Friday, February 25, 2011

Friendly Friday: Resident on Earth

Frau Dietz's guest Resident: wave hello!
I have spent the whole of the last week being consumed by the first assignment of my new psychology course, hence the lack of blogging.  But so you can understand my extra excitement, then, when Resident on Earth’s interview pinged into my inbox: I was in fact so over-excited not just to get her answers but also see her beaming back at me (see left) that actually I waved at her.  On my laptop.

Jen’s blog was one of the very first blogs I discovered when I first arrived in Germany, and I was instantly hooked: aside from writing a lot about the sorts of things that particularly interest me (travel, books, language, film), Jen writes so very carefully and thoughtfully and with such respect and wonder for our corner of the planet.  Plus she's hilarious and takes fabulous photos.  Her blog totally has an aura of cool, so I was chuffed to bits when she agreed to answer a few questions from Frau Dietz.  And here we are!

Welcome to Friendly Friday, Jen  First things first: who is Resident on Earth, and how did she come to be living in Germany?
Guten Tag!  Thanks for having me on Letters from Frau Dietz.  I was born in the earthquake prone, desert landscape of Lancaster, California, and, as a product of my parents’ divorce, I split my time between there and Kansas. I guess you could say I’ve been traveling by airplane since I was seven years old and travel is in my blood.  When I was released into the wild, as an adult I also developed roots in Seattle (thump, thump, goes my heart), Maryland, Oklahoma (gasp!), and now, Germany.  A few years ago I met a German, The Mann, while he was living in the U.S. and when his company sent the Germans home, I decided to come along and experience the German lifestyle. I’ve been here for 15 months now. We live in the Frankfurt area, in a little town so adorable I could smother it with affection. Now that I’ve gotten a job in Cologne, I’ll be spending my weekdays in Cologne and commuting home for the weekends.

Timer-framed houses and cobblestones? Tick.
And I told you she was good with a camera.
Crumbs, how exciting!  I suppose a lot of people will have heard of Cologne (Köln), if not actually visited it, but please tell us a bit more about the town you live in…
Our town has been around for something like 1,200 years and its Altstadt is a medieval, Fachwerk wet dream. It’s the kind of place I’ve always dreamed of Germany being like, with the timber-framed houses and little cobbled squares. We live in a modern, newer neighborhood, but it’s always fun to go into the old part. I never grow tired of it. I like that in our town (and Germany as a whole), they really keep their development contained, which means we have a really tight town center surrounded by farm fields and woods. I like this lifestyle. I can ride my bike out into the fields near our house. I can buy fresh strawberries in the summer straight from a farmer’s field that I can see from our balcony. I am always delighted to pop into the outdoor market in our town square on Saturdays for groceries, which is radically different from the American giganta-store Wal-Mart shopping style.

Why did you decide to document your new life online?
I decided to blog because I'm a writer by nature and it helps me to process and analyze my experiences. It's important to me to have a record of my experiences. It's like a way of marking time. I can read back and see what I've done, and sometimes laugh about my earlier observations. I think it helps to have an outlet, to say what I'm feeling and seeing, and to share those with other expat bloggers. Also, I want to share what Germany is about, because often it's not what people think it's about.  Germany has certainly sharpened the focus of what I've learned about my own culture!

In terms of creating a new life for yourself overseas, how have you gone about making new friends?
In some ways, it’s actually been easier to make friends here than in the U.S. With other expats, you know you have a culture and an experience in common, and it binds you together. My German friends I’ve found by default through The Mann. My local friends I’ve found through going to language class. My expat friends I’ve found through blogging and through the WEBUM meetup last year in Hamburg. And Twitter – I swear I love the internets – has been a fantastic way to share and get information. It’s like a daily conversation with other expats. For me it’s important to have both German friends and English-speaking friends. Germans can help guide you in their culture, while other expats give you a touchstone from your home culture and can help with expat issues.

