Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

A Cake for Berlin: Rhubarb Cake with Marzipan and Almonds

Almond and rhubarb cake (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This September, I’ll be coming up on my seven-year anniversary in Berlin. It’s funny. I never expected to stay here that long. Hadn’t even been to Berlin before I decided that this was the place I was going to move. “Du bist verrückt mein Kind, du musst nach Berlin,” composer Franz von Suppe is said to have said. You are crazy, my child, you must go to Berlin. “You’ll like it there,” my mother said. My grandma said New York had made me brittle, which in its own way is possibly a kind of crazy, too.

Rhubarb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Candied orange (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lemon (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Seven years ago, I wasn’t really moving towards something, but running away. From New York, sure, but also from the person I’d become there and the person I saw myself still becoming. Two of my dearest friends had not long before sat me down on a dock in St. Croix, the sun setting out over the ocean, sand curling over our sunburned skin and said to me, “What’s going on?” by which they meant, Where has our friend gone? And I’ve always admired the bravery of that, because it takes courage to tell your friend she’s been behaving badly. Because it’s true, I had been behaving badly, had let the less pleasant sides of my personality run the show. In drawing comparisons now, retrospectively, I’m not sure if I’d call it armor (sarcasm, skepticism, an easy sneer) or lack of buffer. New York is a city that strips you. Maybe it was a little of both.

Rhubarb cake without cream (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lemon and orange zests (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Macerating rhubarb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But leaving New York was hard. I’d loved it more than any place I’d ever lived. And for everything it took from me, it starkly outlined my strengths. I knew I could make my own way, knew I could start from nothing and build a life. And I’d never known such fierce creativity. » Continue reading this post…

On the Lifesaving Power of Eggs

Breakfast eggs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I am, as we speak, in the process of moving. Not far, just around the corner. It’s a brisk four-minute bike ride, maybe a a ten-minute walk, and yet the proximity hasn’t seemed to make a bit of difference in my emotional state, which has hovered somewhere between general panic, unsustainable euphoria, exhaustion, worry, anxiety, and manic energy. My hands are raw from scrubbing. I am horrified by the amount of clothing I own. My ability to make logical, efficient decisions suffers at my inability to think amidst clutter. And what is moving if not clutter?

What’s saved me these days have been eggs. I have been too tired to cook, too tired even to go out to eat, and so I’ve christened my brand-new stove with the humblest of foods. I’ve eaten my eggs, sunny-side up, every morning on my new, still-bare balcony amidst the caterwauling birds and the relentless sun. I’ve eaten them for dinner, with kimchi or with ramps or with slices of herring from IKEA’s grocery shelves. Or with nothing at all, just the eggs, warm yellow islands in a sea of pockmarked white, pricked with sea salt and black pepper.

My countertops are full of jars and mismatched bowls, bags of dried beans and rice, all the accoutrements of a kitchen equipped to make anything I might desire. And yet, what I desire most is to be done with this liminal life, to finally hand over the keys to the old place and never again climb those million stairs or worry about whether I should still paint. What I desire second most is to be sustained through this process, both in body and soul.

And while the eggs have sustained my body, people have sustained my soul.

People who have carried boxes and bags and bins from one apartment to the other. » Continue reading this post…

Old Habits & Hollywood: Parsley & Wheat Berry Salad

Wheat Berry & Parsley Salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For a few days every February, I live for McDonald’s breakfasts. My regular order: a sausage and egg McMuffin and black coffee, scarfed quickly in the upstairs dining area before it’s time to sprint somewhere for the first movie of the day, if we’re lucky, at Potsdamer Platz, if we’re not (and so often, we’re not) at Haus der Berliner Festspiele, where the ancient, sagging seats scoop your spine into scoliotic curves.

This is my fifth Berlinale, my fifth year (see years four, three, and two here) of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to stand in line with other crazy people so we can get tickets to spend ten days of doing nothing but watching movies and waiting in line to watch more movies. After five years, I think I can say we have traditions, the most fixed of which is getting McDonald’s breakfast after the line. To be fair, we really only make it about four days before we can’t stand the thought of eating McDonald’s again until the next Berlinale rolls around. But it’s like Glühwein in December: the first Christmas market sip is like cutting the ribbon to the season. By the fifth sip, you’re ready for May.

