Monday, December 4, 2023

Covid Chronicles. Chapter 91: Just Another Day in Germany

Read chapter 90  here
Photo by Retiring Guy

Sunday, November 29, 2020 

Last Thursday was just another day in Germany No Thanksgiving on their calendar. Its most closely related holiday is called Erntedankfest (“harvest thanksgiving festival”), a celebration that dates back to pagan times, when a successful harvest became a matter of life and death as far as getting through the winter was concerned. Not an official holiday, it takes place in early October and is usually organized through local churches. In fact, in a country known for its many red-letter days, Enrtedankfest is among the minor celebrations, very much overshadowed, at least in the pre-Covid era by Oktoberfest, which runs from mid-September to early October. 

With Eddie now living in Ulm, he decided to treat Madi and her family to a traditional American Thanksgiving meal, an endeavor that’s easier said than done in Germany. Two of the main items on the menu are typically not part of Germans’ diet. 

Since whole turkeys are not typically stocked in grocery stores there, it’s necessary to pre-order one through a butcher shop. Fortunately, this type of business still thrives in most German cities and towns. The other drawback is that Germans don’t eat pie, at least not the American version baked in an 8- or 9-inch pan. They prefer tarts, prepared in pans that Americans would consider to be a single serving. As a result, the standard American pie pan, like a whole turkey, is nearly impossible to find in local stores. Eddie ended up ordering one through Amazon. 

And it’s not just the pie pans that are a challenge. Pumpkin pie is not a thing in Germany; ergo, pumpkin pie filling is not generally available. Eddie took matters into his own hand and bought his own pumpkin to bake and purée. And as you can see from the accompanying, he was successful from start to finish as far as this item on the menu is concerned. (As he was with the entire meal!) 

Much to Madi and Eddie’s disappointment, Thanksgiving dinner at her parents’ house in nearby Oberdischingen had to be cancelled. With Covid cases having increased significantly since mid-October, Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a lockdown order which limited private gatherings to 2 households and 5 people. That put Eddie’s dinner 2 households and 3 people over the limit. (Fortunately, even with two separate spikes of cases in November, Germany’s 7-day average of new case remains relatively flat. Currently, all restaurants in Germany are limited to take-out orders.) 

Even though she couldn’t enjoy the dinner in the company of her family, Madi gave her first-ever Thanksgiving dinner an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The menu includes roast chicken (the smallest turkey they could pre-order was 15 pound), garlic-rosemary mashed potatoes with gravy, baked (and glazed, or so it looks) carrots and Brussel sprouts, and, of course pumpkin pie. 

When Eddie first shared this dinner idea with us, he asked his Mom for advice, particularly when it came to cooking time for the turkey, preparing the stuffing, and making a pie crust. The first two items eventually became moot, but JoAnna sent him her mom’s stuffing recipe, which includes ground beef in the recipe, as well as our Mom’s pie crust recipe, which JoAnna always uses for her own pies. Perfect crust every time! 

With Madi working full time, Eddie does most of the cooking in their household. He’s always been an adventurous cook, experimenting with various ethnic cuisines — Middle Eastern, in particular— and emphasizing vegetarian dishes. Both of our sons are very adept in the kitchen, perhaps the result of two parents who have always shared cooking duties. Thinking back, I don’t remember having much interest in food preparation until the early 1970s, when I worked at the Cottage Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California. It’s where I learned to make spinach lasagna and eggplant Parmesan, both of which remain in my repertoire (In fact, the latter entree is the first dinner I prepared for JoAnna in the very days of our courtship.) The Cottage also introduced me to avocados, which the restaurant served, sliced, as part of a grilled cheese sandwich with tomatoes and banana peppers. I’m 99% sure I had previously never encountered this food item. In 1971, guacamole was at least two decades away from being the go-to appetizer while watching football on TV. As it will here during this evening’s Packers-Bears broadcast. 

(I took the above photos in January 2013, a side trip to Laguna Beach from San Diego, where JoAnna attended a work-related conference. I was disappointed to discover that the restaurant had closed a month earlier, so I had to be content to peak in the windows.)

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