Monday, February 4, 2008


1) Germans do not know the difference between cupcakes and muffins. For whatever reason they are generally familiar with the latter, but now that the Cupcake Bakery Trend has hit Europe, they need to be educated on how the two treats differ (Americans know that muffins are for breakfast or to have with tea/coffee. A cupcake is not necessarily less healthy, but is not ever (intended as) a breakfast food and most always has frosting (though just to make it interesting, a muffin can have glaze or streusel). I will add that I've always thought the cupcake trend was silly in the US and it is even sillier here. I don't really have a problem with the occasional cupcake bakery (though I was seriously underwhelmed by Magnolia in New York the couple times I went -- not remotely worth waiting in line for (if there still is a line...I wouldn't know) or bakeries in general selling cupcakes. Actually, I really do like cupcakes (especially blackbottom or peanut butter with chocolate frosting), but they are so easy to make and take really no time at all and I'd just rather go out for something a bit more crafted. And while Berlin may not be Vienna or some other yummier cafe city, the German-speaking world is supposed to make good Kuchen. My point: they can do better than cupcakes. Anyway, Cupcake, the cupcake bakery that opened a while back near my apartment (the one at Zionskirchplatz, not to be confused with the one in Friedrichshein. I haven't been to that one, so I can't comment, though I am very sorry for linking to it before!) is owned by an American/Brit (not sure) so I can't exactly hold the Fatherland responsible for it, but ... my cupcake was dry and my espresso macchiatto undrinkable. I have heard more favorable reviews, but when in Rome (or Berlin as the case may be): I'm going around the corner to Cake, where you can get a huge piece of beautiful cake (I had a walnut cake with walnut buttercream; it was really exquisite -- perfect crumb, delicate, but distinct walnutty flavor, and buttercream frosting that doesn't make you feel like you've eaten a tub of crisco). Oops, that turned into a bit of rant (as is often my way....)
2. Germans don't know how to eat edamame: At my weekly lunch gig a while back I made a Japanese meal that included a bowl of salted edamame. I've been in Berlin long enough to guess that Germans might not be familiar with this snack (sushi, though most often mediocre, is extremely popular here. I have seen edamame on the menu a bunch of times, but never gotten it for free at the beginning of the meal as is often the case in the US), so I asked the woman who coordinates the lunches if she/they knew what edamame/frische Sojabohnen (fresh soybeans) are and how to eat them). She said yes and looked mildly insulted so I left it at that...only to come into the dining area a while later to find many of them eating edamame with a knife and fork. I'm not saying it's wrong ... maybe in Japan they don't eat edamame with their fingers as we do, but to my barbaric American eyes, it was pretty amusing.
3. How to use a napkin (like an American would): I was taught (as I think is the custom in the states), to put my napkin on my lap. I mostly do it without even thinking about it. Germans don't - they leave the napkin next to their plate. I don't think I have a particular lot of trouble getting food into my mouth, but I do wipe the corners of my mouth and somehow it ends up dirty and crumpled by the end of the meal. This must happen to other Americans because I didn't realize this was happening until a few months into my time here in the Vaterland, but I use my napkin a lot throughout the meal. I am often the only non-German at a meal and unless we are eating something really mess, I'm always the only one who has used their napkin? I guess Americans are barbarian slobs...
4. And something that I don't know: why can't you buy milk in quantities bigger than a liter (think quart) here? This is a (if not America's) dairyland. I have often seen youths drinking entire liters of milk/drinkable yogurt/buttermilk/etc. Our neighborhood is teeming with Kinder: don't they drink milk? The most popular coffee beverage here is Milchkaffee -- made with, you guessed it, lots of milk! Am I the only one making coffee at home? Mein Freund confirms that this is not limited to Berlin or urban areas and reports that his poor Mutter with four teenage sons also had to buy their milk in liters. It's not the end of the world as I am basically a professional grocery shopper and make an average of a trip a day, but seriously, it doesn't make sense, does it?
5. I don't know how to use a knife (like a German). I've tried, but I think my fingers have aged past the point of learning new motions or something. Germans use their knife to skillfully push food onto their fork. I do ok if I have a piece of bread to nudge with, but lacking bread, I often end up trying to be discreet with my fingers. I think earlier Generations of Americans (who were often German, no?) knew how to do this, but the melting pot seems to have done away with it. Schade, nein?

1 comment:

dawn said...

Hey Becca,

My name is Dawn and I'm the owner of "CUPCAKE"... Berlin's first cupcake shop located in Friedrichshain. If you want a fresh & tasty cupcake with a great coffee to wash it all down, then you should stop by our shop. You must've went to the Cupcake Bakery in Prenz. Berg right??? This mistake happens all the time and it sucks for us because their products are not good! Also, please note that you attached our website to this link... Could you kindly remove it, as we don't want to be associated with the "Copycake" Bakery... Thanks kindly and hope to see you soon for a happy cupcake experience!