In the Kitchen

Holy moly! We only have two days left in Berlin! I knew it would fly by, but I can’t believe it’s the end. We leave for London on Thursday morning and from there head back to Chicago on Saturday. This has been a great experience, but I’m also ready to be to home.

I’ve been slacking a bit on writing with packing and other things, but there are still a few things I want to share with you before we head out.

I want to tell you a little bit about my experience cooking here in Berlin. Over the last few years I have really started to enjoy cooking. Partially because I like to have control over my food, so I can make sure it’s healthy. In Chicago we eat at home most weeknights and we tried to do the same here with pretty good success. I usually search for recipes or go through some of my favorites and menu plan for the week, but it was a little more difficult here. There are certain things that I use at home a lot that are not as available or are more expensive here. For example, tacos. In general Mexican food is hard to come by around here. I don’t think I’ve seen any corn tortillas and definitely no taco seasoning. Avocados are also a little more expensive here and rarely ever ripe. They do not sell lean ground beef, which meant I wasn’t buying it. After I got a better handle on what products I could typically find I was able to plan out our meals a little better.

The other challenge for me was letting go of following recipes step by step. I like rules. I like measuring things. This was a problem here. I could pretty easily convert measurements to the metric system with a little help from Google, but I could not for the life of me find measuring cups or spoons. I went into a kitchen store and the clerk there showed me a large liquid measuring cup and said that was all I had. She also could not make any suggestions as to where I might be able to find measuring cups and spoons. I was very surprised by this. I realize that a lot of cooks don’t measure exactly, but in baking you have to and they bake like crazy here. It made no sense to me, so I Googled. Do you know why they don’t have measuring cups here? They weight everything with a kitchen scale. I learned that this is actually a more exact method and it made sense, but it didn’t make sense for me to buy a kitchen scale. I learned to make due with guesstimating and using regular spoons.

All in all I think everything turned out pretty well and I think I’ve learned to ease up a bet on the exact measuring, as least for cooking. I even made a chicken one night with no recipe at all! Pretty easy I know, but not something I would usually do. (Side Note: This is what happens when you grow up with a mom who reads all posted rules out loud. Love you Mom!) I have also learned that fresh ingredients really do make a difference. Asha has been really into getting whole chickens here and I have yet to buy one that doesn’t have remnants of feathers. They have clearly never been frozen. We all agree that the chicken we have had here tastes even better than home.

I have definitely not abandoned recipes completely and thought I’d share a few that I have made while here and really enjoyed. None of them are German. Sorry. We are over German food for a while. We need a break from schnitzel and wursts!

Roasted Garlic Tomato Lentil Salad (I served this with crumbled feta)

One Skillet Tuscan Chicken

Spicy Thai Kohlrabi Salad (Kohlrabi is very easy to find here. If you can’t find it I think jicama would be a good substitute)

30 Minute Chicken and Cauliflower Curry

Cucumber Noodles, Feta, Arugula, & Onion Salad w/ Red Wine Oregano Vinaigrette

Damn Fine Chicken (I’ve used this with drumsticks, thighs, and a whole chicken)

I guess I should go pack some more. The clock’s tickin’!

Tchüss,

Karla

 

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Surrounded by History

This is not really so much about our experience being here in Germany, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I digress a bit.

I was looking online for a new park to take the girls to on Friday afternoon and came across a small park nearby. I was trying to determine if it had a playground and subsequently discovered a memorial there called “The Deserted Room.” It is a bronze table with two chairs, one lying on the ground. It symbolizes the round up of the Jews during the Nazi regimen.

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One day as we were going off on one of our adventures I noticed a memorial outside the train station, “Trains to Life, Trains to Death.” One side depicts children waiting to be taking to concentration camps and the other children leaving on the kindertransport, a rescue effort lead by England during WWII. I stopped in my tracks because I could not walk away without remembering all those innocent children. I stood there and cried for a minute thinking about it and how I was heading on a train to have fun.

Kindertransport

In Berlin the reality of what happens when people give into fear and allow hate to consume them can smack you in the face when you are least excepting it. It is part of this city. When you see these memorials, portions of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and look up information of a place you want to go and inevitably learn about it’s role during the Nazi regimen you can’t ignore it. In the US it’s something you read about and maybe watch a few videos on in history class. Sure you find it appalling, but it’s history and you move on to the next topic. We talk about slavery and the civil rights movement, but I don’t think we truly acknowledge the full extent of what happened. I don’t think we put it out there and ask citizens to remember.

We have to remember these dark, painful times in history. We have to acknowledge what happened on a regular basis. We have to feel some connection to it or we forgot. Then as they say “we are doomed to repeat.” I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t say what the future holds. What I do know is that I do not like what I’m hearing from people in the US. People in positions of power are saying hateful things about lesbians, transgender, gay, Muslims, and immigrants in general. They are trying to put the blame for “America’s” problems on them and fear mongering people to believe that some “group” is the problem. This is a very slippery slope. One that truly scares me. Now I know some will say that words are taken out of context or that’s not exactly what he/she meant, but it’s all there in one way or another. The hate and fear mongering is there. The question is are we willing to see it? Can we put our political agendas and partisanship aside and really examine what is being said? Are they words that blame others? Are they divisive? Are they words that tear others down?

