Detour: Germany

Germany - 150

Guten Tag! Another June weekend brings another globetrotting detour to a country whose name begins with a G—in this case, Germany. And once again, we were making the detour because of a local festival: not Greek Fest but Wurstfest. I had the pleasure of touring Bavaria (the country’s largest state) in 2008 with the Brandeis University Chorus, where we visited the famous Neuschwanstein Castle that I photographed above.

Our adventures began on Friday night, when we took Jess’s brother to The Black Sheep, a restaurant on Buffalo’s West Side that features modern European cuisine. Among other things, we enjoyed a selection of fresh breads and international cheeses that we could imagine being served in a traditional German household. A couple of us also ordered dishes that featured pork, which we would learn is something of a German specialty.

The next morning, Jess assembled an even more extensive array of breads, pretzels, cheeses, meats, eggs, raw honey, and fruit preserves for a hearty German breakfast:

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This was a delicious way to start the weekend and also brought back memories of the equally sumptuous smorgasbord that we had assembled for our globetrot to neighboring Austria in 2014. During my visit to Germany in 2008, many of the items at the hotel breakfast buffet were similar—with the addition of seemingly dozens of varieties of sausage.

After taking a walk through the historic Delaware Park and saying farewell to Greg, Jess began to prepare a savory lunch of Zwiebelkuchen (onion pie) and seitan Frikadellen (croquettes). We made a somewhat different recipe for frikadeller on our recent globetrot to Denmark. To our surprise, we learned that Germany has a rich tradition of vegetarian cooking, and we were excited to try as many dishes as we could before the weekend was over.

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For dessert, Jess had prepared Rote Grutze (a red berry compote) topped with vanilla sauce:

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We had forgotten to purchase pickles for our breakfast, so that afternoon, while I was shopping at Big Lots, I decided to see whether they had any pickles in stock. To my great surprise, the store was actually selling a wide assortment of German delicacies:

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After snapping the photo above, I ended up purchasing the pickles as well as some German cookies (which I will write more on below).

Later that afternoon, we got acquainted with the country though the Geography Now episode about Germany, below, as well as the Flag Friday segment in which we learned more about the German flag.

For dinner, Jess helped me make the city of Frankfurt’s famous Grüne Soße (yep, green sauce). The cold sauce is traditionally made with a blend of seven fresh herbs, all of which grow in the Frankfurt area, but I am somewhat embarrassed to report that we only managed to find two of them: parsley and chives. Even so, the green sauce had a pleasant flavor when served over boiled eggs and potatoes:

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I also prepared some traditional red cabbage with apple, steamed with cloves, bouillon, vinegar, cherry preserves, and other flavorings. This was also a dish that we had made (using a different recipe) for our globetrot to Denmark.

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That evening, we watched a short documentary about German tourism called “Discover Germany.”

While we watched the film, we enjoyed some more of Jess’s red berry compote.

Sunday began with another delicious array of German breakfast items—this time with the imported pickles. Later that morning, we watched a longer documentary called I Love Democracy: Germany on the Eve of ElectionsThis 2013 film argued that while Germany has its share of political problems, the country has managed to avoid the wave of populism that has brought intolerant governments to power in other Western democracies (including our own).

We also enjoyed watching the first episode in the MUNCHIES guide to Berlin, which gave us a look at some of the city’s most traditional dishes:

Looking at all that delicious German food, we couldn’t wait any longer to try some for ourselves. Fortunately, I had purchased some travel-themed vanilla cookies, imported from Germany, that featured the names of cities from around the world. You can see two German cities, Hamburg and Munich, on top of the pile:

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Just before lunch, it was time to visit Riverfest Park for the 2017 Wurstfest, sponsored by the German American Musician’s Association of Buffalo. In case you are trying to remember what Wurst means, it’s the German word for sausage. We knew we were in the right place when we saw the German flag flying near the entrance to the park:

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Weaving our way between men and women dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes, we soon found ourselves near the refreshments. Because the food vendors were taking a while to get themselves set up—which didn’t say much for German efficiency, Jess pointed out—we first got something to drink. Not being avid beer drinkers, we decided to split a special edition grapefruit beer from the German brewer Warsteiner. Not bad!

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The food was finally ready to serve. At a booth run by the local restaurant Schnitzel & Co., we ordered a chicken schnitzel dinner with red cabbage and spaetzel (soft egg noodles) along with a big pretzel with a cheesy mustard sauce:

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We listened to some authentic music from members of the German American Musicians Association while we ate. The band also led everyone in frequent toasts using a popular drinking song that I first heard many years ago at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

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The festival was great fun and we were happy to have discovered another popular ethnic event in the city of good neighbors. As it turns out, Buffalo has long been home to a large German-American population, whose history we discovered in this virtual tour from Forgotten Buffalo.

Upon returning home that afternoon, we continued to watch some MUNCHIES episodes to get a closer look at different aspects of Berlin’s exciting food culture. We also watched a charming feature film that Jess had found called Goodbye Lenin (2003) about an East German mother who awakens from a coma without realizing that the Berlin Wall had been torn down in the interim. The film offered a far-fetched yet serious look at the challenges and opportunities that residents of East Berlin faced during reunification.

After watching a couple more episodes of MUNCHIES, and enjoying some more of Jess’s red berry compote, we were ready to say farewell. To our excitement, the problem this weekend was not that there were too few German resources in Buffalo but that there were almost too many. We didn’t even manage to fry up the vegetarian sausages that Jess had purchased especially for the occasion. At least we could count on lots of leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. Auf Wiedersehen!

–Derek

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One thought on “Detour: Germany

  1. This is such a great idea – I love what you’re doing. Thank you so much for linking to my Grüne Soße recipe – I am just in the middle of writing a longer post about it as it’s amazing how specific the Frankfurters are about the herbs they use in it – it’s really interesting!

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