Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Boys, a prediction

Today at work an 87 year-old lady Italian lady with the most affecting accent told me I had beautiful brown eyes, that my heritage should be Italian (like her) instead of German/British/Whitebread, and that I will resolutely not have twin baby girls when Husband and I start having kids, but instead will have a flock of boys. Ugh. I was tracking with her right up until the "boy" bit. I told her I wouldn't know what to do with male offspring, being raised in a family full of females myself, but she said it didn't matter because the boys- oh the boys- "they love their mamma. The girls love their daddy. You will have the boys."

She was in town visiting her son.

Let's hope she's no oracle.

Twin baby girls.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Castles and Beer

And a cheery Guten Strudel to you.

You may have noticed I haven't posted anything in a while. Or maybe not. Maybe the internet isn't as "into" my blogging existence as my self absorbed guilt would lead me to believe. Alas, there is no way to tell. Heavy sigh. Ennui.  

I've been busy.
 I'll tell ya, this whole "job" thing is really putting a damper on my blogging. And my housework. I know, I know...poor baby. It's just that now that the weather is (still) awesome and it stays light out until about 10:00 pm, and Germany has really outdone herself with festivals and events and beirgartens and such, it's hard to find time to write about it all. I get it- I can hear you rolling your eyes at my first world problem. Noted. I'm rolling my eyes at myself too, which is actually making it hard to focus on what I'm typing.

In keeping with the "Germany is made of beer and tourism" theme, Husband and I have spent the last few weekends visiting castles and getting rambunctious at the Stuttgart Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) in one of the famed beer tents, reminiscent of Oktoberfest in Munich. As an interesting aside, the Stuttgart Beer Festival usually coincides with Oktoberfest and the Germans typically flock to Stuttgart to get their beer on while leaving Oktoberfest for tourists. I haven't been to an Oktoberfest yet, but sources on the inside tell me it's full of Americans, Brits and Australians. And lions and tigers and bears. 

Does anyone else think it looks like Hogwarts?
Over Muttertag (Mother's Day) Husband and I trekked out to Hohenzollern Castle and after climbing straight uphill for 25 minutes, we were really impressed by how neat it was- by far my favorite castle we've seen. In honor of Mother's Day they had a band playing and allowed people to wander about the castle without a set tour, which was really interesting. Definitely worth the impromptu workout. Husband and I are in decent shape, but we were still huffing and puffing up the hill to get to the entrance. But these Germans- man these Germans!- they are just powerhouses! It must be all that biking in lieu of driving, because we had grandmothers passing us on the hill. Like little old ladies just zipping up a near vertical incline. Unbelievable. Props to the Germans. I've yet to spot a fat one.

I'll have one of those.
Last weekend we were lucky enough to snag tickets to one of the beer tents at the Spring Fest, and seriously, words can't begin to describe it. Not that I won't try. The tent was about the size of two school gymnasiums, they had a live band playing on a fully loaded stage akin to what you would find at a rock concert, about half the crowd was wearing dirndls or leiderhosen, and the regular size beer is a liter. A LITER. I had two. The tent is packed with hundreds of long picnic style tables, but few people are sitting. Most are standing on the table. That's just what you do, I guess. You stand on the table the whole night, singing along to the U.S. top hits of the 80's and 90's- Germans seem to really like American music- and about every third or forth song is this German drinking song where you continually "Prost!" (Cheers), and continue to drink a lot.

Always drink with friends.
Lots of friends.
So now that we've caught up I'm off to do about 3 loads of laundry. Prost.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

General Tso Good

We miss greasy Chinese (food, that is).

Germany has just about every gastronomical choice you would find in the States with the noted exception of greasy American-style Chinese food and palatable Mexican. The Mexican dilemma is easy enough to solve with store bought tortillas and enough cheese to send all of Baden-Württemberg into cardiac arrest, but the greasy Chinese is another story. I don't own a wok and I just can't seem to find MSG's anywhere. Maybe it's in the snack isle? Clearly a lost cause.

Or IS it?

Turns out, NO! Husband and I had been particularly desirous of one, General Tso's Chicken, of late but I was wary of attempting a homemade reproduction due to generally disappointing quality issues with other fakey-Chinese recipes attempted in the past. But I had a husband to feed, and his recent bout with some kind of particularly nasty cold virus made him such a sympathetic cause that I just couldn't say no. So together we trod (trodded? trode?) through endless online recipes with obvious flaws (hoisin mixed with sweet and sour? Ugh. My teeth rot just thinking about it.), complicated ingredients and photos of completed recipes that could have doubled as a crime scene. 

But then, shining like a beacon of pure white meat chicken breast in a sea of reconstituted poultry parts, it stood. So deliciously possible I couldn't resist. My heart lept, my stomach growled, the frozen chicken in the freezer quivered with anticipation- a culinary delight was born. 

Yes, I know it's blurry and washed out, but I was hungry. So hungry.

with a few variations

I followed this recipe as closely as I could with the ingredients I had, and let me say, it was perfect. Absolutely perfect. The flavors and textures were exact replicas of what we would order at our favorite Chinese place back home. 

That being said, here are my variations:

1. Right away, double the sauce. Just do it.

2. I didn't have Rice Wine, so I used the same amount of cooking sherry instead.

3. To prevent the breading from falling off the chicken or getting soggy when mixed with the sauce, I dipped my chicken pieces in the egg/cornstarch mix as in Step 1, but then also dredged them in flour before frying (I pan fried my chicken in olive oil). Oh, and I also used chicken breast instead of thighs.

3. I didn't have green onion or dried red chili peppers, so I sliced half a yellow onion instead and sprinkled it very liberally with crushed red pepper and then sauteed that in olive oil in Step 4, cooking just until the onion started to soften.

4. The double batch of sauce just coated my chicken (I used more than a pound though), so I made another single batch of sauce and heated in in a separate saucepan until thickened (1-2 minutes after boiling) to pour on the rice.

I will never buy this dish again. Too easy, too good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hopps and Wheat and Barley- Oh My!

I'm starting to like beer.

Those are the regular sized beers.
I think I've mentioned this before (and let's be honest here, what haven't I mentioned), but it bears repeating due to my German surroundings- I'm not a huge beer fan. In fact, I'm not much of a drinker at all...unless weddings and opportunities for public embarrassment are involved. (Right Cathy? Ugh, the shame.) So you can just imagine my surprise when I have found myself ordering- repeatedly no less!- Kristallweizen at just about every eating opportunity. It's practically involuntary at this point. I don't know what's come over me.

Ok, maybe it's the fact that I don't like to deal with scouring pages and pages of a beer selection in German on German menus while being bore down upon by an impatient German waiter. Or maybe it's the utter and absolute reluctance to spend triple the Euro on about a quarter of the amount of diet soda. Or maybe it's just easier to pronounce than some of the other beers, and I don't like to be fussed. Take your pick. I'm sure the truth is in there somewhere.

But in all, this is good news! Good news indeed! Because it is officially beer season in Germany and the Beirgartens are in full swing, not to mention the overwhelming selection of beer festivals and beer tastings and regular festivals posing as beer festivals and people just milling about on the streets and in the parks drinking beers and beersy beer beer beered beery things that are cropping up at dizzying rates. Dizzying for many reasons. Beer! 

Beer tent at the Spring Festival. Note the people dancing on tables in dirndls and leiderhosen...and the CHILDREN. Totally normal.
So half the beer battle is already won- I have identified my beer of choice. Whew, what a relief. Pressure's off. I've also come up with a contingency plan, should the beer-related activity not have my preferred Kristallweizen, and will gladly accept any other form of Weissbier (wheat beer), and go merrily about my day. But not quite so merrily had I been able to procure my first choice. There has to be a consequences. Additionally, and this is very important, should anyone offer a Pils, I will run frantically from the offender in a zig zag patters so they will be less likely to attack with such a foul brew, find a matronly looking German hausfrau dressed in a dirndl and hide behind her voluminous skirt until the danger is abated.