A One-Woman Tower of Babel

german dictionary

That’s me.

I open my mouth in a European market, and out comes a confusion of speech, a jumble of gibberish–here a French word, there a German, then a mischeivous Turkish phrase.  I’ve lost all control over my tongue.

I’m trying to reign in this problem, but it is hard.  We stepped over the border into France again Saturday, and this is where the big troubles always begin.  In Germany, I speak lots of English and the splattering of German that I can manage so far. (Still studying up!)  Sometimes French or Turkish words sneak into my speech, but they are the odd escapee from under the fence.  I have some control over my language.

Then I step over the border, and all hell breaks loose.  My brain seems incapable of releasing only the French words from their cell block.  No, that would be too orderly.  The gates fall and all the imprisoned words escape at once–a melee of language, a fracas of phrasing.  A mess.  Really.  Or is it?

Mess-peranto.  A new international language for people who make a mess of languages.  Let’s start a movement!  This could be like Esperanto for people who are enterprising enough to know smatterings of a few languages, but too lazy to actually order and develop their linguistic skills.

Bad idea?

I’m pretty sure the French cashier I practiced on thought so.




The History of Pimms, The Hope of Summer

I pulled the rouladen (German rolling shutters) down tight before bed last night.  Not to darken our rooms, but to keep the chill out.  Then I woke hungry this morning–hungry for heat and sun.  For summer.  The rouladen were holding back the chill of a 44 degree (Fahrenheit) morning.

This is liquid yum!  See the recipe below for a Pimms Cup.
This is liquid yum! See the recipe below for a Pimms Cup.

Summer has been hesitant in the Rhineland these past two weeks–she’s given in way too early to cold and wet autumn.  But I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful that she’ll be back for what we southerners call Indian Summer–an unseasonably late heat wave.  I’d like to be scorched, for just a few days, to complain about the heat, the sweat that begins at 7 a.m., the stifling humidity.  I’d settle for a day without a jacket and for an evening on the balcony, sleeveless and sipping Pimms.

The perfect summer drink–a Pimms Cup.   Millions of Brits think so, and so does this one time transplant from the South.  It’s not just for wedding parties or Wimbledon or the Royal Ascot.  It’s pure summer deliciousness on a balmy day, OR the perfect taste of balmy-berry-sweetness-and-ginger-bite-sunshine when the day needs some reminding that it is, in fact, summertime.

According to the BBC, James Pimm, a London restaurateur, began selling the elixir in the 1840’s.  Within a few decades the drink had become outrageously popular.  If marketing slogans can reliably note a product’s popularity, consider this slogan from the 1930’s:  We had to let the west wing go, but thank heavens we can still afford our Pimm’s.  

Yes, we all have to have our priorities, and there are days when I might have traded my kingdom for a Pimms. . . especially if that Pimms came with a warm and sunny day attached.

Pimms No. 1  is a gin based drink with an infusion of bitters and herbs.  I’m not a gin girl–it’s always tasted like pine needles to me–but the magic they work on Pimms is undeniable.  Over the years, other recipes have been introduced, featuring whiskey, brandy, rum, rye, and vodka.  At present, only Pimms No. 1 and Pimms No. 6 (vodka based) are being produced.

A traditional take on the Pimms Cup:Pimms-Cup

  • Mix one part Pimm’s with two or three parts ginger ale (preferably a strong ginger ale) over ice.
  • Add mint leaves, strawberry slices, thin cucumber slices, and raspberry or orange slices if you like. (We’ve even dropped a little watermelon in, and it was very tasty.)
  • You can mix this by the glass or by the pitcherful.

I know a few folk who love a good Pimms Royal, which is a mix of Pimms and Champagne.  I haven’t tried it, but if the weather ever turns back to summer here, I’ll try a spot on my balcony and then get back to you with my thoughts.

Until then:  Cheers!  Cheerio! and Auf Weidersehen!

