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Category Archives: Berlin

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.

So Long, Farewell

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I’m sitting on my flight right now typing this from a window seat. My carry-on was ever-so-slightly too tall to fit in the overhead bin despite two men trying to help me, and it was because of a pair of socks or something equally squishy and ironic. 

Neither of these things are characteristic of my travel style, so a mini panic attack ensued that consisted mainly of my face turning red when she asked whose bag it was. When carrying it to the front of the plane to have it checked, however, the flight attendants on AA 484 let me put it in the crew baggage/closet area onboard. I didn’t say much. Just a brief lament about how on this very same route a few years back, my bag didn’t make it, and then I giggled at the irony. I think they could sense my distaste for checked luggage because they asked me for my bag and told me it was our secret.

When we took off backwards from SNA, a tear rolled down my cheek, which is also not characteristic of the titanium exterior I like to uphold. But I could see all of Orange County from said window seat, and realized, “Holy hell, I’m not going to see this place for awhile.” Cue Pussycat Dolls ‘I Hate This Part Right Here.’ Leaving this morning was no better. I had to say bye to my parents, my animals (I never did find Tommy to say bye to him), and Brady…the human version. After having his car backed into by a lime green VW Bug when he pulled up, I couldn’t help but thinking it was symbolic. Was this his way of telling me he was smashed I was leaving? These are the types of things I think about when I’m trying to distract myself from getting all worked up. It didn’t work.

It’s hard to believe I’m on an airplane right now bound for a place 12,000+ miles away. For the longest time, this day seemed like it would never get here, until this week, when I could see it on the horizon and wished it was off in the distance somewhere (kind of like the ground from this airplane right now). I feel anxious, excited, sad, eager, manic, confident, and like I could cry at any minute. Does anyone have a Xanax handy? Seat 11E is open next to me, and there are a variety of people I wish were sitting in it. The reality is, I’m flying solo. And I’ve got a lot of days, hours, and minutes to fill before I’m sitting next to someone on my return flight home from Istanbul.

The beverage cart is approaching, and I’m going to grab some water and hydrate. It’s going to be a long flight to CDG from DFW, and I’m hoping the two aisle seats flanking my middle one (yet another move I never make) are open so I can sprawl out for the flight. After a trip to the Admirals Club for my requisite red wine and Tylenol PM cocktail, I’m going to put January 28th behind me. I always say I don’t like even numbers, and I’ll be honest– I’m not a huge fan of this day. Perhaps, that’s why I’m returning on lucky number 13 (of May). Finally, something that makes sense!

Up, up, and away…Project Culinary Hopscotch is underway.