Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

My first Thanksgiving

A perfect host

“Your only goal is to just make sure no one gets sick. You need to make sure the turkey is thoroughly cooked”

For my birthday, all I want is the bathtub full of this apple crumble

“I’m not going to be able to move tomorrow”

“That was the glaze for the cheesecake? Well, it tasted great with the turkey”

Just to give you an overall idea of how Thanksgiving went. Let’s play “guess who said that”. Ready… go

Answers: 1. friend/guest, 2. mom 3. roommate, 4. friend/guest 5. German obviously experiencing a first Thanksgiving

So Thanksgiving ended up being a huge success, much to my surprise. A month or so before, I thought it’d be a great idea since I was lucky enough to go up to Hamburg last year and participate in Thanksgiving with a bunch of other Fulbrighters. This year, I decided to host for my roommates, a few friends who have been to the US, a Canadian friend of mine, and oh my roommates film crew and cast apparently (he was finishing up filming his movie for his final project. it was quite the undertaking) So all in all I ended up hosting roughly 15-16 people. Let me preface this story with telling you that I am not a cook. Good cook, bad cook, I don’t know. I don’t usually cook (aside from pasta and vegetables with rice. not really challenging) So my impromptu decision to take on Thanksgiving for 15 people was… questionable at best. Naturally the Sunday before I start freaking out resulting in very frequent panicked calls/emails to my mother and when she wasn’t available, to my sisters demanding to know where my mom was.

Our kitchen/what I had to work with

“Hi mom, it’s me. Just bought the turkeys today. It’s Monday. I’m putting them in the fridge. Do I need to do that thing where you fill the sink with warm water and put them in there to thaw them? Because sometimes you do that. But sometimes not. I never really paid attention before. If I need to do that, please let me know. But we only have one sink. And two turkeys. And people need the sink. Maybe I could use the bathtub? How long do they have to thaw?  Do I even need to do this?! (slight panic attack) Please email me when you get home. Thanks love you bye”

Email to sister: I tried calling mom, she didn’t answer. Can you ask her where I’m supposed to stick the meat thermometer in?

Tuesday: “Hi mom, me again. I sent you an email too, just to make sure, but the recipe says I have to sew the neck cavity together and I can’t find twine anywhere. Do I really need twine? Or need to sew it? And for the stuffing, it says to use bread that has substance. What does that mean? Also, I’m roasting the turkey, right?  I read on epicurious that I should put aluminum foil under the turkey and not cook it directly in the pan- should I do that? also in terms of basting, do I just baste once at the beginning? or periodically throughout the entire time? pleaseanswermei’mfreakingoutloveyoubye”

And that’s only Tuesday. I work all day Wednesday and then wake up at 8 am Thursday because I’m so nervous I can’t sleep anymore even though I don’t have to start cooking til 11. I had to get two turkeys since our oven (that tiny white thing behind the table) was too small for the size turkey I wanted/needed, not to mention they don’t sell turkeys larger than 7.5 lbs…. anywhere in this country. I go through my first solo gutting/cleaning a bird experience which went surprisingly well. Stuffed it (btw, way less stuffing fits in those birds than they tell you. I made way too much) and brought it downstairs to put in the oven (yes, I borrowed our neighbors oven so I could start later/the two wouldn’t be done so far apart from one another) and breathed a slight sigh of relief. Slight. Prepared everything else that I could- I was in charge of the turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, apple crumble, and cheesecake (yep, only that). My friends were in charge of the beer (which didn’t come a moment too early), mashed potatoes (Pat came over early to help/make them), a super fattening but delicious cheese/corn/bacon casserole, salad, and brownies.

my first turkey!

There was only one more  slight freak out before the guests came:

One turkey is done WAY before the other! It’s gonna go bad! Crap! Calculate 7 hour time difference. To call mom or not to call mom? It’s 7 am, she’ll be up. *call*  No answer. Try cell phone. No answer. Why do you have a cell phone if you never answer it, mother?! Too early to call the house? No answer. Where is my entire family!?!? …one hour and 20 bajillion skype-attempts later….

mom: hello?

me: Yes there is a God! thank you thank you WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!

mom: oh I went for a run this morning.

me: you told me you’d have your cell phone on if I needed you and you didn’t and then no one answered at home and then-

mom: Colleen. Deep breath. I didn’t take my cell with me. I’m on the phone now. What do you need

me: One turkey is done already and it’s only 3pm and everyone comes at like 6.30 and do I take the stuffing out right away or later? Do I leave the turkey on the pan? But I need the juices for the gravy. and I-

mom: you can cut the turkey now if you want and put it in the fridge and have people reheat it later and just put lots of gravy on it so it’s not too dry. did you cook it long enough? what temperature? that’s too much. it’s probably going to be dry. I’ve never done pan gravy so I can’t help you. At least you didn’t undercook this one. call us later and let us know how it goes. have a drink. please.

