Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gewerbe anmelden: Lektionen gelernt

Things I have learned/confirmed in the process of legally setting up a business in the Fatherland:
1. Germany has so many rules, even the bureaucrats (rule-imposers) themselves don't know them all. According to one agency, Americans (like me) aren't technically allowed to register a business (regardless of the size) until after three years of marriage (and here I am, only a month and a half in...). I could get all worked up and irate about this particular rule (overlooking the tiny fact that mein Mann, who one might point out, is married to an American, has to register online if he wants to visit my homeland...sigh), but suspecting that the agency charged with registering businesses might let me slide by (because I'm so nice? because if they don't let me do it the(ir) "right" way, I'm just going to find another way - there's always another way here?), I went down to the office of business registration last week, filled out the form, presented my passport complete with shiny new 3-year marriage-related visa and handed over 26 Euros and low and behold, the woman in charge of food-related businesses couldn't have cared less if I was American.
2. Don't believe what they tell you: the insurance system isn't any better here. At least not if takes you (like it does me) an entire day to read the fine print on insurance company publications. You can, however, get liability insurance for your dog. I wonder, does it cost more for terriers? (Is this common in the US?)
I know the photos of my (parents') dogs are not entirely relevant here, but...they are cute, nein?

3. Even though they have a crazy lot of rules regarding safe food handling, they make almost no effort to enforce them. I've never been certified in the US, but I am pretty sure there's a test you have to pass to become certified. In Deutschland, all I had to do was watch a movie (think health class), in which some guy got food poisoning from eating in the restaurant where he worked (!) and then proceeded to wretch and writh around for 20 or so minutes. Then, I had to sign something saying I had watched it and was in good health (apparently if you don't attest to having been healthy during education movie-watching (and also test-taking) scenarios, you can later say: hey! I was sick, that's why I failed, so now they make you attest to it). The best part, though, is that because I don't have a boss to sign my certification form, I'm supposed to sign my own form and review the material with myself every year. I'm not complaining, I didn't want to take a test in German, but it does seem a little lax, no?
4. More lessons to come ... no doubt

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Essbar Frühling (und Mauer)

Just to prove that there is (sometimes) more to life than bargain basement grocery stores here, I share with you a photo from a dinner party/exercise in cooking with others from a few weeks back. Inspired by springtime, three of us gathered at the local organic market and set about finding the makings of dinner. I'm generally a fan of benevolent dictatorships when it comes to deciding what's for dinner, but we overcame the complications of joint-shopping/cooking and made it home with a shopping cart laden with spring delights and a menu plan in mind. Alas, I did not manage a picture of our wild lettuces/greens with lemon vinaigrette, but it really was (for me anyway) the highlight of the meal. We got dandelion and nettle and a host of other lettucey things and edible blossoms. It was a tangled mess of shades of green from pale to purpley ... much more interesting and delicious than the same old "mixed greens" you always see (well, not in these parts, but stateside anyway) and certainly a gigantor step above the fatherland's beloved iceberg with prepared (preservative-laden) dressing. We also made orecchiette by hand to go with a spring veggie ragout: pancetta, artichokes and favas (shown here!), asparagus and purple-hued spring onions ... lots of lemon zest and splashes of wine and cream. I must admit the pasta was just a bit on the heavy side, but all in all, the dish was really, quite tasty. End-of-rhubarb-season panic had set in, so we (still basking in the deliciousness of our previous rhubarb tatin) settled on rhubarb clafouti, which the British among us enjoyed with a nice splash of heavy cream.

We've been having a quiet weekend over here (try starting the most very simplest of businesses in Germany and your head will also spin so much that you can't see straight enough to leave the apartment (pity mein Mann: he gets to go to work all week and then come home and help me decipher this nonsense). But, in case your head is fine and you happen to be in the neighborhood tonight and looking for something food-related to do: eat the wall! This is some bizarre and hysterical art-related event in which artists have been invited to make edible bricks (I wonder if they have valid food handlers certificates like me!?). The bricks will be used to build a wall (a la the Berlin Wall, they suggest) and tonight "we will eat our way through the divide in a grand communal catharsis." Somehow this doesn't sound so much yummy (or effective) as scary, but....if you do go, post back and let us know about the catharsis!