Monday, October 31, 2011

süßes oder saures?

Happy Halloween!

this is Michael's piece of art on the left, Brandenburger Tor
and some fall pictures from Kreuzberg

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Markthalle: a quick and delicious lunch

The Marheineke Markthalle is very close to where we live, and we are trying to make a point to try the various lunch options there as well. When you walk through the market hall, the inside aisle sells things like deli meat, cheese, olives, vegetables, bread...and along the outside of the market you have little stands that sell food. So lots of these "stands" have two sides. The French stand, for example, sells dried sausages, delicious French cheeses and patés along the outside, and they have a crêperie along the outside wall, where you can sit at their counter, or take a seat on a bar stool looking out onto the street. The same for Greek food, Italian, etc. And there's a little Bio (organic) stand as well.

Michael tried the burger from BioBuffet, and I got a galette complète, with ham, gruyère and egg.

die Winterzeit beginnt

In Germany Daylight Savings starts today. It's called the beginning of Winterzeit - winter time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

deutsches Bier: der Bierkasten

So in preparation for a little pumpkin carving party, we went out and got a Kasten of Bier.

In Germany when you buy beer in bottles, you can get a plastic crate (Bierkasten), and you pay something like 3,50 EUR deposit on the plastic crate, which you get again when you return the bottles (also a deposit on bottles). Sehr praktisch!

This particular one has 0,5 Liter bottles...good, German-sized beers...and quite heavy!

"maybe baby"?!

You maybe think this looks like a normal vending machine. Chocolate. Pretzels. Gum. But then you see the ad on the side..."Schwanger? 'maybe baby' paket...über 99% zuverlässig...hier erhältlich." Yes, this vending machine also sells pregnancy tests (and condoms, by the way, upon closer inspection of the actual contents). And yes, the brand is called "maybe baby".

Another sign of German culture...and perhaps an openness about sexuality you don't have in American culture?!

Kochkurs I: Süd Indien

Today I went to a four-hour cooking class entitled "Süd-Indien: Exotik Pur" at one of Berlin's many community ed locations (left, in Treptow-Köpenick).  It was an interesting cultural experience, an American learning to cook Indian food in Germany...I really really want to learn how to cook Indian food, but I didn't really know what to expect with the class. In Germany it's hard to find a good Indian restaurant...Germans tend not to like spicy food. (Also, I just learned today that many people don't like fresh cilantro...they say it tastes like Seifenblasen, soap bubbles! This was new to me, but seemed to be a larger consensus among the course participants!)

The instructor was really good, super friendly and helpful. He lived in India for 5 years and also started up a bakery there and worked as a cook while he was there. So his perspective was interesting, although still seemed to have a more "German" palate (spiciness-wise). We learned a few dishes, but it was still pretty basic, and I'm not sure how authentic...I can't really be the judge of that, but maybe Hannah and Jennie?  We made baked chicken, pumpkin-mango chutney, vegetable rice, shrimp with tomato curry, zucchini-chickpea-masala, flatbread, and bananas fried with coconut-vanilla for dessert. It was really fun for me, not only to cook with people, but to chat with them. After cooking we all sat down and ate together (the whole thing lasted about 4 hours). I'm going to try to do more cooking courses...not only for my cooking skills, but it's a fun way to use German in new ways. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Still True: Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You. Ask What You Can Do For Your Country"

Tonight I went to hear the American Ambassador to Germany speak, Philip Murphy. He was giving the opening lecture to a series of lectures on "citizenship" at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The title of his talk was "Still True: Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You. Ask What You Can Do For Your Country". He talked about what Kennedy's inauguration speech meant to Americans in 1961 (a lot), and argued that although among younger Americans this kind of patriotic "call to arms" doesn't really seem to resonate, it is still a worthwhile mantra. Overall, I found Murphy's speech interesting, although light and superficial, and also rhetorically fascinating. Nice, fluffy political speeches are humorously predictable: throw in a few founding fathers (Jefferson and Franklin were well-represented), a few impressive statistics, a couple of historical anecdotes (especially the Berlin connections were nice), and, of course, throw a few asides to the President (Obama embodies Kennedy's ideals). It was nice to be a part of this audience, and at one point the Ambassador asked if there were any Americans in the audience, and he was happy to have us there.

He started out the speech talking about "town hall meetings" and what participatory democracy means, and being an engaged citizen. He said that in his own travels throughout Germany he feels that he is often privileged to take part in such small-scale discussions and to hear about US-German relations through this smaller, bottom-up kind of discussion.

Then he went on to emphasize the importance of immigration to the United States, and how we are a "country of immigrants." I don't know about all of his statistics, but he said that out of the 311 million Americans, 3 million are native Americans and the rest are "immigrants," and that today as well as in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries it is because of the hard work, dedication and innovation of our country's immigrants that we have been so successful. He did mention that it hasn't always been a "nice" history--mentioning violence against various immigrant minorities, as well as our history of slavery--but he did refer to the "melting pot" vs "vegetable stew" metaphors (obviously preferring the latter) quite a lot. "You want to be able to taste the carrots!"

He said that recently, during two different public talks he gave in Germany, the first question he got from the audience was "what does it mean that anyone born in the US is an American citizen?" [In Germany this has long been a topic of debate; since 2001(!!) you get German citizenship if you are born in Germany, provided your parents have been here legally for 8 years.] Murphy talked about how in the US, 1 of every 4 people is a first-generation immigrant or a child of first-generation immigrants. (I guess in Germany it is 1 in 3).  This fit into his point about how the most important thing is "integration" (not assimilation, not "melting pot" but "stew") and how immigration is not only a challenge for immigrants, but is a question of "WE", also a challenge for the community to welcome them and help them feel welcome in society.