I couldn't agree more.  I think it's a huge shame that the German stereotype is so negative.
I think a preconception I had about Germans is that they are a cold and unfriendly people. But what I’ve learned is that there is a sharp distinction between their public lives and their personal lives, (enforced by their language with the formal Sie form for “you” and the informal du form for “you”). Publicly, they may be cold, reserved, and unhelpful (though not always, as every person is individual), but on personal terms I’ve witnessed a level of caring and loyalty for their friends and family that goes far beyond what I’ve known from my own culture. It’s like they reserve the best of themselves for the small circle of people they trust and know. I like to say Germans have a crunchy exterior with a soft, chewy center.

And what about Germany itself, as your new country of residence?
While Germany is not perfect, I really love how they have a sense here for collectively taking care of their people through their social system. I’m proud of my new home and I feel like I really have a country, if that makes sense. As far as daily living things, I really dig the public transportation system here and how it integrates into their city planning. The infrastructure of the cities and towns is compact and made for pedestrian areas. I can easily walk, bike, or take public transportation into the center of a town and there I can find shops, restaurants, houses, apartments, parks, walkways, and open squares stuffed with benches for enjoying the day. Everything and everyone is together in a network. The landscape can be so beautiful here and there are endless things to do.

There is a certain physicality to life here that I’m finding it difficult to adjust to. I’m used to more open space, including between people. Here, I’m frequently jostled or bumped into. Shopping in the grocery store is horror to me, as people either practically spoon you in line (if they’re not cutting in front of you) or jamming your ass with their carts.

'A certain physicality' – beautifully put!!  To move quickly on from the thought of a surprise spooning in the supermarket: knowing how much you love to travel, what would be your recommendations for exploring Germany?
For those people living here, I would say to first start in their own area. There are so many interesting castles, villages, festivals, museums, stories, nature walks, etc., all around. Make it a point to go out and get on a train and explore. For travelers and expats alike, Germany has a wealth and diversity of overlooked places. See more than Munich and Neuschwanstein!  Regensburg and Bamberg are two of my favorite places in Germany and they’re relatively untouristed. Berlin is a totally exciting city and fascinating on so many levels. Thuringia has its charms. Go to Hamburg and the North Sea coast. Check out Dresden and points in East Germany. Develop a few interests, such as castles, modern art, hideous monuments, quirky people in German history, or whatever, and travel through the country based on those themes.
Jen's local market place (just in case we're not clear on the
German cobblestone/Fachwerk situation)

What a great idea.  And I’ve never been to Munich or Neuschwanstein   As well as travel, you and I both write alot about the pains of trying to master the German language.  What’s your favourite German word?
My favorite German expression is: "Ach, so!" I think it’s so cute. You have to kind of draw out the 'so' with a: 'zooOOooh'. One of my favorite words is 'Handschuhe', the word for mittens, which literally translates as “hand shoes”.  It tickles me how German can be such a “picture” language with really literal words, and that the language has so many components that you can mix and match. I like the word 'Wortschatz' (vocabulary), which literally translates as “word treasure.”  A word that I hate, however, is 'Frau'. I can’t stand being called a Frau. Makes me feel so…frumpy.

Oh dear… is it too late to change my blog name?!  Staying on the linguistic theme a moment longer, do you have any embarrassing stories you'd like to share?
I once asked the shoe repair guy if he could give me a drug fix, as I used the verb 'fixen' (to fix) instead of 'reparieren' (to repair). But how could I know such usage and cultural implications?

Tell me about it: I once arrived home and announced to B that I'd missed my bus, but used the wrong verb; instead of telling him I hadn't caught it ('verpassen') I actually told him I regretted its absence ('vermissen').  It took him a while to stop laughing.  Aside from the importance of learning the language, what one bit of advice would you offer to someone about to move their whole life overseas?
Learn to develop a sense of humor about your misadventures. Almost every day I feel stupid about something, but I try not to take it to heart. Sometimes it’s best to just have a good laugh over it.

