final exam¬†for your MSc in AntiFrackingology¬†on your iPhones. And, please, take your fairtrade banana bread and your rainbow frog¬†coffee in unbleached sandpaper cups with you.”

(OK, I made that bit up, but as far as I understand, you cram a hell of a lot of info into just a few Chinese characters.)

Now, in case you want to get your teeth into some of those beefy Girl Chews, the product is available from a popular Chinese internet shopping site called JingDong (jd.com).

I must confess, after having facebook et al. vomit go-be-proud-you-were-born-with-a-gash-between-your-legs messages for 24-hours straight, finding this news item (on globalmeatnews.com, where else!?) totally made my day.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait for next Valentine’s day… ooooh, let it be hickory-smoked chicken feet on a battery-operated stick! The company might even go for a little rebranding… SentaiMental Foods, perhaps?

[Here is the link to the original article, in case anyone’s¬†thinking I’m making this shit up…]

 

 

Toledo Tapas Competition 2015 – Drool Alert…

Today is a sad day in Toledo. Today concludes the annual tapas competition, which had us devouring a wonderful array of delicacies conjured up by the town’s bars and restaurants. Here is a small testimony¬†to our greediness devotion over the past three weeks:

Mini curry burgers. Can't go wrong with that...

Our first tapa consumed on 5 November, the day the contest kicked off: Mini curry burgers. Can’t go¬†much¬†wrong with these.

Smoked beef on toast, with sobrasada (a kind of smoked meat spread) and brie. Really strong flavours, but it worked surprisingly well.

Wafer-thin slices of smoked beef on toast, with sobrasada (a kind of smoked meat spread) and brie. A brave combo of some really strong flavours, but it worked surprisingly well.

Salmon with guacamole and lemon mousse. Looks great, but didn't work. The lemon flavour totally overpowered the whole thing.

Salmon with guacamole and lemon mousse. Looks tasty, but, sadly, it was a fail. The salmon was tender but insipid, and the lemon flavour totally overpowered the whole ensemble.

Tuna marinated in soy sauce with peach alioli. Totally delicious.

Tuna marinated in soy sauce with peach alioli. Totally delicious.

I cannot translate this one. Nor can I describe it. It contained the following: deer, shitake mushrooms, apricot, gnocchi, potato. And it tasted weird. But good-weird. Could have eaten it again. And again.

I cannot translate this one. Nor can I adequately describe it. It contained the following: venison, shitake mushrooms, apricot, gnocchi, potato, cream. And it tasted weird. But good-weird. Could have eaten it again. And again. Top marks for creativity and presentation.

Octopus and potato. Very Galician, and tasted just as expected. Perfectly acceptable, but nothing to write home about.

Octopus and potato “lasagne”. There was nothing lasagne about it, it was merely a fancy presentation of a Galician staple, pulpo gallego (which I love). Perfectly acceptable, but nothing to write home about.

A very traditional Manchego affair: Pork medallion with potato, onion and a dollop of creamy mushroom sauce. Totally delish.

A very traditional Manchego affair: Pork medallion with potato, crispy leek and a drizzle of creamy mushroom sauce. Simple, hearty and satisfying. A winner.

Taken on our walk between bars: The sun catching the Christmas lights, with Toledo cathedral in the background.

I managed to take this yesterday while swaying from one bar to the next: The sun catching the newly suspended Christmas lights, with Toledo cathedral in the background.

You know me - it had to end like this! Oh my, that red berry cake was to die for...

How predictable am I… it HAD TO¬†end like this, didn’t it?! Oh my, that red berry cake was to die for. First visit to a new cafe, but definitely not the last ūüėČ

So, although TapaMania may be over for this year, there’s one thought that consoles me greatly: Toledo was recently voted Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy 2016 – I just can’t wait for¬†the New Year!!!

Lake Tegernsee and Wasserburg, Bavaria

Not another lake, I hear you groan. Not the Bavarian Alps AGAIN…! But yes, I’m afraid, I’ve just got to cram one more¬†in before I’m done with this year’s home visit ūüėČ

Tegernsee is another one of these fabulous destinations just an hour from Munich on the train. Although it is most definitely a tourist destination, foreign tourists don’t really know about it, so I’d say that probably 95% of tourists are Germans.