If they are then I hope you will truly question the individual delivering the message. I hope that we can all look for words that promote love, peace, and hope. This does not mean the messenger is weak, but the exact opposite. Anyone can rally the angry mob to kill the beast, but it takes strength and courage to calm their fears and think of a better solution. Think of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Far from weak.

Well I could go on and on, but I hope you get my point. I promise to be more light-hearted next time. It’s just impossible for me to be in this place and not remember what happened here.

I hope you’re all enjoying your Monday!

Tchüss,

Karla

Eis and Kuchen and Gebäck, Oh My!

In the words of my dad, you can’t sling a dead cat around here without hitting something sweet. In one block you will pass at least one bakery, bäckerei, three coffee shops with sweet cases, and one ice cream, Eis, stand. They will all also serve coffee, small coffee (I’m still not over it). In Italy it seemed to be more gelato everywhere than baked goods and Austria was pretty much the same as Germany.

Here in Germany there seem to be two types of bakeries, local and chain. Either can be hit or miss. Almost all of the bakeries also have different breads and of course pretzels. We have tried several of the chains Kamps, Steinecke, Ditsch, and Lila. The first three have been pretty good, but some of the best sweets we’ve had have been at cafes. Lila is just not good in my opinion. The bread is ok and the donuts not to bad, but everything else, yuck. There is one right by our house, so Asha asks to stop there sometimes after music class. The girls usually get donuts, but sometimes have veered to other items. Once Asha got a cookie. I tried a bite and actually had to spit it out. I think that was a first for me. If you find yourself in Germany craving something sweet and you see a Lila just keeping walking. A few meters more and you’re bound to find something better.

There are also ice cream stands everywhere. We took the girls for ice cream after dinner on Friday and first place we went to was very picked over. I think they must have been closing soon. No worries we just walked a couple more blocks and had or choice of two more. The ice cream was delicious. The girls had dark chocolate and it did not disappoint. What I love about the ice cream stands is that a small is truly a small. One scoop. Just enough indulgence. At least for me. Don’t worry you can get multiple scoops if you like. They also have frozen yogurt here. It is similar to the tart yogurt you would find at Pinkberry or other frozen yogurt chains, but a little sweeter. I actually prefer it what I’ve tasted in the US. Like in the US, at frozen yogurt shops you can pick toppings. I have only come across a few frozen yogurt shops. One is just a few blocks from our apartment.

What I found interesting is that cupcakes are not something easily found in Berlin. Asha wanted to get cupcakes for my birthday, so I did a little research and only found maybe five places in Berlin that made cupcakes. As I researched further I learned that cupcakes are definitely an American thing. Some people have tried to bring the idea here and a couple shops seem to be quite successful, but the idea has not really taken off like in the US. We found a nice cupcake bakery just a couple train stops from us and went there for Karina’s birthday. The cupcakes were very tasty and again to my delight all minis. We got a little assortment so we could try some different flavors.

I’ve tried not to indulge too much and I have to limit the kids because sometimes I think they could eat sweets all day long. The constant barrage of sugar has helped with my will power.

Now you probably want some chocolate or something, so go treat yourself! 🙂

Tchüss,

Karla

Another Weekend, Another City

This past Saturday we decided to take the train to Hamburg, Germany. Many of Sanjay’s German coworkers were talking it up. We arrived and walked around the warehouse district as this was the closest area to the train station. Hamburg is a major port city, so we were trying to make our way toward the harbor area. Along the way we passed the maritime museum and went in, for Sanjay. To be honest, so far I was not impressed with Hamburg. The harbor seemed ok, but I really wasn’t sure what we were going to do all day. To be fair, we were all suffering from some serious travel fatigue. We have really tried to take advantage of being here, but you can only do so much before it starts to lose its luster and you’re just tired. I know, I know. Boo hoo, poor Karla you have to travel around Europe. I realize this is a good problem to have and I’m very grateful for everything we have been able to do.

We decided to take a boat tour and then head back to Berlin on an earlier train. While walking toward the boat area we got to pass the “true” harbor area and it was pretty cool. If I was near by again, and sans kids, I think I’d give Hamburg another shot. The boat tour was nice and we got to see some cool military ships. Taking the earlier train was actually really great because it was around dinner time. We sat in the dining car so the kids could eat. Which means they were entertained for about half of the train ride. Otherwise we spend most of the time trying to find things to do, like walking up and down the train cars or going to the bathroom. It also meant no late night so the kids were less grouchy.

This was probably our last trip while we are here. There are still a few things here in Berlin that I would like to explore. On Sunday we checked one off my list, the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is a portion of the Berlin wall that is still intact and has been turned into a mural wall. I really love how they took a symbol of oppression and a dark period and turned it into something beautiful. It’s a reminder of the past, but also hope for a better future. It demonstrates how something negative can be made positive. Here are just a few of the paintings.

This weekend we are planning to go to Tier Park, another zoo, to celebrate Karina’s 2nd birthday! I can’t believe she will be two!!

Tchüss,

Karla