The Last Muse

Last week Rita and I managed to sneak off to a favorite coffee shop/bistro the Cafe Muse.  In the duration, I’m afraid her condition has worsened to the point that it’s unlikely we’ll be making any trips outside the house for coffee again.

I have truly been blessed to have spent the last twenty five years with Rita, and I shall cherish every minute we have left together.

 

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Enjoy.

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Chef Tim

Main

I’m starting a series on food so I can adequately address the lack of #foodporn pictures on my website.  It’s bad enough I’ve been remiss on #dogblogging, and lord knows I’ve nearly abandoned #catblogging altogether, so these food pix will have to fill in for the lack of an appropriate amount of hairy fur balls.

In any event, food is as cheap as gas is expensive here in Germany and I’ve already documented that atrocity quite well.  I don’t know if I’ll document the actual prices of these meals because I’m bad about keeping my grocery receipts, but none of them are ever going to be more than five euros unless otherwise noted, and I’ll comment on specific item prices as I remember them.  I’ve done a grocery shopping post that shows items and prices for different things here in the stores.  I’ll probably add more to that series as well in the future.  If you are curious about any particular grocery item(s) not shown, toss it in the comments and I’ll do my best to address your curiosity.

Focus

Bachelor foods.  The type of stuff I cook for myself.  Foods which are cheap and relatively easy to prepare.

Today’s Menu

broccoliandtomatoes11

Broccoli florets, tomatoes and carrots with bacon bits.  Topped with shredded parmesan and dusted with ground peppercorns.

List of Ingredients

broccoliandtomatoes01

Florets from one half of a large head of broccoli.

Two medium tomatoes

A couple carrots

Grated parmesan

100 grams of thin bacon

Salt, pepper and butter.

Ingredient Prep and Cooking

I use a large nonstick fry pan for this dish, though I could easily see it being done using a wok.   I fry the bacon in the same pan as the carrots and use the hot grease from the bacon to fry and soften the thinly sliced carrots, which need to be started first as they require more cook time than the broccoli tops or the tomatoes.  See following slideshow for prep pictures.

Total prep time is around twenty minutes, with the frying of the bacon and softening of the carrots taking the largest chunk of that time.  The single most expensive ingredient listed here is the bacon.  I pay 1.29/euro at a local market.  I think I paid two euro for the broccoli, but only used half of it.  So there’s 2.29 euro for the most expensive ingredients in the mix.  The cost of a couple carrots is nil.  There might be a twenty five cents worth of cheese involved.  I’m using some high dollar stuff my wife buys, which I assume is parmesan (package pictured) but you can substitute or omit the shredded cheese and ground pepper to your taste.  I used celery salt on the carrots when I was fry softening them in the bacon grease.  I added a bit of butter to the mix towards the end of the process when I had the lid over the dish, steam-fry softening off the broccoli and tomatoes before plating, garnishing and serving.

Enjoy.

Grocery Shopping

You can take you dog to dinner at a nice restaurant but you can't take him in the grocery store.

You can take you dog to dinner at a nice restaurant here in Germany, but you can’t take him into the grocery store.

I did my Saturday morning honey-do list today and part of it included going by the local market and picking up a few groceries.  Inspired by Jane’s Facebook post, I decided to share my shopping pics with everybody for critical analysis and derision.  All prices shown include tax, so there’s no surprise at the register.  You bring your own grocery sacks to the store or you grab an empty box from the box bin.  You have the option to purchase plastic bags at checkout (if you want to stand out like a fart in an elevator).  This is a neighborhood market, not one of the larger grocery stores in the area, so the prices are a bit higher because of that, but you can still get a feel for the local grocery economy.

Enjoy.

The Tuesday Gourmet

Today’s blog entry is sponsored by German food, specifically:

Flammkuchenflammkuchen

Flammkuchen is basically an extremely thin crust form of pizza that makes Pizza Hut’s thin crust variety look like a bloated reject from a Weight Watchers convention.  If you happen to be in France (where it was invented) you’ll want to order Tarte Flambee.*

*(The French variety is different than the German variation. See comment from my Euro-expert wife below)

I went to the store this morning to restock milk for my daily coffee habit requirement, and I noticed that they are now stocking pre-made (fresh, never frozen) bake and serve Flammkuchen.  For those of you (all three) that follow my Yelp feed, you may have seen my entry featuring Flammkuchen.

Focus on Flammkuchen

Rather than re-invent the wheel, I am going to pull content from the web and point you in the direction of a website that gives a comprehensive backstory on the “invention” of this culinary delight as well as directions on making it yourself from scratch, something I’ll probably never do given that I can buy them ready-to-bake for two and a half euro.

The dish is popular enough that there’s even a “how to”  at Instructables.com, a website that is more famous for featuring geek-oriented electronic and mechanical projects than DIY pizzas.

You get three guesses on what I’m having for lunch today but only the first one counts.

Enjoy.

In Germany…

In Germany…..

The local version of the German Sears catalogs (OTTO) is not paperback, but hard bound like a prized novel.  Walmart, America’s number one retailer, failed miserably here in Germany.

They have Cheetos here, but they are all PEANUT (Erdnusse) flavored!  I have yet to see  CHEESE FLAVORED PUFFS of any variety.  WTF?  Cartman weeps.  Don’t even get me started on potato chips.  You gotta search for a good “regular old” potato chip.  Eighty percent of potato chips here are red bell-pepper flavored (paprika in German).  Pretzels are popular and available.

Want some saltine crackers for your soup?   Not on your life my friend!  You can get Ritz and sesame flavored crackers, but pity the fool looking for plain old Nabisco saltines.  How is this even possible?  In a land of otherwise awesomely delicious soups, both Campbell’s and the saltine cracker are nowhere to be found.