Mmmm success!

Solution: we put it in the fridge for the second shift (thanks Pat for the help) everything turned out way better than I expected. I didn’t undercook the meat, I made gravy by myself from the turkey juices, there were NO leftovers (which was actually a disappointment. I was looking forward to turkey for a week). But I managed to feed 16 people in two shifts (thankfully. the first one was my closer friends and much more relaxed. the second was my roommates cast/crew- also fun though)

Overall, I’m so happy with not only how everything came out, but for having such great friends here to celebrate with. We even upheld one of my family’s traditions and had everyone go around the table and say something that they’re thankful for. Although I did miss certain aspects of home (being with my family and in the city, decorating gingerbread houses), this year’s Thanksgiving was definitely a huge success.

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December 13, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holidays in Hamburg

I swear the closer we get to Christmas, the more slowly time moves. I can’t believe I was in Hamburg only last weekend! After school on Thursday, I booked it to the train station as quickly as possible to make sure I made it up to Hamburg in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Brendan, an American Fulbrighter from BC, graciously offered to play host to me for the weekend, ensuring I wouldn’t be spending such an important American holiday alone. I made it up with plenty of time to spare, and joined the group of four American Fulbrighters in Hamburg and one American Fulbrighter visiting from Berlin. Our group grew to a size of 8, including a French Fulbrighter as well as a German who wandered into the kitchen claiming that ‘it smelled good and he was just curious to see what was going on’. (of course you can’t turn anyone away at Thanksgiving…)

Fulbrighters and our Thanksgiving meal!

What may be most impressive is the fact that the group of boys cooked the entire meal! We had a turkey that I think was about 4kg (so 9lbs), mashed potatoes, carrots in brown sugar, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and to top it all off, a pumpkin cheesecake complete with a walnut maple glaze. This whole time, mind you, we two girls sat at the table, chatted and drank wine- a welcome change of pace! The meal turned out really well; everything tasted wonderful. We even all ended up going around the table and saying what we were thankful for- it started off as half-joking but we all had a lot to appreciate- that much was clear by the end.

Oh I should also mention that Germany has perfect timing in welcoming the winter season. Thanksgiving day was the first day it snowed over here, and it’s snowed at least every 2 days since. Granted, we don’t have a huge accumulation of snow but it definitely helps get you in the Christmas spirit. That being said, the next day Brendan and I went out and enjoyed Hamburg in the snow. Hamburg is different from any German city I’ve visited for a number of reasons:

It’s actually the second largest city in Germany with about 2 million people. (Berlin is first with I think 3 mil and Munich comes in 3rd with a little over 1 mil). Hamburg is a huge shipping port and there was no shortage of boats/barges/cruise ships out on the water. Due to its proximity to a major body of water, seafood is abundant. That translated to fish sandwiches for breakfast, something I wasn’t totally on board with at first but ended up being pretty good (I still prefer the southern German breakfast of bread and butter/jam/nutella/cheese/meat). So we walked around the harbor for a while and then took a ferry ride so I could see a little bit more of the city. Stopped in St. Michael’s Church (because every good self-respecting German city has at least one must-see church), walked through town some more before finally ending up at the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).

at the Weihnachtsmarkt

Almost every German city has a Weihnachtsmarkt, with the one in Nuremburg being the largest and most famous. They tend to open the weekend before the first Sunday of advent and stay open until the 23rd or Christmas Eve.

The stalls at the Weihnachtsmarkt sell anything from socks to cooking utensils to the more traditional ornaments and candles. We spent a good amount of time just walking around, taking everything in before warming up with some Glühwein. There really is no American equivalent for Glühwein, though the Brits call it “mulled wine”. It’s basically warm wine with spices. This was the first Weihnachtsmarkt where I saw white wine Glühwein (though it turns out they also have it here in Würzburg). You have to pay a 2.50 Euro deposit for your mug, but that’s because each city, or sometimes even stall, has unique mugs which they use to serve the Glühwein in. (obviously I thought 2.50 was a good price for the mug and took mine with me).

