Soccer, pretzels, and Leberkäse

As a lucky twist of fate would have it, Toby’s birthday and the quarter-finale for the Champions League (soccer) landed on the same day. A perfect excuse for a party on an otherwise normal Tuesday! Because FC Bayern München was playing Olympique de Marseille, we hosted a Bavarian-themed party replete with Toby’s favorite Bavarian beer and typical beer garden eats. The evening went splendidly!

The creation of our menu items was a full day of adventures in the kitchen for me.

First up was a trip to the bakery to buy pretzels and rolls. Note – Bavarian pretzels disappear in Düsseldorf very quickly; they must be acquired first thing in the morning. With my baked goods safely stashed away, I could concentrate on the other tasks at hand – Emmentaler squares, Obatzda, potato salad, accordion-cut Radi, and other simpler but important accoutrements such as mustard (store-bought, I’m not that ambitious), little tomatoes, and radishes. The crowning Leberkäse was brought from the butcher by Toby.

I started with the easiest thing – Emmentaler squares. It’s all about building on the small successes, right? Emmentaler is a slightly nutty cheese with holes in it (think Swiss cheese). At the beer garden and Oktoberfest it comes served in cubes, salted and peppered. A delight with a fresh pretzel!

Next up – Obatzda. This is a very traditional Bavarian spread made of Camembert cheese, cream cheese, and butter flavored with finely cut white onions, sweet paprika, caraway, salt, and pepper. The mashing of the Camembert with a fork is a heck of a workout (note – it goes much easier if you leave it out for an hour or so), but the effort is worth it. Obatzda makes the perfect beer-soaker-upper.

The potato salad was a special request from Toby – “the kind with pickles and an oil and vinegar dressing.” Fortunately it’s an easy request to fill – cook and peel potatoes, cut into small pieces, add diced pickles, add diced red onions cooked in vegetable bouillon. Oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper come right before you serve your bowl o’ potato salad. A perfect companion for your cheese and pretzels!

The most adventurous task of the day, by far, was the cutting of the Radi (a long root, with a flavor like a radish). It’s usually served in a very thinly sliced spiral. But, because you need a special machine to do this, I voted to try the accordion-cut version (I could have cheated with regular thin slices, but where’s the fun in that?). All I can say is, You Tube rules. I won’t bore you with the details, but it requires a great deal of concentration, limb control, and the exact knife angle. Once you have your accordion, you salt the crap out of it – the Radi’s flavor comes out when you make it “cry.”

The anchor for the meal was Leberkäse, something like a Bavarian meatloaf that you eat with sweet mustard on a white Kaiser roll. While Toby and I aren’t big meat eaters, this was to complete the menu for our guests. And they ate it up, literally!

Wash everything down with Hefeweizen (wheat beer) and Pils (Pilsener) for the boys and white wine for the girls – a raving success!

Observing myself

Do you ever look at yourself from the outside? Really see where you are? Stump your own psyche with all kinds of deep what’s-the-meaning-of-life-and-the-world questions? My over-analyzing personality makes me prone to this kind of behavior anyway, and with my (im)pending birthday, this lovely habit of mine shifted into overdrive.

I don’t usually get too worked up about birthdays, but for some reason this one has me thinking more. Maybe it’s because last year’s was such a special one. I turned 33 on March 3. 33 on 3-3 – must be magical, right? It did bring an exciting year – married fabulous Toby, had an awesome party, quit my job, sold my house, moved to Germany, jumped careers. That’s a lot for 34 to live up to….

But, before I get carried away on that tidal wave of thought, let me return to the topic at hand. I thought I’d share a few recent observations, things I wouldn’t have been able to say about myself just half a year ago:

  • I think it’s ‘warm’ enough to leave the windows in the apartment open for hours at a time; it’s 48°F outside.
  • I wish it would get cold again so I could wear my super warm, super hot boots some more.
  • I don’t spend enough time with people during the day.
  • I miss my hair dresser, and not just for the good scalp massage and great hair cut but because she had a quirky, refreshing way of looking at things.
  • I spend an inordinate amount of time in my pajamas on some days – have I become a bum?
  • I eat less sweets (chocolate müsli doesn’t really count – it has oats, and hazelnut bits…).
  • I can drink a lot more Prosecco than I thought.
  • I love skinny jeans, but I hate squeezing myself into a sweater with anything more than a tank top underneath.
  • I’ve driven a car no more than 5 times in the last 7 months (and that’s counting the go-kart at the race track).