Making the Best of the Wurst


Recently, another blogger I follow took note of the Germans’ penchant for pork.  Took issue with it, really.  And, while I think taking aim at another cultures’ tastebuds is a thorny undertaking at best, I do feel a little sympathy for other people who are swine-averse in Germany.  There’s no easy way to steer clear of  the pig when in the Palatinate.

And I should know.  I am not a sausage eater.  I don’t mind the aroma, the spice, the bite of garlic or pepper–those are all fabulous…seductive, even.

Not sure I like the idea of sausage, but sausage is not really one of those things anyone should think too closely about, so that’s not the problem.

I’m just allergic to pork.  So I avoid it.  No biggie.  Up to this point in my life, there have always been lots of options.  In the South, I go to BBQ joints and order shredded chicken or beef.  I take a pass on bologna, and I feel no great loss.   However,  in the land of beer and brats, you find yourself adrift on a sea of sausage… absolutely schwimming in schwine.

The boys in my family think this is fabulous, and I won’t contradict them.  But it does make for some awkward moments for me.  I feel funny always asking what’s in a dish that I don’t recognize–it feels a little high maintenance.  And, since my German is very rudimentary, I often don’t understand the answers I get back.  So there’s a lot of just steering clear–taking the widest path around anything that might possibly contain pork.

en.wikipedia.org, weisswurst
en.wikipedia.org, weisswurst

Which knocks out a lot of things in Germany.  (I thought my Ritter chocolate bar smelled slightly bacony the other day…but I ate it anyway, and I’m still standing.)

So here’s the plan:   Germany may be a swine-fest 24/7, but it’s also a chocolate and pastry and spatzle fest, so I will not suffer (although my waistline might).   My household will savor all that Germany has to offer by the age old “Jack Spratt technique.”  What I won’t eat (pork), my husband will relish; what he will only nibble around the edges (pastries), I will greedily gobble.  You’ll recognize us if you sit nearby at a restaurant:  we’ll be the people who’ve licked our platter clean.

Guten appetit!


A little sampler of facts about German Wurst:

*A wurst is a German or Austrian sausage–it is not necessarily made of pork, although pork is the most frequent ingredient.

*Wurst is sold both raw and cooked; it can be sold as a sausage or as cold cuts.

*If you happen to be near New Braunfels, Texas, you can go to the Wurstfest in November.  It bills itself as “the best 10 days in sausage history”–the best of the wurst.  Or the wurst at its best.  And then, later, you can confuse people by saying, “I was once in Texas and had the best wurst.”   ?!    The Pocanos also advertise a Wurst fest, complete with Polka Bands, Bavarian dancing, Lederhosen, and hotdog races.   The wurst at its worst best wurst …whatever.   Chicago also has a three day Wurst fest.  (This begs for a windy city joke, but I’m trying to be mature.)

*Bad Durkheimer, Germany (in the Pfalz, which is part of the Rhineland-Palatinate and close to where I live) has a Wurstmarkt wine and wurst festival in September.  Part of the national Oktoberfest fervor, but with wine. (And, I’m told, the wine is served in half-liter sized glasses, like beer.  Ouch.)  The Durkheimer Wurstfest is famous for being the biggest winefest in Germany.    It bills itself as a nearly 600 year old festival.  (The flyer should read “the best 570 years in sausage history”–that would show Texas!)  

Bad Durkheimer
Bad Durkheimer


*Apparently, there are over 1,500 types of wurst available in Germany. It can be found on a German table at any time of day or night.  It is the subject of festival and poetry.  (Well, if Robert Burns can write a poem about Haggis, then sausage is certainly fair game!)    

* Holzhausen, Germany boasts the Deutsches Bratwurstmuseum–yes, a wurst museum– which houses documents that can date the beginning of wurst  from the year 1404.   So there you go; plan your pilgrimage now. 


**If this is the wurst post ever, I apologize.  Consider the subject.