A very sage piece of advice!  Ok, last question, and a most important one for someone trying to teach herself how to cook like a German: what are your thoughts on the German cuisine?
A subject close to my heart! I think Germany has such a bad reputation for food, as if it’s all sausages, pretzels, sauerkraut, and beer. The truth is, there is an incredible diversity of food and it’s very regional. One of my favorite things is to pull out my Culinaria Germany book and read the stories, legends, and recipes by region. That said, I like to eat and drink as locally as I can. My favorite beer is from our local brewery, brewed right in our town. So fresh and tasty! I also like Apfelwein (apple wine), a Frankfurt/Hessen specialty that looks and tastes like piss the first time around, but grows on you.  An excellent German Riesling is a must for many meals. As far as food, I like the Frankfurter Grüne Soße (green sauce) with some potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. This summer I want to try and make it – outdoor markets sell packets with the seven required herbs. From Swabia I adore Maultaschen, Germany’s answer to ravioli, topped with caramelized onions. From Thuringia, I like to make their style of vegetable soup – homemade broth with crunchy sugar peas, green beans, kohlrabi, carrots, chervil, and at the very end cream is added to give it a sweet balance. I could go on about dumplings, kartoffelpuffer (shredded, fried potato cakes – and it’s so fun to say!), and glühwein (warm, mulled wine).

I had to exercise extraordinary willpower not to interrupt that last answer with a "me too!" after every single sentence!  Jen, thank you SO much for taking the time to answer all these questions, it’s brilliant to get to know you a little better, to hear more about your expatriate experience and to offer your thoughts and feelings as part of the bigger expat picture.  You can keep up with Jen's adventures both on her blog and on Twitter and if you have any more questions for her, please post them in the comments below.

I’m really excited about next Friday's interview with another expat whose blog I have been following pretty much since my new life in Germany began: Laurel of My Expat Germany.  Can't wait!  I'm also itching to post my latest attempt at trying to cook German food (which yes, involved another slight misadventure - but unlike with the Schupfnudeln, I'll actually document this one - I'm hoping someone out there will be able to offer advice!).  I'll post it just as soon as I've got this assignment out of the way.  See you on the other side!

**Photography credit: Resident on Earth.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friendly Friday: An American in Wiesbaden

Here she is! The American in Wiesbaden! What I wouldn't give to be that pretzel.
Welcome to my first ever Friendly Friday! Following last week’s lightbulb moment, I threw together a few questions that I wanted to ask the American in Wiesbaden (including shoe queries from, as she very sweetly put it, “the audience” - thank you for those!) and here’s the result. I’m really interested in the experiences of folk who shift their whole lives in new direction, so my questions tend to focus around this: if there's anything else you’d like to ask Kate – or future “interviewees” - then please add a comment below.

I first met Kate (known online as shoegirl), early last summer at one of Wiesbaden’s many summer festivals. We drank wine, we ate sausage (probably), we swapped numbers, and we’ve done an awful lot more of the same sort of thing together since. Last autumn, she cooked me my first ever Thanksgiving turkey (twice) and she owns more pairs of shoes than I'll ever have in my whole life. Kate’s never anything other than immaculately presented, she bakes like there's no tomorrow and – most importantly – has recently demonstrated the ability to retain an air of dignity whilst giving it her best on a dance podium. She’s basically the total opposite of me. But enough rambling introduction: on with the questions...

Tell us, Kate: who are you? Where are you? What on earth are you doing there?
Hello! Well, I grew up and lived in the San Francisco Bay area my whole life. I honestly thought I could never leave California, but now, I can't imagine going back. In the months before our wedding, we knew my husband's company had a position opening up in Germany, but everything didn't fall into place until literally two weeks before we got married. Three weeks after that, he started the job and a month later we were all moved overseas. December 2009 was our first Christmas married and living in Wiesbaden - big life changes all at once!