Berlinale 2018 (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Putting together parsley and wheat berry salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Whole coriander (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Of course we eat other things during the Berlinale. We try to make it to Pizza Hut at least once. Sometimes for lunch there’s Dunkin Donuts or carrot cake from Starbucks, and naturally all the coffee beverages. There are the stale soft pretzels they sell outside the theaters and burgers from the food truck and chocolate muffins and basically anything you can get your hands on between screenings. There’s not nearly enough green. Two memories: One, walking past a display case full of cream cheese sandwiches and craving the chive and parsley garnish. Two, ordering a salad that was more or less a tub of raw arugula and thinking it was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten. » Continue reading this post…

The Year of Doing: A Tarte Tatin for Winter

Winter vegetable tarte tatin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I landed in Berlin on New Year’s Eve. I hadn’t been in the city to see an old year out for the last five years, and didn’t have particularly fond memories of the one time I’d been here; the air had been heavy with smoke and grit, and shards of cracked bottles and spent confetti covered the sidewalks like a deadly shag carpet. Wanton firecrackers were constantly exploding underfoot. People threw them at cars, in trash cans, at other people, dropped them from buildings, lobbed them out of alleys. I remembered being afraid for my limbs, my eyes, any unprotected stretch of skin.

So I had avoided ever spending New Year’s in Berlin. It’s never been my favorite holiday anyway. There’s always so much expectation, and the party never does live up. The fireworks are too far away or hidden behind a building or a big tree and brittle in the cold. The ball is dropped to fanfare and applause, but when the party buzzers bleat their last, the new year feels just like the old and you haven’t magically morphed into a better version of yourself.

Beetroot (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Honey glaze and herbs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This year, I’d planned to go to a dinner party with a friend. Something quiet and inside and away from the chaos on the streets would be safe, I thought; no need for spectacle, and I could avoid the raucous revelers bombarding the streets with lights and loud bangs. I’d have just enough time after landing in the afternoon to unpack a little, to shower and change and catch the train north. But when I got to my apartment, the heater was out, which meant the floorboards were like planks of Arctic ice and the shower water glacial. But I set about unpacking anyway, dressed in heavy layers of wool and double-thick socks, at one point realizing it was warmer outside than in and heating up the room by opening the windows to let in brisk December. » Continue reading this post…

Das ist Berlin – Counter Service Comes to Visit

Mauerpark at sunset, Berlin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Walking back to the apartment after our run, Josh pointed up at the long and stately row of buildings across the street, shining white in the hazy morning sun. “That’s really beautiful,” he said, and I was silent. Not because it wasn’t beautiful, but because it was, and I had walked past that row of buildings nearly every day for the last four years without ever thinking about it.

There’s something about showing someone your city that makes you see it with fresh eyes. The mundane becomes magical. Places and routines you take for granted feel novel, inspired even. Your life is just your life, and you’re just living it, but with new perspective, even your life suddenly has its own special appeal.

Rathauspark, Schöneberg, Berlin (Photo courtesy of Counter Service)
Josh preparing lunch (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
On a Schöneberg corner, Berlin (Photo courtesy of Counter Service)
On a walk in Schöneberg, Berlin (GIF courtesy of Counter Service)

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time learning to re-see Berlin. Josh Hamlet, founder of Counter Service and old friend extraordinaire, arrived on a dark Monday night in mid-October and stayed with me in Schöneberg for nearly a month, writing, talking, dreaming, eating, living. We’d been planning our spate of collaborative projects for nearly half a year, and to suddenly find ourselves in it was almost surprising. “This is happening,” we said, and clinked our glasses together over the small kitchen table.

Josh and I met at Davidson in 2006, were friends throughout college, and in my senior year, his junior year, started Eat Me. Drink Me. together as part of an independent study in food writing. What’s the Reader’s Digest version of our lives? I moved to New York, I moved to Berlin, I became a translator, I became the editor of a literary magazine, I started The Wolf & Peter. Josh moved to South Korea, Josh moved to New York (but after I left New York), he worked in restaurants, helped start some restaurants, he founded Counter Service. » Continue reading this post…

Going German: Eierkuchen with Speck

Eierkuchen recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I realized recently with some surprise that I’ve been living in Germany for nearly six years. The time has manifested itself in subtle ways. I’ve gotten accustomed to long meals with infrequent attention from waitstaff, come to enjoy waiting for the light to turn green before crossing the street. I’ve gotten less good at small talk, more good at getting to the point (but clearly, not better at speaking English…). I’ve gotten used to just buying food for one meal at a time, since my fridge is too small to support much more than that. And I’ve gotten very good at packing up my groceries in record speed as the cashier’s speedy swiping slings them precipitously towards the counter’s edge.