Lake Tegernsee 1

Who said Germany didn't have great beaches...??

Who said Germany didn’t have great beaches…??

Rottdach Egern

Traditional Bavarian dresses (

Traditional Bavarian dresses (“Dirndl”) on sale.

Tegernsee Boats

Tegernsee at dusk

Tegernsee Fire Station :)

Tegernsee Fire Station ūüôā

And now, to give your Alps-and-lakes-weary eyes a rest, a couple of shots from a trip we took to Wasserburg, a medieval town in Upper Bavaria, circled by the river Inn.

I did not take this photo of Wasserburg myself, but I didn't want to deprive you of the beauty of this pespective

Aw, look, how pretty! (Note: I did not take this photo myself, it comes from http://www.wasserburg.de)

Wasserburg Town Centre

Wasserburg Town Centre

That's my mum there in the white skirt

That’s my mum there in the white skirt

Wasserburg Houses

VW Beetle

Schaufenstereule

There's nothing as tempting as a shot of someone's privates...

There’s nothing as tempting as a shot of someone’s privates…

And to finish off:

Another portion of fabulous apple fritters! I had a bit of an obsession with them on this trip...

Another portion of fabulous apple fritters! I had a bit of an obsession with them on this trip…

Nothing Separates A German From Their Sausage

Vegetarians of the world please avert your eyes. What follows is pure carnage. Of the most delicious kind. Let’s do the food porn first, and leave the educational bit (I am using that term very loosely) till later, shall we?

Currywurst is a legendary German invention... this one was devoured on a hike through Munich by the river Isar

Currywurst is a legendary German invention… these two were devoured my mum and moi¬†on last week’s hike.

My brother and my mum beneath a sign in Munich advertising the most famous of Bavarian sausages: The M√ľnchner Wei√üwurst.

My brother and my mum beneath a sign in Munich advertising probably the most famous of Bavarian sausages: The M√ľnchner Wei√üwurst.

What is a Wei√üwurst, I hear you ask…

It's this! Actually, I don't really like them...

Here’s a pile of them. The while ones, obviously. Actually, I must confess that don’t really like them all that much… SACRILEGE!

And of course, you can get them canned

And of course, like any kitchen cupboard staple, you can get them canned. For emergencies.

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A small selection of a local supermarket’s sausage offering

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Those bits in there are finely sliced tongue, in case you're wondering

The chunky bits are finely sliced pieces of tongue, in case you’re wondering…

A seven-pound pack - now that would make for a nice afternoon snack

The seven-pound pack makes for a tasty afternoon snack

Now imagine this potential nightmare scenario: You’re at home, it’s late, you desperately fancy a meaty midnight morsel BUT YOU’VE RUN OUT OF SAUSAGE!¬†If you happen to be living in a semi-rural area like my folks, 24-hour supermarkets or convenience stores are far and few between. What is a desperate sausage-dependent German to do?!?

Well, there is hope: My tiny little village of 700 inhabitants, which only has one restaurant and no shops at all, sports one of these:

YES! There is a God!

YES! There is a God!

The day is saved!!!

Just look at that shapely line-up…the day/night is saved!!!

By now, you’ll have gotten¬†the point. Germans have a very special relationship with their sausages. Not only are burly bangers ubiquitous in local fast food outlets, butcher’s shops, supermarkets and vending machines, but they have also wormed their way into the common vernacular in the¬†form of countless expressions. Here is a selection:

Picture the scene: There’s a terminal struggle going on. Everything’s at stake. It’s a matter of life and death. This is when, for a German, “es geht um die Wurst” (it’s about the sausage). And that tells you all you need to know about how we feel when it comes to our precious meat products.

I’m quite partial to the (British) phrase “I don’t give a rat’s arse!”. The German equivalent is “das ist mir Wurst!” (It’s sausage to me!). This appears to contradict the aforementioned “es geht um die Wurst”, but it’s really just proof that the sausage is all things to all people. (To all German people, at least.)

Some sad individuals love¬†nothing more than to be offended by anything and everything. These bothersome thin-skinned types¬†are liable to earn themselves the¬†title of “beleidigte Leberwurst”¬†(insulted/offended liver sausage). And while they stomp off in one of their huffs, they might well call the hapless culprit who (probably inadvertently) caused their latest¬†grievance a “Hanswurst”¬†(a buffoon).

When Germans get philosophical about the finiteness of things, they like to point out that “alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei” (Everything has an end, only the sausage has two).

 

[For those interested in German food-related expressions, you will enjoy this post: How To Be A Hater With German Food Phrases]

 

 

Asking for Cock in a Portuguese Supermarket

There are some linguistic faux pas that are mildly amusing, and then there are those that you’ll be reliving for the rest of your life with your innards squirming like a bucket of maggots under a floodlight. And, oh boy, this one will stay right up there in #1 position until the day I draw my last breath.

But let‚Äôs first¬†set the scene. In June 2015, my friend¬†Noelia and I embarked on a drive across the searingly hot Spanish Peninsula, from our homes in central Spain all the way down to¬†the Algarve, Portugal. My Portuguese teacher kindly¬†let us use¬†her sea view apartment in the little town of Alvor for a week ‚Äď an offer two gals obsessed with Portuguese food could not possibly¬†refuse.

All was perfect with the abode, except for the minor matter of flat remote control battery, which meant that we could not access our allocated parking space. The next morning, we made our way to the local supermarket to buy a replacement battery (as well as loading up on delicious Portuguese cheese).

Now, the Portuguese language is rather tricky to pronounce, and, as in all languages, small deviations can make a huge difference to the meaning of words. Even though Noelia and I both speak fairly passable tourist-level Portuguese and we thought¬†we knew the word for ‚Äúbattery‚ÄĚ (pilha), our attempts at locating one in the store was but met by several pairs of quizzically raised eyebrows.

Our remote control required an N-size battery, which is even tinier than AAA, and so ‚ÄúWe need a really small one, like this‚ÄĚ were among the words that accompanied our¬†hand gestures involving¬†tumb and index finger indicating the size of the desired object.

Eventually, it dawned on the beleaguered members of staff what it was we were looking for, and they ushered us to the appropriate shelf, but, in the end, the store did not sell this particular kind.

While waiting in line to pay for our mountains of cheese, we were discussing, with obvious frustration, how hard it could possibly be to get hold of a silly little battery.

At this point, the guy behind us in the queue, a man in his sixties who could not help earwigging our (Spanish) conversation, cracked up laughing. Once he had managed to recover sufficient breath (but not a straight face), he told us what we had, in fact, been asking for.

Suddenly the staff’s perturbed facial expressions made sense… The helpful bystander to our phonetic phallacy also reliably informed us that, in Portugal, they did not, in fact, have small ones.

It subsequently transpired that Noelia, despite being blessed with a rather forgiving Mediterranean complexion, does not carry off the shade of beetroot very well. As for myself, I can’t say, as I had cringed into a tiny little ball ready to be swallowed by the Earth that was surely about to open up its merciful maws.

Salt cod (bacalhau) on offer at the supermarket we can never ever go back to

Salt cod (bacalhau) on offer at the supermarket that we can never ever ever go back to

Alvor beach, which we DID return to. Frequently.

Alvor beach, which we DID return to. Frequently.

Alvor Beach - rocks

Alvor Harbour

Me trying to choose a cake in a blur...

Me, in a blur, engaged in the task of choosing a cake

...and the result: An enormous marshmallow-inspired slab of a cake!

…and the happy end result: A crockery-busting squishy slab of a cake!

This wasn't the only cake occasion. Here is a delicious three-layered composition with figs and almonds

Needless to say, there were plenty more cake occasions. Here is a delicious three-layered composition of figs and almonds

Portuguese custard tart. Absolutely mandatory.

Portuguese custard tart. Absolutely mandatory.

It wasn't all cake, of course. We stuffed ourselves with seafood :)

We also¬†stuffed ourselves with seafood ūüôā This cataplana (a traditional seafood stew) was meant to serve two, but would probably have fed¬†six strapping sailors.

Not so sure about the entertainment...

Some questionable local entertainment… would a visitor from northern Europe really take their¬†kid to watch a terrified animal having spears rammed into its back?

At least the dogs know to take it easy in this town!

…but the dogs sure¬†know to take it easy in this town!

 

You may also be interested in my specialist language blog, see here: http://multilingualbychoice.blogspot.com