And why have you blogged about your move to Germany?
My American in Wiesbaden blog really just began as a way to chronicle moving our lives overseas for myself and our friends and family. Even more than just detailing what we do, I look at it now as a way to reflect on the ways our lives and perspectives have changed. It's also nice to be a part of the expat blogosphere and meet other people like myself. I also write a shoe blog, Sole Satisfaction, which I began years ago as a marketing class project, if only as a vehicle to pine for beautiful footwear. As a gal with above-average size feet, I consider it a personal challenge to find shoes that are both fabulous and come in my size. Why should I settle for anything less?

I'm not sure how Bailey's going to feel
being referred to as "our dog"
So what's it like then, your new life in Germany?
Germany is even better than I expected. We ended up settling in Wiesbaden because we liked that is was both a big enough city to have things to do, but it also had a small-town feel to it. And the architecture - amazing! It's one of the cities that wasn't hit during the war, so much of the original buildings are still intact. My husband found our apartment during the month he started working over here while I was still packing up our lives in California, and he did a stellar job: we live within blocks of three different parks (which our dog loves!), two groceries and a produce market, great Thai and German restaurants. It's quite a step up from living in a so-so suburb in California, where going anywhere meant a trip across town in the car. We feel so lucky to now live in an apartment built in the 1800s that has molding details, wood floors and 4-meter ceilings. Living somewhere like this in California would not have been attainable in our lifetime.

What has the biggest challenge been for you in moving your whole life across the Atlantic Ocean?
Aside from the logistics of selling half our stuff and shipping the rest in a container, I would say the most challenging thing is day-to-day life. Just understanding the most basic of things while communicating in a brand new language is difficult. Most people don't think twice about ordering steaks at the meat counter or asking what time a shop closes, but when you don't have the words, these simple things become major hurdles. In addition, part of my life back in California was seeing my mother almost every day. I miss my mom more than I can say.

Leaving my friends and family has been really difficult for me, too. How did you go about finding new friends?
Everything changed when we finally made some friends five months into our life here and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the online networking site for introducing us to a great group of people; I've also made a few friends through blogging. The internet allows people who once would have never connected to come together under common interests, backgrounds and languages. It's easy to feel lost and lonely when you move to a whole new country; having friends in your new home makes all the difference.

Sounds like you did a good job getting stuck in to settling in. What do you like most about your new life in Germany?
I don't think it's solely a German thing, but the general European focus on enjoying life is probably the very best thing about living here. Coming from the land of lunch at your desk and two weeks of vacation a year, seeing shops closed for hours at lunch (and on Sundays!) and enjoying six weeks of vacation is such a luxury, albeit a necessary one. You can sit in a restaurant or cafe here for hours and no one will ever try to rush you out so they can give your table to someone else. Then there's all the festivals and community events that bring everyone together. Oh yeah, and the best thing of all - the ease of traveling all over Europe!

Ahhh… you and your travel (if Kate's not on holiday, she’s planning holiday). For anyone wanting to explore Germany, where would you personally recommend?
I suppose I'm a little biased, but I think the region where we live is fantastic! We're just down the river from the Rheingau (Germany's wine region), and there are so many amazing wineries to visit, not to mention castles all along the river. I must admit, it's best when the weather's nice so you can take the €14 tour in Rüdesheim, which includes an aerial tram ride up over vineyards, a walk through the forest overlooking the river and vineyards, a ride down the hill on a ski-lift-type thing, a boat ride across the river to a castle tour, and lastly, a boat ride back up the river to where you started (on which you can enjoy glasses of wine on the deck). Does it get any better than that?

