2.18.2008

Ask and ye shall receive

Last night I told my husband I was finished with emotional eating and drinking. I’ve been binging on comfort foods a little too often since arriving in Deutschland. Although I refuse to step the scale to confirm this fear, I know I’ve packed on the pounds. My daytime wardrobe of comfortable, stretchy pants stands as a testament to this reality. If you put a cigarette in my hand and teased the hair, I’d look like an Atlantic City local, not an American expat in Europe.

But “beginning Monday”, I promised Max, things would be “different.” Food and wine would no longer be the primary means to sooth my soul. This day would mark the start of a new and healthier routine. Diane Mandy was going on a another strict and lasting diet lifestyle change.

Now, many of you have suggested I write about German cuisine and drink. Brilliant! What a magnificent way to distract me from thinking about food and wine.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on German food. When Max and I choose to dine out, we often pick Italian eateries, which are tasty and abundant, or Supan, an upscale Thai restaurant, which offers the best tom kha gai in nearby Mannheim.

The problem is I’ve never been a meat and potatoes girl, and Germans are all about these staples. Fertile soil and ample watering holes make for excellent grazing, and as a result, Germany boasts abundant cattle, sheep, and pigs farms. Game birds and rabbit are also considered traditional fair, with mustard and horseradish as popular condiments. Stereotypes do hold true for Germany. Sauerkraut and schnitzel rule. Moreover, the markets offer the largest selection of wurst I have ever seen.

But stereotypes aside, I have also learned local cuisine differs depending on what part of the country you happen to live. I feel fortunate to reside in Rhineland-Pfalz, the wine-growing and Palatinate region, where a lighter cuisine with strong influences from France, Italy, and Austria can be found. In this area, German grains and noodles, such as spatzle, are often substituted for potatoes.

My favorite of the local Palatinate specialties, zwiebelkuchen, literally translates “onion cake," but is actually a one-crust pie, similar to quiche, and made with onions, diced bacon, cream, and caraway seed. Although you can find it anytime in almost any German eatery, zwiebelkuchen is traditionally served in the fall with the “new wine” called federweisser, or “feather wine,” a cloudy, sweet, effervescent, not quite wine that is still in the fermentation process. I find the pairing of these local delicacies quite delightful.

However, you don’t have to settle for new wine, which begins at only 4% alcohol. More mature wines, with a heavier alcohol content, are both abundant and cheap. In fact, for about 3 euros, you can buy a decent bottle of local wine.

I never cared for rieslings until I came to Germany. Back home in the United States I always found the wine to be much too sweet for my taste buds. However here in Germany, I never hesitate to order a glass of the house riesling so long as it is “trocken” or dry. Of course not all German wines are resilings or even white. Max and I are hoping to do a formal wine tour once the weather cooperates, but so far my favorite local vineyard is Fritz Ritter, which is located just a couple miles from my house.

Have I written enough on this topic already? Put you to sleep yet? I, for one, am much to hungry to continue any longer. Excuse me while I go and feed my empty tummy with a little something and wash it down with a glass of wine. Yes, people I have a date with Fritz Ritter and will be dressed in only the finest stretchy pants for the occasion. Thanks for that!

16 comments:

Rositta said...

Oh Dianne, I just woke up and am reading your post. I would love some of that wurst for breakfast. When I toured the Mosel Tal last fall I too ate lots of Zwiebelkuchen and drank too much Riesling, sigh. And Schnitzel and sauerkraut, what can I say. You are lucky, you are living in my home region, enjoy...ciao

Cheryl said...

Excellent post. I actually had a similar experience when I visited Vienna (mind you that was for four days, not an extended stay like you have)and it was a lot of beef and pork, which I don't eat. And beer, which I don't do either. I did try pheasant there though.

LZ Blogger said...

