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Still Cookin’

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One of the questions I received a lot over the course of my trip was regarding how I knew so many people in the various places I visited. There are a few answers. First off, I travel often and stay in touch, which has meant I’ve been able to cultivate relationships with people all over Europe. And I must be fun, because they generally want to see me again. But a few other things are at play as well. Two years ago, I participated in a home exchange with a couple from Austria. Just like the movie (I always get that question), we swapped homes, cars and lives for a few weeks. It was magnificent. And when I told them I would be back in Europe, they opened up their home to me again, this time as their guest and friend.

On Friday night, after an amazing day spent in the Tirol region of Austria (that’s just outside of Innsbruck where the good skiing takes place) with my friends Jürgen and Annick (and coming soon, baby Jona), Jürgen and I made Erdapfelgulash together. It’s a traditional Viennese dish made from sausages, gurkins, onions, and… nope, not apples like you might have thought you read in the name. Yes, “apfel” is the German word for “apple,” but like the French word for potatoes (“pomme de terre), “erdapfel” translates to “apple of the earth,” which means “potato.”

The stew was incredibly tasty and easy, and would be fantastic après-ski. Jürgen advised me that the onions are the most critical part of the process, and as I acted as his prep chef peeling and dicing the erdapfels, he went about with the onions and broth. We worked like a well-oiled machine in the kitchen together, and before long, dinner was on the table and two great bottles of wine were open. I know we downed a 2002 Bordeaux, which was fabulous, however, the second bottle of Spanish wine has evaded my memory. It was red. I do remember that.

At the table, we reviewed the photo books Annick had put together from their trip to Newport Beach two years ago, and laughed about things like their lost luggage that was delivered at 11pm, and the GPS being set to German in their car. She included emails in the book that we had exchanged, and I saw pictures of my home that I hadn’t seen in nearly two months. In a strange way, though, I felt like I was at home. And I was, with good friends. We had a laugh about my German, and Jürgen assured me that with two weeks–which oddly became one week, then three days, and then one day after the bottles of wine emptied– he would have me speaking perfect German.

If you know me at all, you know that with an invitation and challenge like that, I’ve already had a look at tickets for Oktoberfest. Why? Because Innsbruck is only two hours by train from Munich, and in a place so densely populated with friends, it doesn’t make sense not to go back. Plus, I’d love to take up Jürgen on his offer of German lessons so that I might be able to say something more than “ein breze bitte” or “bier hier, bier hier, oder ich faulum” while wearing a dirndl. Additionally, I would love nothing more than to put together an Autumn meal with Jürgen in their fantastische küchen, drink wine with Annick this time too, and meet baby Jona.

Auf wiedersehen, Austria and Germany. If history repeats itself, I will see you again in just a few short months fir das swei hundert geburstag der Oktoberfest. I think I’ll do a better job of managing my time (and money) next time so I can take the cooking classes I had planned. If bears can hibernate, then so can Culinary Hopscotch. Please excuse this minor commercial break.

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