I don’t mean to leap to conclusions, but it sounds like you’re rather enjoying your expat life. Do you think that moving your whole life abroad has changed you in any way?
I think living here has helped better define the things that I want out of life right now. In America - the fast-paced San Francisco area especially - there seems to be this unspoken pressure to obtain the (unattainable, in my opinion) 'American Dream' - the fast-tracked career, the house you can't afford, the fancy car, the husband, the kids. Being here has slowed me down and let me reflect on what I actually want, not what everyone else wants.
Right now, I don't have any of those things (save the husband, who took me 30 years to obtain anyhow), yet I feel more happy and content than I ever did. It's funny how moving to the other side of the Atlantic changes one’s perspective.

So what one piece of advice would you give to someone moving their whole life to a new country?
Be open. Open to new food, experiences, ways of doing things. It seems like a no-brainer - move to a new country and you're going to have to be open. But even if you find you don't like everything you find, it's such an amazing opportunity to see things from another perspective and challenge what you know (and what you think you know). I say, take it all in!

Finally… I know how much you love the language! What’s your favourite German word?
That's a tough one - I have so many! I fell in love with the word 'Heimat' when Resident on Earth posted about it, saying it's: "the region where you are from, a love and attachment to homeland, a sense of belonging, a connection to nature and traditions." I love that it doesn't have an exact English translation, which shows that it's not really a sentiment that is as important or relevant in America. Ami in Munich introduced me to 'Speckgürtel', which apparently means both 'suburbs' and 'love handles', which is both appropriate and hilarious. And hearing 'Mannschaft' (team) always makes me snicker like an immature 12-year-old.

And on that note... it looks like a very good moment to turn to the footwear-related questions that were posted last week by “the audience”.

Winter boots on Kate's shoe blog
What are your favorite German stores and have you ever ordered from the German version of Zappos? (from German Gems)
Sadly, I find shopping in Germany leaves much to be desired, especially after coming from the shopping mecca of San Francisco. I do love Marc O'Polo, but everything there costs a small fortune, so I often hit H&M up for the affordable stuff. Shoe stores are worthless for finding my large size, so I resort to getting shoes from the states and occasionally ordering online here. If you've ever ordered from Zappos, you will be sorely disappointed with Zalando. The customer service is non-existent, as is quality control (one of the boots I ordered arrived with a four-cenimeter nail sticking up inside from the sole!). The shoe options are decent, but it's rare you'll receive a quality pair that's worth what you paid for them. But with free shipping, I figure it's worth a shot if you find something you really like. Do act fast though - I've found their stock sells out at lightening speed. I've also found, and for shoes, but have yet to try any of them out.

I still haven't bought winter boots, as I've worried all season about what would work best in these snowy grim German winters. I don't want to wear what my children are wearing (these waterproof snow boots with velcro straps) but are regular boots practical enough in a foot of snow or will I spend winter with soaking, frozen feet? (from Fiona)
Coming from California, I'm very particular about what I need from winter boots - my toes freeze so easily! I've found that when it comes to snow and slush, it's best to be safe and ensure whatever shoes you get will hold up to the wet conditions. Lucky for us, there are so many cute snow boots these days that look more snow bunny than little kid. For serious snow, I'm partial to North Face (which I own) and Sorel (which I want to own). North Face is a little hard to come by here, but they sell Sorel on Zalando. For decently waterproof and just good boots for staying warm, I'm obsessed with UGGS. No, not those ugly marshmallow-looking things (which aren't the least bit waterproof), but the real footwear they sell, waterproofed AND lined with cozy shearling. I live in them while it's cold. These are not as easy to find here in Germany, but I've seen them at a few upscale boutiques - if you wear smaller than a 42, of course. In general, stock seems to sell out quickly here, so I'd look as soon as you can for any hope of getting anything this season. Good luck - and stay warm!

Thank you, Kate, for being the perfect expat blogger to kick off my Friendly Friday. You can keep up with Kate’s adventures on her American in Wiesbaden blog; gaze at pictures of snazzy footwear on Sole Satisfaction; and follow her on Twitter. If anyone has any further questions for Kate, shoe-related or otherwise, please add a comment below and she'll answer your query down there.

