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Banging Around a Berlin Kitchen

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Overdue is normally a word reserved for library books, but it’s fitting here, as the cooking class that I took in Berlin happened the Friday before Thanksgiving. That was November 18th for those keeping track, meaning I’m a solid month behind schedule in getting this posted. Demerit.

I guess I could blame it on the fact that I’ve been busy translating the recipes or making a failed attempt at piecing the marathon seven-hour long evening back together. But neither of those are really true. Minus part of the piecing, but that took place on my RyanAir flight from Berlin Schoenefeld back to London EARLY Saturday morning when the alarm went off. I found myself scratching my head wondering how a harmless cooking class turned into nearly a full day’s work, three full-course meals, and more bottles of wine than we properly counted, but hopefully paid for. At least I hope someone did.

Just getting to this class was a victory because it had been on my list during the original installment of Culinary Hopscotch. But as these things go (and went on that trip), Berlin was smack dab where my bank account reached an all-time low and I mentally began the journey home. There were no funds for the Kochen & Würzen class that time, but this trip to Berlin would be different. I was on a mission; I had a second chance at my class, on a day when Blane Gish (an American expat) was hosting, and I would be there to cook alongside him. I was doing it come hell or high water.

And I did…with two of my American friends, and about 10 of our newest German ones. It was, hands down, the most rammed cooking class I’ve been apart of, with the exception of my demonstration-based classes where you could hardly see let alone get your hands on a whisk. Being that Blane was an expat, I had assumed the class would be taught in English. It was. Kind of. Since 7/8’s of the class was German-speaking, he conducted the class that way, with random English commentary sprinkled in. Despite wondering what the hell was going on for a good portion of it, I was in awe of his command of the German language. It’s something I want desperately to learn, but my God, it’s a major pain in the ass with all of those cases. I digress. Sort of. Blane handed my friends and I the recipes, and low and behold, they were entirely in German. We looked at each other, had a laugh, and decided to get on with it. Surely there was a plan for us Amerikaneren.

Basiskurs feines Geflügel

Gebratene getrüffelte Perlhuhnbrust an Kürbis-Lauch-Risotto

Wachtel aus dem Ofen, gefüllt mit Prosecco-Sauerkraut und Thymiankartoffeln

Entenbrust mit Zimt-Orangensauce, Pommes Dauphin und Gemüse der Saison

Ouittenmousse mit Cranberry-Kompott

Yep, those were the dishes we would be making that evening, and our method of finding our way around the kitchen and the recipes was to pair up with a German ally, and be shown the ropes that way. It worked, until my partner began pouring glass after glass after glass of wine, which made for a comical evening. Especially when we washed and dried the Wachtel (those are Cornish Game Hens for the uninitiated) together, laughing mostly about the English name for which I had no explanation. We walked through the recipe together, me pointing out the few German food-related words I did know, and her marveling at the fact that an American could even piece together a sentence or two of her native tongue.

After we  banged around the smallish kitchen, our class of 12-13 came together on three separate occasions over a fully prepared meal in the dining room. There was, of course, more wine to go with them. When the third of the three meals was nearing completion, I had a look at my phone. It was nearly 1:00 a.m., and it made sense to me why Blane had asked early on if we needed to be out of there at a certain time. No, no…we could catch a taxi home, so we weren’t on any U-bahn time constraints. But it all made sense now, and I could hear the nagging chime of my cell phone alarm bellowing at 5:45 a.m., telling me it was time to get up, surely hungover, for my early morning flight. Tick one for foreshadowing.

If you find yourself trolling Berlin’s duplicitous city streets–the ones that once forced out foreigners but now offer them staggering autonomy, the ones that once hid behind a wall that no longer stands, the ones who know their storied roots but watch progress grow where things have fallen down–make it a point to find Kochen & Würzen. You’ll learn your way around a German kitchen, but also find a place where everybody knows your name even when you can’t remember it yourself.

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