Monday, March 17, 2008
Some of you may recall the Great Poppyseed Hamantaschen Craving of 2005-6. Those were dark days: Barcelona while culinarily plentiful in many ways, is severely lacking in the poppyseed department). Poppyseeds and especially poppyseed-filled desserts are easily found अरेin the Vaterland (though I've yet to find a match for the Eastern Market bakery poppyseed hamantaschen (with just a hint of almond extract in the crust) -- alas the market burned down a year or two ago!) Anyway, with Purim taking place this week, I had hamantaschen on the brain and was really excited to spy these cookies in a bakery in Essen last weekend. They looked exactly like my beloved hamantaschen, but I couldn't be sure of the filling? Prune or Poppyseed?! They turned out to be filled with a date-marzipan mixture, which although delicious, is no match for the concentrated nutty poppyseediness of poppyseed filling (to be honest, the crust in this cookie is just a vehicle for the filling). Despite Hamantaschen's German name (meaning Haman's pockets), these were labeled as Kapuziner as in the Capuchin order of monks (and nuns, I think???) just like cappuccino, both so named for their supposed similiarity in shape to the Capuchin monk's hoods. Wikipedia says that the name Hamantaschen is popularly believed to be "a reference to Haman ... the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. A more likely source of the name is a corruption of the Yiddish word מאן־טאשן (montashn) or the German word mohntaschen, both meaning poppyseed-filled pouches. Over time, this name was transformed to hamantashen, likely by association with Haman." In any case, if you want to be cool, and you can limit yourself to a single cookie, you should refer to it as a hamantasch (the hamantaschen is plural)...just in case you are celebrating Purim with some German grammar fanatics.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
My third attempt to find Berlin's food-obsessed side by inviting the city into my apartment took place last Saturday. I must admit to a bit of (continued) frustration with these events, with this city...I know my interest in food is extreme and don't expect everyone on the planet to share it, but when you have parties that are blatantly all about the food, it's somewhat discouraging when the majority of party-goers aren't really there for the food (or maybe they are and I'm confused/a snob). I've felt the frustration in other cities before, but I find fewer outlets for my obsession (passion is a nicer word, no?) here. Still, GrubBerlin is new and has already opened some interesting doors leading to some remarkable people. It has also been a place for me to try out recipes and a good excuse to make things that require something of an occasion/crowd (last time's cocktail tamales, zum Beispiel). In any case, this weekend's crowd was slightly smaller than usual(not entirely a bad thing in terms of elbow room or my ability to talk to everyone) due (at least partially) to a quaint Euro-style transit strike we're experiencing. Our theme was "Spring Cleaning," with the idea that
we cook based on what's in our cupboard...Lucky girl that I am, I received a little envelope of vanilla salt (as in salt with vanilla bean seeds) for mein Geburtstag. I really wanted to make ceviche, but as Berlin isn't exactly the shellfish capital of the world, I settled on chocolate caramel truffles with vanilla salt (based on this recipe from Bon Appetit. I must say they were quite tasty, but I cooked the caramel for about ever and even after a good while in the shoe box that is my freezer, couldn't get it firm enough to form balls. I could have resolved this dilemma with lots of glamour if I had a collection of about 50 pretty silver coffee spoons. Alas, I do not, and after throwing a nice little kitchen fit, which mein Freund has mostly learned to ignore, made chocolate caramel spoon truffles with vanilla salt....which worked perfectly fine. Now, what to do with my remaining vanilla salt....should I rework the truffles because they were really so yummy or make something else exciting?! Ideas please!
Friday, March 7, 2008
It's hard for me to believe it, but today is the one-year anniversary of my relocation to Germany. I certainly never imagined that I'd be living the life I'm living (in Germany of all places!). I could go on about the things I can do now, have seen over the past year, have adjusted to, have still not adjusted to, etc., but I'll just summarize by saying that mein Deutsch has grown from about 50 words (we counted (and most of them also exist in English)) to more than I can can count (especially if you include the words I can understand, but can't remember when I need to say them). I have developed a particularly good food vocabulary (seriously, I sometimes have to translate the menu for mein Freund) and a pretty good map of which "exotic" ingredients can be bought at which random stores...but many things still puzzle me. For example, this package of pumpernickel bread. There is plenty of good bread here, so I don't entirely get these little packages, which last for months, but I do generally understand the idea behind the use of sex in advertising. Only, I've mostly seen it used on/for products that are associated (logically or not) with sexiness: cigarettes, chocolate, perfume....I don't understand the connection to pumpernickel bread at all. Anyway, I guess the fact that I don't even begin to understand the logic behind this packaging is proof that there are still many things I don't understand about the Vaterland....