Next week, I have the terrific Resident On Earth lined up for questioning, so if there’s anything you’d like to ask my second Friendly Friday expat blogger, please post questions for her below too (making clear which blogger you’re directing your question at!).

Finally, thank you so much for all the comments you've been leaving for me. Please let me know what you think of this post, too – it's my first go at ever doing something like this, so I’d love your feedback.

**Photos and screenshot credit: the American in Wiesbaden

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another one of Frau Dietz's "ideas"

A few days ago I had an idea.  Admittedly, most of my current ideas tend to centre around roast  pork belly, phenomenological social psychology* and/or ways in which I can persuade B that we need to go to Japan.  This new idea, however, nurtured itself far away from the food/study/travel compartments of my brain and evolved in an area clearly labelled, “try not to think about these things for too long because your train of thought will no doubt will lead you to contemplate the enormity of the universe and the comparative insignificance of your own life and you’ll need to have a biscuit and a lie down”.

The idea was born whilst staring blankly at Twitter (yes, I'm on it, and yes, you are by all means of course welcome to follow me but please do bear in mind that staring blankly at Twitter is pretty much all do on it) and thinking about how much I liked their "Follow Friday" idea, which for those of you blissfully unaware of it, is a simple way in which “tweeters” (ugh) are able to spread the word about their wildly talented tweeting associates.  This, ahem, twappreciation combined itself with a reflection on how, in the last ten months, I've discovered some fantastic blogs written by other expats in Germany which I really feel ought to be shared beyond our corner of the world wide web.

My fellow expat bloggers who are trying to adapt – or have long since done so - to a new way of life miles away from their homeland, meeting all manner of challenges along the way, regularly share wonderful tales of their new experiences and ritual humiliations.  In addition, the little online community that has developed as a result of them is a source of constant and invaluable support to me - and no doubt to many others too.  Knowing I am not the only one to ever have struggled with the infuriating language or felt frustrated by incomprehensible cultural differences can be hugely comforting.  And of late, the internet has thrown me some pretty awesome friendship love and I'm feeling full of the joys of... well, I don't really know... so I want to give a little something back.  Therefore (and thank you for your patience, here comes the idea *drum roll*) I’m going to start doing a regular interview-type post featuring expat bloggers from around Germany, offering contrasting perspectives on the expat experience and sharing tips and advice on settling in; and helping to present a somewhat broader view of what it’s like to just up sticks and shift one’s life to another part of the planet.

First up then, this Friday (18 February), baring her expatriate soul in a letter from Frau Dietz will be my lovely friend the American in Wiesbaden, known on this blog as the Shoe Fetishist on account of her insatiable obsession with footwear.  I'd like to thank her in advance for humouring me: I've never done anything like this before and am a bit concerned I'm just being a wildly self-important idiot.  Is this idea a good idea?  A bad idea?  Please let me know what you think!  And are there any questions in particular you'd like me to pose?

*I've just started the second of my three psychology modules

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Gut Food: Sauerkraut

Yes yes, I know: if I’m trying challenge preconceptions about German food then Sauerkraut is a bit of a funny place to start. It's just it also feels like exactly the right place to start: I wanted to try out a couple of classic German dishes first before charging headlong into unchartered culinary territory (unchartered by me, that is), and, well, you can’t get much more German than Sauerkraut*. And since fermented, shredded cabbage is a staple of the German menu, and partly also because it's probably the one thing on the menu that people like me make a determined effort to avoid, I thought I should take the cabbage by the horns and get stuck in.

Image curtesy of Me So Hungry. My own Sauerkraut photos were horrible.

