By Ken Yeager
It’s Sunday Again!!!
Well, it’s Sunday again….funny how it rolls around ever week or so. North Germany is still being punished by snow with no let-up in slight…..We have more snow that Vancouver….I’d ship them some but the cost would be outrageous.
My wife, Gisela, who at the moment is only left-handed due to an infected middle finger and all bandaged up (and I thought she was just being rude), has allowed (do you feel the sarcasm?) me to take over the kitchen, with supervision, of course.
Actually, that isn’t true as she is still the main cook and thank goodness for that. I do breakfasts every morning while she is, in normal times, responsible for lunch (our main meal) and Abendbrot (translation – evening bread, but in reality, open-faced sandwiches). I help with the lunch meal by peeling, gophering, tasting, setting the table, etc. and I get to wash up afterwards. We tend to do things the German way (reason for main meal at lunchtime) which for the most part is fine by me….I’m not so set in my ways, leastwise, I wasn’t when she set out to train me 30+ years ago. What is odd is that north Germany doesn’t exactly have a cuisine like other areas of Germany. They have some specialities like Grünkohl (literally green cabbage, but it isn’t….closest think I know of in the U.S. is kale), various ways of serving and eating herring (as discussed previously), Birne-Bohnen and Speck (Pears, green beans and bacon (unsliced), Labskaus (closest is hash), and Koh roladen (stuffed cabbage leaves). North Germans eat a lot of fish since there is the Baltic Sea to the north and the Atlantic to the west. Grünkohl is a winter dish and eaten with sausages, kessler (kinda like thick sliced Canadian bacon) or speck. Gisela cooks the cabbage in a pressure cooker and adds the speck…OK, speck is like a chunk of bacon, but unsliced. It cooks in with the cabbage and the fat helps flavor the cabbage and of course, we eat fat and all. The meal is served with boiled potatoes (Germans love boiled potatoes). Birne, Bohnen and Speck is another winter meal also cooked in a pressure cooker. The beans and bacon are cooked together and the pears added later…great. I love hash but Labskaus has red beets in it and I find that a turnoff. Bread is a big deal in Germany and the breakfast of many families includes Brötchen (rolls but in great variety), jams, cheeses, cold-cuts, fruit, cereal, etc. They are not much into bacon and eggs to start the day. Almost all bakeries have prepared sandwiches for breakfast takeout. We only have Brötchen twice a week and eat healthy the rest of the week. OK, enough about food, but you can see where my heart lies…..
I’d be interested to know how many out there in SaigonKids land speak a foreign language. Now despite my profession in the Foreign Service, I am not a language person. I am of the opinion that a brain is like a sponge….it can only absorb so much. To introduce something new, something has to be squeezed out. Thus, I do not speak any foreign language fluently….I can dabble, but that’s about it. I have been married to a short-haired dictionary for 28+ years, but my German still leaves much to be desired (a much used website is BEOLINGUS). Prior to my assignment to Niamey, Niger (Africa, north of Nigeria, in the Sahara desert), I was required to spend six months studying French at FSI (Foreign Service Institute). Six hours of intense classroom study plus homework….a killer. The Foreign Service has six levels of fluency…0 = no speaky to 5 = native fluency. My wife has a 5/5 in German, of course (first digit is speaking, second is comprehension). A 3 level is considered adequate for work and for French and Germany a 3/3 is supposed to be possible after six months training….not for me. I managed with a 2+/2. After my final exam, I was convinced that I did NOT speak French, but on the flight to Niamey I sat next to a French lady and we actually had a conversation, in French. I understood, for the most part, what she said and lo and behold, she understood me. Then after three years in French-speaking Africa, I had to go back to the FSI for retraining, before being allowed to speak French again..picked up lots of bad African French. I have a 2/2 in German but never went to any formal training…just some hours at work (in Vienna), my wife in my ear, TV and just picking it up. I did have a German teacher here in Grosshansdorf for about a year who was very good but that’s stopped now. I can manage in most situations, but I do get myself into trouble occasionally. I lived in Baghdad from 1954-57 and can still count to 10 in that language. Seems like all of the Vietnamese I remembers is how to give directions to a cyclo or taxi driver…tai chai, tai mat, dee tong…sound familiar? Or am I wrong? Probably the latter. Also studied Chech for six months with my wife at FSI and got a 2/2 in that language, but then went on 6 weeks of home leave and promptly forgot it all. Dabbled in Chinese while in Guangzhou, but never got anywhere….too tonal, too complicated and I’m too stupid.
Do you buy and sell things on EBay? I buy and sometimes I get some good deals, sometimes just junk. I recently bought some saucers and a plate to fit in with our (my wife’s) china set. I managed to break a plate in the microwave and our housekeepers managed to do in a few saucers over the years along with glassware, etc. It’s a good source for motorcycle parts. What I haven’t done and don’t know how to do is sell. Of course, I want to sell here in Germany, but there is that language barrier (see paragraph above). Our basement is full of stuff we no longer need or want but I doubt if anyone else wants it either but who knows? One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, or something like that.
OK, I know, you’re getting bored, but one more subject. Gisela is a part of a Nordic Walking group that meets Thursday and Sunday mornings (when the weather permits) and as a result, she met a couple and the man of the family is a retired fireman who is also part of a crew of a small, restored fireboat (helps put out fires). The boat was commissioned in 1930, did its service and then was left to rot before being repaired and renovated and now does small tours in the Hamburg Harbor and goes to various boat / port celebrations with its retired firemen crew. A couple of years ago we did a one night, two day tour to Kiel through the North Sea canal which was great fun. Anyway, we are off on another trip in May. Just a short day trip and home on the train later in the day, but if the weather is good, should be great fun.
Well, it’s already time for lunch, but no, dear reader, I will not be cooking today…we are going out…no cooking, no dishes to be washed…just a good meal, an espresso, a calvados and than a nap….Ahh I do like Sundays.
Ciao – Ken