My speaking skills certainly haven’t escaped unscathed. I find myself forgetting words, or grabbing for something in German that feels so much more specific. Like the other night, when I was telling a story about the sink my neighbors were throwing out, and I couldn’t just call it a “sink,” because it was more than a “sink” or even a “kitchen sink.” It was the kitchen sink with all its accoutrements and pipes and cabinet system – a Spüle in German. So many words in English. In German, just the one.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of ending my sentences with “or?” – a direct translation of the German “oder?,” which functions like “you know?” or “right?” but is certainly not something we say. And yet, it has ceased to sound odd to me.

Eierkuchen recipe in English (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Eierkuchen pancakes in a stack (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

German has a reputation for being an ugly, angry-sounding language. And it’s not entirely inaccurate. There was that meme that went around some time ago with words in different languages… butterflypapillonmariposaSchmetterling. But some German words are better than their English counterparts. » Continue reading this post…

Many Movies Means More Movie Snacks: Nori & Sesame Buttered Popcorn

Popcorn snack for the movies (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

How can I describe the way it feels when this movie marathon comes to an end, the way my fingers linger over the last ritual unpacking of the bag, the flinging of ticket stubs and loose papers onto the desk. The slow, deep gulps of water salving a week’s worth of harried dehydration, and how I sink down onto the couch to tally up the week’s report of good, bad, and indifferent.

It’s especially as the Berlinale whirls to its inevitable conclusion that I feel that I myself am in a film. I see with a cinematic eye. Even now, as I hunch over my desk to quickly jot this paragraph down, I see how the camera pans in on my fingers, the gentle, white glow of the laptop screen in the dark, the soft tap-tap-tap of my pointer finger on the keys as I think of what to write next. I bite my lip self-consciously to show the audience that I am thinking. The camera picks up the sound of the children in the adjacent apartment, laughing, and the clink of dinner dishes. The scene is set.

Nori Popcorn (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Popcorn for the Berlinale (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The feeling is especially strong as I walk from place to place, which, in the past week and a half, has meant: from theater to theater. Then, my mind’s-eye-camera zooms out across Berlin’s blocky, boxy rows of apartment buildings, streets lined with naked trees rattling twiggy fingers in the wind. I hear the click of my boots on the concrete, catch the flick of my eyes upwards as I wait for the traffic signal to change. I reach into my bag and pull out my wallet, slipping the fat wad of tickets between my fingers to check where I’m going next and what time I need to be there. When you’re watching up to five films a day, it’s easy to lose track. » Continue reading this post…

Market Day: Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic

Roasted beet salad with beet greens (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The Winterfeldt Market is a circus of color and noise. On Saturday mornings, it’s filled with people shopping for fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and baked goods of every hue. There are buckets of olives and pastes made with roasted eggplant, arugula, paprika, garlic, or chives. There are barrels of blooming flowers bursting with pops of purple, yellow, and pink. Trucks sell swirls of fresh pasta and raviolis alongside plastic tubs of pesto and long glasses of olive oil. One stand sells grilled fish, skin charred over an open flame – another sells raclette, silky with pungent cheese and brightened with fresh parsley and red chili flakes.

The market is walking distance from my apartment, at the end of a route that feels accustomed to my feet. Wherever I live, I find myself tracing familiar routes for as long as I can, before my destination chooses my route for me. If I were a river, I’d carve canyons along these trusted paths. Fanning like a star from my apartment, there’s the road that leads to the train station and the road to the park where I do my morning run, scattering rabbits breeding like clichés. The road that leads to work snakes through back alleys, through a school playground where I have to dismount my bike and walk between the shouting, shifting kids, up and around a grungy park, over a stretch of cobbled street and unpaved road that spills out onto the main thoroughfare. And then there’s the road that leads everywhere else: Out the door, a right, a right, and a left to Hauptstraße – Main Street.

Market day snack (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Greens and raw garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I pass the Baptist bookstore on the corner where they sometimes put out piles of free books. Dan Browns and romance novels, 90s teen fiction with faded purple covers and curly script. There’s a second-hand shop around the next corner, and I always glance in the big glass windows. » Continue reading this post…

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