The thing is, and I say this without even the tiniest batsqueak of irony, it turns out that Sauerkraut is delicious. No I haven't gone mad: of course when B and I have gone out to dinner I've had to push aside the odd tangy, stringy mound of distinctly unpleasant-looking soggy stuff that's accompanied otherwise pleasing plate of food, yet combined with the right ingredients I’ve discovered that Sauerkraut can be mouth-wateringly more-ish and a very tasty complement to a number of other flavours. It offers health benefits as well: aside from its famously high vitamin C content (remember scurvy?), it's rich in iron, calcium and vitamin B too; plus it assists in lowering cholesterol. Knowing all this, one almost begins to wonder what one’s been missing out on. (Almost.)

Jars and tins of Sauerkraut are available everywhere you look here, but it's not hard to source in the UK either (at Sainsbury's, for starters. I'm afraid I don't know enough about food shopping around the rest of the world to know which websites to check, although I do know the stuff is very popular in the US so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it there). I did however briefly research how to pickle cabbage from scratch, just in case, and it sounds like it’s in fact an extremely simple process: shred cabbage; add salt; cover very firmly in a barrel and leave... for six months. But there’s such a thing as running before one has learned to walk, and also such a thing as upsetting one’s neighbours by stinking out the building with the smell of fermenting cabbage, so I went for the ready-made stuff.

The following recipe for cooked Sauerkraut is based on one I found in the November 2010 issue of Alnatura magazine. (Alnatura is a friendly organic/health foods supermarket akin to Fresh & Wild or Trader Joe’s, bursting to the seams with hugely overpriced produce that you can’t generally find elsewhere. I love it.) Theirs was actually a recipe for Sauerkraut with potato noodles ("Schupfnudeln"), but my potato noodles didn’t turn out quite as, um, expected, so I thought I’d better work out where I went wrong before I recommended the recipe in its entirety. I've kept the basic ingredients and the method the same, just furnished them with my own clarifications.

Sauerkraut is mostly served with pork here - either ribs ("Rippchen") or knuckle ("Eisbein") - and, naturally, a big old pile of carbs. It could also accompany pheasant or partridge, and closer to Alsace it’s apparently often dished up alongside steamed white fish. The most traditional accompanying carbohydrates are either Schupfnudeln or Spätzle, which in Germany you can buy fresh from the supermarket if you aren’t up for making them yourself. If you can’t get hold of either of those I imagine it would be an extremely comforting meal to heap your cabbage upon a big pile of mashed potatoes.

This recipe of course can be happily tinkered with. It seems that popular additions include, though are by no means limited to: sliced apple, juniper berries, bay leaves, caraway seeds or cloves; vegetarians can omit the bacon; and alcoholics could swap the apple juice for cider or Riesling. Any other recommendations?

So then, here we are. Would you believe it, I’m recommending a recipe for Sauerkraut. Might there be any chance at all that I could persuade you to give it a go?

These are the ingredients for both the Sauerkraut and the Schnupfnudeln, but you can pick out the Sauerkraut ingredients using the list below

Ingredients (serves 4):

3 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
2 white onions
100g finely diced bacon ("Speck")
600g Sauerkraut
2-3 tablespoons raw cane sugar ("Rohrohrzucker")
100ml vegetable stock
100ml apple juice
Salt, pepper, nutmeg ("Muskat")


Heat the oil in a large pan before adding the bacon and onions, then cook slowly on a low heat until lightly browned. Add the Sauerkraut, gently pulling it apart as you move it around the pan. (Warning: at this point your kitchen will start to smell not unlike a damp horse. Sorry.) Sprinkle in the sugar, stir, and leave to caramelize and cook through completely (Note: the recipe didn’t specify length of time but the Sauerkraut should retain some bite and be neither burnt nor a soggy mess, so don’t cook it on too high a heat or for too long). Finally, add the stock and apple juice and stir constantly for one minute until the Sauerkraut has taken on a nice light brown colour. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

*I know somebody is going to want to tell me that Sauerkraut is not really German. Pickled cabbage seems to have originated in China and wound its way round to Germany via Alsace, however the Germans have made Sauerkraut their own in the same way that the French concocted Choucroute and the Koreans came up with Kimchi.