Nov 17, 2015


I made beans and cornbread tonight for dinner. Beans in the pressure cooker, baked cornbread from scratch. Threw in some lightly smoked pork belly- Southern Germans do know their Schwein. Actually, I really missed it- savory southern cornbread slathered with pork beans and a heady dose of hot sauce. Good stuff, although I forgot to add salt to the cornbread. Saori is working late as usual this month, but it will be good for her to take for lunch tomorrow.

It's funny to me, not so much to Saori, that everyone in her office thinks I am a great cook. Saori is always bringing in breads or cookies or stews, and people always want to try a bite and ask "did Alec make that?" I think my cooking has improved a lot in a short span of time, but I actually learned a lot from Saori. Many of the recipes in my handwritten cookbook are from her, and I am trying to think of a not-so-hamfisted way to remind people in her office of this. The problem is that right now she has no time to cook, and secondly, she likes to cook things we eat immediately and don't really keep well- pan seared salmon with crispy carrots, daikon soup with beef, garlic sporuts stir fried with oyster sauce and thin-sliced pork. But the following-the-recipe cookies that I make, for example, travel well and are much more sharable.

And now a bit of strange things about German life.

We ordered pad thai for delivery Sunday night- it was, in fact, the first time we got anything delivered here. I have ordered food to the office many more times than to our apartment, which is a bit strange when you stop and think about it. The problem is that dining out or delivery is really expensive in Germany. We picked a delivery service which is a little more expensive than the average delivery, but it still cost us about $35 for two, and all we got were two dishes and a soup. It was, actually, really really good. My friend said it was the best Pad Thai in Stuttgart, and I agree with him.

Not so much intersection with our lives, but I discovered that despite the fact that beer is sold and consumed nearly everywhere (you can even order beers delivered from most all food delivery), and the proliferation of sleazy little gambling casinos, that the sale of alcohol in casinos is completely forbidden. You can have Ching Chong's Chow deliver a sixpack to your apartment, drink it all as you stagger down the street, pausing to toast a passing policeman, but you cannot sip a martini and play bacarrat (or rum coke and pull a handle). This is actually not a bad way of doing things.

Less good is that you also find cigarette vending machines everywhere. (Although most bars ban smoking indoors). Before watching the new James Bond movie, I saw the first cigarette advertisement in my entire life. While most of the developed world has moved away from cigarettes, Germany remains a heavily smoking nation. That's a real puzzler, given the foresight and risk-aversion that is the stereotipical German.

Southern Germany is still surprisingly religiously conservative, with the state and religion at least on speaking terms. For example, most people tithe directly from their paychecks. It's a completely standard question filling out office paperwork, what is your religion and do you want to contribute monthly?

Saori and I came across the intersection of local, cheap, organic produce and technological automation when we stumbled across a vending machine which dispensed the former. Daily stocked with free range eggs, seasonal harvested down the street vegitables and nuts, even entire butternut squash. It was in a village, near the center square. It makes sense, given that most villages don't have the demand to keep shops open all the time, and all the stores are closed sundays. It also works because most people walk to get to the bus or wherever they are going in town if they don't work outside the village. Lastly, it works because the supply chain is really simple. Produce is grown locally and distributed from the green grocer who in turn, stocks the machine located outside the shop.

I don't think it would work in the the US because people tend to buy groceries once a week or two weeks, in quantity, from large supermarkets. There isn't the lifestyle nor commercial pattern of going to pick up a few fresh things every day. The supply chains are much more industrialized- if there's a local farm, the farm is likely owned and managed by a large distributer, to the point that much of the produce sold at American suburban and urban "farmers markets" is just diverted from the local Safeway or Kroger.

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