Breakfast and dinner are pretty much the same thing over here. Only the lunch menu ever varies.  For all practical considerations you can think of breakfast and dinner as perpetual trips to Subway.  The “variety” comes from the different meats, breads and condiments you use to make either your breakfast or dinner sandwich.  Admittedly, there are a lot of permutations on sandwiches (which is a good thing), but can you imagine eating two meals a day at SUBWAY every day for the rest of your life?

Umwelt.  They got it in spades.  What the hell is umwelt?  From my on-the-scene analysis, it is a form of conservation that somebody like Teddy Roosevelt would have appreciated.  It is rare for me to walk in a place over here that hasn’t been continuously occupied in one form or another for five or more CENTURIES.  The US is only a couple centuries old and only the east coast has any claim to continuous urbanization for any coherent length of time.  The people here know that if they destroy their environment, there isn’t anywhere else to go.  Therefore, they tend to be [b]extremely[/b] sensitive to their environmental impact.  They actually care about the place their kids will grow up (crazy, I know).  I was at a zoo with a young couple and their four year old son.  The mother is a smoker.  We were sitting at a park bench in the concessions area of the zoo when the ashes from the end of her cigarette fell to the bricked patio floor.  Her four year old almost had a nervous breakdown witnessing this singular diabolical act of “pollution”.  It is quite illegal to even trim your hedges after very, very early in the spring or late in the fall, as this might disturb nesting birds.

Bacon.  There’s good news and there’s bad news.  The kind of Waffle House bacon that most of us grew up eating is available here, though you need a bit of savvy to find it.  Most stores will carry it as “breakfast bacon” or “American bacon”.  All the bacon I have purchased in Germany has been sliced thinner than Mitt Romney’s intellect, and there seems to be no option for apple smoked or maple flavored varieties.  You will most likely be buying it in 100 gram packages at about a euro per package.

Milk.  Most commonly packaged and purchased in one liter boxes (US quart) at about half a euro each.  Largest milk container I have seen is two liters, which is about half a gallon US.

Sugar.  One size fits all.  Sold in one kilogram packages only (at least at the retail level).  That is a bit over TWO POUNDS, which translates into those tiny little bags of sugar they sell at your local Kroger alongside the enormous stacks of five and ten pound bags most US customers routinely purchase.

Cereal.  Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies are identifiable and available.  Cereal aisle in German store a tenth that of the US though.  Weird that most FLAVORED cereals tend to include chocolate and not fruit as a sales hook.  They have a lot of “health” themed cereals that look like trail-mix, though I don’t remember seeing any Grape Nuts.

Healthy living.  Along with their focus on environmental Umwelt, the Germans  tend to take their health more seriously than Americans.  The tiny 1kg portions of sugar and 100g bacon packaging in the stores underlines this attitude.  Even rich people with Porshes ride their bikes back and forth (in the winter, in the snow) without so much as a second thought.  People older than your grandma are out riding all the time.  At the end of the day, German life expectancy is only a couple months, give or take, longer than the US.  Matter of fact, if you removed all the needless gun deaths from the equation, the US population lives longer than the average German.  I find it interesting that the focus on health in Germany doesn’t really translate into longevity.  That speaks volumes about any individual’s ability to manipulate his or her lifespan through exercise alone.  What I can say with certainty is that old people here ARE healthier and more active, even if they do eventually fall out at the same pace as their more portly and docile US counterparts.

Don’t ask for a Kleenex.  They have no clue what a Kleenex is.  Ask for a Tempo instead.

Turns out that all that Umwelt is expensive, so you are going to pay through the nose for bottle deposits as well as grocery bags at the store, not to mention gas for your car, which is somewhere around the equivalent of EIGHT BUCKS a GALLON USD.  Note the one liter bottle of Mobil One oil priced at 22 Euro to get an idea how bad things are on that end.  Expect your utility rates to triple from whatever you pay in the US, which WILL have you looking at the THIRTY OR MORE varieties of high efficiency LED LIGHTS already being sold in stores here.

Kitchens.  Kitchens are not considered “part” of a house or apartment here.  They generally move with the occupant.  Kitchen cabinet sizes are standardized, as is mounting hardware.  Since everything is brick here, solid mounting points for heavy cabinets are easy to find.  The local version of Home Depot sells entire kitchens, complete with all appliances, cabinets, counters and sinks, starting at around a thousand euro.  Kinda of an Ikea Kitchen in a box. Custom kitchen retailers abound.  A few thousand euro will get you a COMPLETE KICK ASS kitchen over here (where I paid about two thousand bucks just for a refrigerator back in the US!).  About the most you could spend on a kitchen is five thousand euro, and those kitchens have amenities like MOTORIZED HANDS FREE drawers!  You kinda push against them with your knee and voila they open.  Another press and zippity do dah, they close.  My favorite upscale kitchen appliance?  They sell a flush wall-mount built in latte-cappuccino maker for a little over a thousand euro.  I opted for a table top model at 350 euro.  A little piece of Starbucks right in my kitchen (dislosure: my machine is actually a DeLonghi model).

McDonalds.  This little slice of American heaven lacks the reliance on the red goo meat and bio engineered crap they serve in the US (outlawed here).  Metrics has killed the Quarter Pounder as well.  You can order beer at McDonald here (though I have yet to see anybody do it).  And for the life of me, I don’t remember the breakfast biscuit coming with sliced tomatoes and lettuce in the US.  An aside of an entirely different aberrancy is that KFC does not sell biscuits here, a crushing blow for certain members of my immediate family and something that is certain to have the corpse of the Colonel rolling over in his grave.

Enjoy.