Not schnitzel, not sauerbraten, not bratwurst. None of the typical heavy-laden dishes Americans might associate with Germany. Instead, when our neighbors invited us over for dinner last night, they promised us typical Swabian fare– bread, cheese, and meat. They added fresh tomatoes, sharp mustard, hard-boiled eggs, and radishes, but my neighbor explained that such additions are only made for guests.
When food is truly good, it doesn’t matter if it’s simple. In fact, the simpler, the better. In addition to the vegetables, we ate whole-grain bread made fresh that day at one of the neighborhood bakeries; liverwurst, black forest ham, and salami from the butcher; and two kinds of cheese (Camembert and Bergkäse). Our neighbors’ son showed A. how to crack a hard-boiled egg– by knocking it against another person’s egg– and demonstrated that when the inner yolk has a blackish film covering it, it is called a “Teufel” (devil), while a pure yellow yolk is an “Engel” (angel). We toasted (“Prost!”) with beer, Coke, and water, and enjoyed a great meal.
German society is generally structured to allow for hot food at mid-day. Many shops close for a couple of hours between noon and 2 pm; schools finish around the same time to allow children to go home to eat (our international school runs a full day though). I remember during my family’s first visit to Germany feeling rather surprised to be served an extravagant meal of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread while visiting German friends for lunch. Yet at the same time, I know that eating more food earlier in the day is probably healthy.
Tonight, M. and I tried to duplicate a Swabian dinner ourselves. We already had bread and cheese on hand, so we headed to the butcher down the street for some more ingredients. The family that owns the butcher shop loves little A.– we chatted for a while with the twenty-one year old daughter who helps her parents by working at the counter, and with the mother, who makes the best Maultaschen imaginable. The mother and daughter sparred good naturedly– the daughter complaining that she had always wanted a baby brother; the mother retorting that it was about time for a grandson. As we prepared to leave, she told me we could leave A. with her whenever we wanted– “hier gibt’s immer was zu essen” (here there’s always something to eat), she said by way of argument. Indeed!