"many of you have suggested I write about German cuisine and drink. Brilliant! What a magnificent way to distract me from thinking about food and wine." What?!!! That sounds a little counter-intuitive to me! But then what do I know? My wife has been is San Francisco for two weeks (one of which I was in New York for) but I've eaten like a pig for the whole two and a half weeks that she’s been gone. Now they've cancelled her flight home because of bad weather in Denver yesterday. She's rescheduled to make in back home late tonight. I hope that my stomach doesn’t explode before she gets back!
What I really want to know Diane, is what does a bottle of ”NIGHT TRAIN” cost there? That is… if of course a “high alcohol content” is the ultimate goal. I think that stuff is about 15%. Zzzzzz… I’m falling asleep at my post here! I better go have a snack. A little zwiebelkuchen sounds good to me for some reason right now! ~ jb///

G in Berlin said...

I discovered red Federweisser, which is da bomb. much better than the white, in my oponion. Iwas very sad when it ran out in late November (we wouldbuy 2 2L plastic containers at a time, leave 1 out to ferment and drink and slow the othr down by puting it in the fridge).
One ofmy problems here, of course, is that I don't eat pork or rabbit, which deprives me of more than 50% of the standard fare of this region. All the fish is smoked and fatty here as well (hey, I like it but low in calorie it's not), and I do envy you proximity to a lighter cuisine.

kenju said...

I want some of all of the above, Diane! And I live in stretch pants too...LOL

Dan-E said...

you had me at "stretchy pants."

when you wrote about cattle, sheep, pigs, game birds, and rabbit with mustard and horseradish i my mouth watered. actually, flooded is more like it.

sleepy? no. hungry? oh gawd yes. i'm gonna buy some brats now.

bleeding espresso said...

Ooh fun! Being essentially half-German (well, Pennsylvania Dutch), I'll definitely enjoy these posts :)

And now I'm hungry too....

June said...

I could never live there. First off because I refuse to gain weight. When I went to London for 3 weeks I gained 10 lbs. I am not sure if it was from the food or the beer.

Anyway, I am too much of a turkey/chicken and all the fresh veggies I can handle kind of girl. I bet if I moved to Germany I probably would never go to the bathroom again. :O)

Good luck with your new lifestyle! I'll be watching you... ;o)

G in Berlin said...

June- if it makes you feelbetter, in the last 5 years turkey production has taken off here. You can get putenwurst anywhere and also several types of puten salami and rindsalami which I can't even find in the States. Here in the erstwhile East I can find a wide variety of produce, but the non-seasonal stuff (and pre-asparagus here that's cabbage) is available at specialty stores for $$$.

Essentially Me said...

Good luck with the diet, erm, lifestyle change! I need to so get on that too.

"Single Girl in the City" said...

I am so not a lover of German food. Even the desserts are far too heavy and not sweet enough for me - a tragedy to my German grandparents (god rest their souls) who never understood why I'd pass on the "wurst" and just stick to the potatoes...

But German wines... sign me up! Rieslings are one of my favorite things for dessert!

PS: I heart stretchy pants...

brandy said...

Ahhh this post brought me back. One of my favourite things about Europe in general is the cheapness of the wine.

I mean, the beautiful cathedrals.

Seriously though- I do love German sausage (take that however you want). When I flew to Rome from Frankfurt I did encounter a nasty fish loaf that I was told was a German treat.

A treat it was not.

Andrea said...

The onion tart sounds good. I'd love to hear what German dishes you come up with. After two years of trying to be inspired all we ever seem to eat is chicken. It's hard to translate what I used to cook in the US (and I LOVE to cook) to cooking here since I don't know what half the 'meat' here is.

I think if it wasn't 10 am I'd join you in a glass of wein! For now it's just coffee in my cup.

V-Grrrl said...

Three years in Belgium and I'm just now shedding my expat fat! Ah!

utenzi said...

Riesling. Mmmm. My favorite type of wine though I do confess I like them sweet as well as dry. I've even posted several times about my favorite German brand.

evercurious said...

I'm having a glass (or a few) of riesling right now and it made me think of you. The other night I was waiting on a group of women that had brought in some wine because we don't have our liqour license yet. They had a sparkling shiraz that I really wanted to drink tonight but I couldn't find one at a very high end grocery store. I settled for a riesling. I only started drinking whites a few years ago and I enjoy riesling a lot. Guess what else I got...Framboise Lambic. It's so sweet but it's so good. Have you tried it? I hope you're having a wonderful weekend.