Although the general tone of the speech (I would argue) was "Germany can learn a lot from the US," he explicitly said that the US also has a lot to learn from Germany, and how similar a lot of the issues are that our countries are dealing with. Throughout, he definitely mentioned national citizenship as the starting point, although he did end by talking about "global citizenship" and what citizenship means in a world of globalization. 

(Interesting in this context is the second part of Kennedy's speech)
"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." - Kennedy

Murphy also referred multiple times to the upcoming presidential elections (I guess his job is on the line, too...) and how debates will be centered around what concepts like "freedom" and "equality" mean to various Americans.

All in all, I'm glad I went, even though it was a rather flowery talk, that remained rather vague and idealist, rather than concrete about the challenges of the meaning of citizenship in today's world. What does "citizenship" mean when people want to build a double-fence wall (scarily reminiscent of the Berlin Wall) between the US and Mexico? Or when the "Occupy" movements demonstrate for the "99%"? Our country is so divided right now, over really huge issues. I am very interested to see what happens with the elections...

Citizenship can be an official definition, the belonging symbolized by the passport (national belonging), or it can be understood in the participatory sense, engagement. In German there are actually two words for these different senses: Staatsangehörigkeit, belonging to a certain state, and Staatsbürgerschaft, being a citizen of a state. The notions, the concepts of citizenship, are from the French idea of the citoyen and the texts of the French and American Revolutions.

And Kennedy's speech? Is it "still true"? To me it feels outdated to ask what I can do for my country. I feel like our allegiances all need to be far more global, our perspective wider than that, and at the same time more local, more small-scale community-oriented. The discussions about the challenges of immigration, for example...We not only need to work to promote equality and prosperity in developing countries, but also to promote integration and the kind of "welcoming" Murphy mentioned on a local level.

I welcome comments on this topic!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bochum - Ruhr Universität

I have spent the last day or so in Bochum, in the region of Germany called the "Ruhrgebiet" or "Ruhrpott", the former industrial region in the west. This area is very densely populated--with huge cities Essen, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Duisburg are all within an hour of each other. Back in the day...during the nineteenth-century age of industrialization, this region was one of the main reasons for Germany's economic strength, because of mining and steel production. After the coal mining industry died down, the area became rather impoverished...

I was giving a talk at the university, which I guess has over 30,000 students, mostly from this region.  The university itself is pretty ugly...I had to think about how my mother likes to walk around college campuses...not much scenic walking here. It's like a concrete jungle--a product of 1960s, early 70s "modern" architecture. Unfortunate.  But the leaves were turning and out back behind the campus you had some nice views of the surrounding countryside.

Below is from the city itself, the Fußgängerzone, pedestrian shopping street.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

süßer Naschmarkt

On this nice fall Sunday I biked down to the old Markthalle in Kreuzberg, which has just been renovated and re-opened for weekly markets. this week they were featuring a süßer Naschmarkt, a "sweets market", which you know is just my cup of tea. :)

We went around 2:00 pm, and lots of the vendors had already sold out--like the pretty little French macarons! But still lots of pretty things to look at.

I got Michael a little mini raspberry-chocolate Gugelhüpfchen (below right).

And at a nearby café, away from the chaos, I enjoyed a piece of Apfel-Marscapone Kuchen with almond slivers and Preiselbeeren (lingonberries). sehr lecker!

Genies - Geniuses

 Last week's edition of Die Zeit, a very good German weekly newspaper, featured 9 "geniuses who have changed our lives." Probably prompted by Steve Jobs's death, it might interest you to see who they named and why...some might surprise you:

1. the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad
2. the inventor of the birth control pill [Anti-Baby-Pille], Carl Djerassi
3. famous chef Jamie Oliver
4. the founders of Aldi, Karl and Theo Albrecht
etc. (see list below)
sure, they changed the way we buy furniture, drink coffee, and how we define "friends"...but "geniuses"?

I wonder which ones would be different on an American list... I am sure "birth control" wouldn't be #2, and not many people know who Jamie Oliver is...or the founders of Aldi...It struck me as a somehow very German list, although the presence of Starbucks, Facebook, Apple, Ikea and Harry Potter do show the processes of globalization...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Amerika- food

This photo is taken from a "gourmet" foods market (in the basement of a large department store, Karstadt), where they also have lots of international products. This is the USA section: microwave popcorn, cake mix, marshmallow fluff, baking soda (yay!!!), and Swiss Miss (?).

Below are ads from the upcoming Lidl sales (Lidl is a second version of Aldi, a discount grocery store). I think I've posted on this before...they have regular "America" specials, here microwave popcorn, mini-brownies, bagels, corn chips...

And below is actually an ad from ALDI, for their upcoming USA items. Hot dogs in a jar. How appetizing. Note the "Trader Joes" label...Trader Joes is owned by Aldi since 1979, but they have nothing in common in terms of store atmosphere, products, image.

Friday, October 21, 2011


cold fingers, warm toes

ok I admit, I have a weakness for boots...shared by my friend H. in Ann Arbor... :) And although it's getting chilly, I really enjoy tights season... :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


We went out to brunch on Sunday at a café in our neighborhood. Frühstück is one of my favorite things in get fresh, warm rolls and all these different things to put on them. I had the Vegetarisches Frühstück (Kleines Müsli mit frischen Früchten, vegetarischer Brotaufstrich, Gouda, Brie, Havarti, Konfitüre, Obst und Brotkorb) and Michael had Pariser Frühstück (Franz. Putensalami, Leberpastete, Brie, Kräuterquark, Honig-Zimtquark, Konfitüre, ein Croissant, Obst und Brotkorb).