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the same manner (Glühwein, walking around Hamburg, back to the Weihnachtsmarkt) before going out that night with other American, French, and Spanish Fulbrighters. That was one thing I was really jealous about, that there’s such a contingent of Fulbrighters/international students in Hamburg. Then again, it is a much larger city, but still.

Hamburg town hall and Weihnachtsmarkt

This week back in Würzburg was actually pretty busy too. It snowed here as well, we had our usual lacrosse practices three times this week (two of which are outside. yes in the snow and negative-celsius-degree weather), our Weihnachtsmarkt is open, I signed my subletter-lease for my apartment AND successfully celebrated my 23rd birthday! A group of girls from the lacrosse team joined me in celebrating which included Glühwein, beer, champagne at midnight on the bridge over the Main river, and dancing away until the late hours of the night/early hours of the morning. Very successful overall.

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bamberg: A vision of pre-war Germany

I’ve finally figured out my plans for Thanksgiving- I’ll be going up north to Hamburg to celebrate with another Fulbrighter and some other Americans! I’m heading out right after my classes tomorrow to make it just in time for dinner. It’ll be really nice to be with other Americans, especially since I know everyone back home is getting together with their families and friends.Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, since it’s one of the few that isn’t so commercially based (even if the day right after it is), and more focused on appreciation and everyone being together.

After our lacrosse “team night” on Thursday, we struggled through practice Friday, and I went out with the two British teaching assistants in my town Friday night. Saturday, however, I wanted to do something a little bit different. There’s a Fulbrighter, who I met at orientation, currently living/teaching in Bamberg, a town about an hour east of Würzburg. I’ve been thinking about heading over there for a while, and all of the Germans I’ve told this to have emphatically recommended it.

Altes Rathaus (former town hall)

Würzburg was about 90% was destroyed in WWII just weeks before they surrendered to American forces. Würzburg was actually more completely destroyed than Dresden- for those of you who have seen the pictures, that’s hard to imagine. Bamberg, on the other hand, wasn’t touched at all due to a nearby artillery factory. So, many Germans idealize Bamberg since they feel it represents a typical German town pre-World War II. The whole town is actually a UNESCO world heritage site, which I think is pretty cool.

'little Venice'

Once I get in to the train station, my fellow Fulbrighter meets me there and we just walk around town for most of the day. The Altes Rathaus is beautiful, complete with paintings on the side. We also visited the Old Palace, the cathedral (of course), stopped at the lookout point, and walked along the river. Apparently Bamberg is known as Germany’s ‘little Venice’ and it wasn’t hard to see why with all of the houses and boats along the river.

Of course no visit to a German town is complete without sampling the local beer. I’m told that Bamberg itself has about 9 breweries and the area around it about 40 or so. Bamberg is best known for its Rauchbier, or smoked beer. It’s a dark beer and they dry the malt over open flames (hence the smoke flavor). If you’re more interested in the brewing procedures click here. As far as taste goes, the best way I can describe it is that it’s like drinking beer and bacon together, in one drink. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s all I’ve got. I enjoyed it, but it’s definitely not a beer you drink quickly or have five of in a night (at least not for me). Also, the tavern we went to have drinks at is 1. also a brewery and 2. one of the more famous ones in Bamberg (see picture below). It’s called the Schlankeria, just in case anyone’s planning on making a trip.

Bamberg was a really nice town to visit and I’m glad I got the opportunity to go. This week has gone pretty well so far. I had a ‘trial lesson’ yesterday at the language school in town because I’ve decided to… start taking French lessons. Yes, you read that right. I figured there’s a better chance of learning it here, in a closer vicinity to France, than at home. And why French you ask? I figure with public health it will be useful (Haiti, West Africa), and I enjoy learning languages. My language tutor looked like a scholarly Thierry Henry (hey, I’m not complaining). But the lessons really help my German as well since I’m learning French in the context of German (talk about confusing). Henry doesn’t speak any English so I’m forced to resort to German/French. We’ll see how it goes!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments