Harvest (cont’d)

The small kumquat bush that spends its winters indoors and its summers outside netted about two pounds of fruit this year which has also been turned into a delicious albeit small amount of  marmelade.

My house now smells like Christmas.


A Good Steak

I generally only eat meat about once a week (because I feel better when I eat less meat, it’s healthier, and I hate what has become of the meat industry), but I love a good steak. Getting one here in rural Bavaria isn’t always easy, larger supermarkets will usually stock standard ribeye cuts but it’s a bit of a drive.

We bought a gas grill about three years ago, a very inexpensive model, just wanting to “dip our toes” into the world of gas grilling after years of hauling charcoal and lighter for that standard Weber which I bought stateside in 1998 and brought back with me on the plane. It’s still in excellent shape, but I’d gotten a taste of the ease of gas grilling on one of my last trips stateside.

The grill we bought was o.k., though a bit “cheap” and only had two burners. For the price we paid, it was allright though and has seen many ribs, chicken legs, trout, salmon and the odd steak or so. Last week, I fired it up to grill a skewer of mini peppers as a vegetable side dish for a fish lunch. When I went back out to actually grill the peppers, the flames were out. I assumed the gas bottle was empty and connected a new one (I am paranoidingly afraid of running out of gas in the middle of grilling something and always keep an extra on hand) – but there were no flames. Upon further inspection, I saw that the burners had rusted to a point that they were just a flaky mass of rust and was I was actually able to put my fingers through them.

Keeping in mind that this time of year is basically the end of the grilling season, I figured that if we acted fast, we might be able to get a good bargain on a new one. We headed to a couple of places to see what was on offer and if there were any specials, and we actually managed to get a 369 € grill for 199 €. To boot, it’s all stainless steel, as are the three burners. That basically, was my criteria – stainless steel burners that won’t rust in the future. I would have loved to have four burners instead of three, but at that price discount, I was more than willing to compromise.

We got the grill on Wednesday and I assembled it and we fired it up outside and oohed and aahed at the speed at which it sent the temperatures climbing, and vowed to get some decent steaks for the “maiden” grill event.

We lucked out at finding wonderful ribeye cuts at our local butcher shop and I got the grill fired up yesterday. I pushed that baby up to about 700F and was going to do the standard 3 min. per side as the cuts were nice and thick. I underestimated the power of the three burners – the steaks were done in 2 minutes, 20 seconds total.

They turned out wonderful – just the way they should be. Perfect. And the british steak sauce that I had to order from an online place because our local stores no longer carry it arrived just in the nick of time.

Yes, the baked potatoes with sour cream and chives were good too – but the steaks were fantastic.

I’m a happy camper 🙂

The new grill, here just before the first use.
The new grill, here just before the first use.

Face to Face with the
Ugly Mug of Racism

Ever since Merkel decided to open the borders a bit over a year ago in order to take up the refugees stranded in Budapest, the extreme right in this country have become louder and bolder.

The mere existance of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of Europe is embarrassing. They demonstrate regularly on Mondays, shouting slogans that were stolen from the very courageous demonstrators who took to the streets in the former East Germany.

Many of the racially motivated incidents have occurred in Saxony – there have been racially motivated incidents of refugee housing being set on fire, refugees being attacked, and a bus filled with refugees being jeered and threatened by a large crowd whilst arriving at their shelter. If you really want to cringe about the behavior of some of our fellow human kind, the original video footage is included in this video, starting at about 50 seconds into the clip.

Whilst I find all of this upsetting and abhorable, I also found it strangely distant, as the majority of the incidents occur in the areas that were formerly part of East Germany, especially those areas referred to as “Valley of the Clueless“, as, due their geographic situation, they were unable to receive West German broadcasting signals and thus were only able to receive state-run East German television and radio.

All of this changed for me yesterday. I popped into the grocery store for a few items I needed to make lunch and while standing in the checkout line, the man in front of me (I later learned it was a former neighbor) began bantering with my father. After the first greetings he immediately began a political discussion, declaring that Merkel should be shot and that the migrants/refugees were ruining the country and taking it over. I countered him and said that I thought it was ignorant to think that the 890,000 refugees we’ve taken in were going to completely change the country and cause an islamisation of a nation of 80 million Germans. And, I said, my family were refugees who fled Silesia in the winter of 1945 when the Russian Army began advancing westward – and that maybe we should try to be a bit more passionate about people fleeing from death and destruction with not much more than the clothes on their backs.

His reply? “Do you know what we should do with these refugees? They should all be gassed to death.”

How do you speak to someone like that? How do you try to reason – try to appeal for a sense of humanity – a sense of compassion? How?

I was, and continue to be, devastated by this first personal acquaintance with the poisonous evil of nationalism/racism. There was a big lesson to learn 70 years ago in this country, and I can’t believe people are already beginning to forget it.

I Just Don’t Know

There have been phases of my life in which I was too busy with my own little universe and didn’t pay much attention to what was happening in the big picture of the world, but those phases were short and few.

I find the current state of the world more than alarming. From Trump to Syria to the state of the EU, the war in Yemen, the extreme tensions between the US and Russia, the 65 million that are fleeing war or hunger or poverty, genetically modified food, the dying of bees, butterflies and other insects through the increasingly aggressive use of pesticides and herbicides – just to list a few things that are very, very out of order –  it seems that no matter where you look these days, there is chaos and madness.

This morning in the shower I thought about Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and wondered if maybe I’m just too well informed and too much of a news junkie. Maybe it’s always been this bad and I just didn’t take notice?

I thought about this for a while, but then discarded the idea – I think the state of the world is at an all time low. In every respect.


Maybe I’m in danger of turning into a food snob, I don’t really know.

I’ve always been a bit weary of those recipe laden magazines sold near the cash register at the supermarket which have titles like “52 Fall Recipes for the Family”. Someone gave me one recently and I paged through it and found a few things I thought might be good. One of them was quince cake.

We have an old quince tree on the property, and this is once again the time of year when they need to be plucked off of the tree before falling and bruising, which makes them begin to spoil very quickly. And because you can only eat so much quince jelly in a lifetime, we are always looking for new and creative ways to use those aromatic fruit.

So, I gathered the 4 pounds of quince (there’s a lot of waste, the seed core is quite large) and stood in the kitchen for 2 1/2 hours to make this cake. The further I got into the recipe, the more skeptical I became. Quince being very hard, the fruit, once cut into cubes, needed to be precooked for the cake. No problem with that. The recipe said to melt a bit of butter and then add vanilla, brown sugar and lemon juice along with the cubed quince and let them cook for 8-10 minutes and then drain the quince.

I did this, though my inner self was screaming at me – why drain the wonderful, aromatic juice – but I did, against all better judgment. (I normally would have just added some starch or flour to the mix to firm it up once in the oven – but, alas, I was going to stick to the recipe. Silly me.

While the quince were cooking, I began with the dough (crust) for the cake (top and bottom). The recipe basically stated something akin to “mix the flour with baking powder, knead with sugar, butter and eggs”.  I feared for the motor of my electric kneader whilst trying to knead this thick and crumbly mixture to something rollable.

The long and short of it? It was the most awful cake I’ve ever made. The crust was as hard as concrete and the filling was nothing more than plain old cubes of quince. The cake was unanimously relegated to the compost heap. I was angry about the wasted quince and the wasted ingredients used.

The lesson learned? Cooking and baking is more than just ingredients. The techniques of making a proper cake/pie crust exist for a reason and OMG what a total fail this recipe is.

I will be making a quince pie tomorrow. With my flaky, light and buttery pie crust (the ingredients of which do not differ very much from the above recipe). And it will be filled a with juicy and aromatic quince filling.

Pictures may follow.

Life’s Pleasant Surprises

A few months back, I purchased an electronic oral hygiene product worth around 40$ from a large internet retailer. It was a good product, solidly manufactured and did what it was supposed to.

After three months of use, it broke. Went dead completely. I usually keep service information for products that I buy, but this time I didn’t.

I wrote a short product review on the retailer’s site. Two days later, I was contacted via email by the asian manufacturer who had become aware of the problem through my product review. After uploading a short video of the defective product to their website, I was mailed a replacement product a few days later free of charge.

I am very impressed. This is what I would call customer service.

German Sayings –
An Excerpt

There are a lot of german sayings which are very colorful in their own. Here are a few:

“Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall.”

Literal translation: High-spiritedness comes before the fall.

Example: Feeling completely invicible on the knitting front and promply producing a second glove for the right hand whilst placing the thumb offset on the right.

“Sich mit fremden Federn schmücken.”

Literal translation: “To decorate yourself with feathers not your own” – meaning, taking the credit for something that isn’t yours.

“Ich gebe dir recht.”

Literal translation: “I give you right” – meaning, you’re right.
My father will often, while I am discussing something with him in german, utter the literally translated sentence “I give you right” and it never fails to make me laugh.

“Man muss die Suppe auslöffeln, die man sich eingebrockt hat.”

Literal translation: “One must spoon (eat) the soup, that one has brought onto themselves.”

Meaning: You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.