Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Dutch get in on getting American food wrong

"American" week at German grocery stores evokes strong emotions for me, including the desire to laugh, cry, be sick, or when I'm feeling adventurous, maybe even try it sometimes. There are usually very few things that I do want to try, though, because it's either food I wouldn't eat even when I'm in the US or it looks disgusting. I had yet to participate in "American" week shopping in another country, though, so during a trip to the Netherlands this winter, I perused their display for their take on what we eat.

This one landed a solid nee (no) for me: some sort of "American" sauce for fries.

Based on my non-existent knowledge of Dutch, but with the ability to somewhat decode the ingredient list based on my knowledge of English and German, I determined that it has canola oil, mustard, something from corn (a thickener?), vinegar, sugar*, and lots of preservatives in it.

Is this typical American food? Well, the preservatives would almost have me thinking so but as far as what it would probably taste like, I can give a resounding no. And thank goodness for that!

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*I would like to continue ranting a bit. Yes, American food and condiments add sugar. However, for German food, I'm always shocked/disgusted by just how much is added. I can't even eat most of the commercially prepared sauces, soups, or spaghetti sauces here because they taste almost as sweet as candy does and it's very off-putting for me. I am wondering if this Dutch sauce would be as sickeningly sweet as the German ones?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Flying grapes...or another awkward German encounter

Oh lawd, when one learns a new language, one can make some really funny mistakes. Recently I made a group of people practicing languages laugh. Who said I wasn't a comedian? Oh wait, it wasn't on purpose.

Me in German : "You could visit Trafalgar Square. There are many grapes, I mean pigeons, there."

(Trauben = grapes, Tauben = pigeons. At least I didn't say there were many baptisms there. I get that one mixed up too.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

It was so awkward it killed me

My German is finally to a decent level; I've taken various C1 classes so many times that it had better be! However, that doesn't mean that my vocabulary is always adequate, especially for topics that I don't deal with often (or ever) in German, and some topics are a bit too macabre for our textbooks to deal with in detail. Take this awkward conversation I had in German (translated into English for your enjoyment), for example.

At the thrift store

Me, in German : "is this card for when someone dead is?"

Clerk: "um, yes."

Me, delighted: "Oh, good! I mean, it's not good that someone is dead. It's good that it's a sad card. My vocabulary is not so good for death."

He thought that was funny.

Monday, May 20, 2019

American Week again...oy vey

No matter what time it is, it seems to be American week at one of the grocery chains in Germany. Oh wait, never mind; that was a song about it being 5 o'clock somewhere.

However, that doesn't mean that one can't get some "American" delicacies with some regularity among the local grocery stores. Visiting either Lidl or Aldi last week (sorry, I visited both so I can't say which one it was exactly), I came across a display of the infamous McEnnedy brand (don't get me started on the name).

In addition to the "American" popcorn (which is sweet but not really kettle corn, thus not really American), muffins, etc., here are some items that stuck out. Or shall I say struck out? Har har.

Potato snacks: tomato ketchup flavor. Gag. I'll eat fries with ketchup but the idea of eating potato chip-esque versions of these...just no. (Maybe that's because I don't particularly like potato chips or fries anyway).

Pancake mix in a squeeze jar: yes, we actually have this in the US. It's kind of wasteful (from both countries), especially given how easy it is to make pancakes from scratch.

Family brownie: the family that eats brownies together...I don't know where to go with this -- stays together? It has hazelnuts in it, which we generally don't do, but if you like them, it's a special treat.

Monday, March 4, 2019

TooGoodtoGo App review: some cheap fruit & veg in Kaiserslautern

Recently, I read about an app called TooGoodtoGo, which allows restaurants and stores to sell leftover food at a low price. It benefits consumers with a deal; benefits the store by selling something that otherwise might make it into the trash; and of course it benefits the environment, too, by diverting food from the trash.

It was a pleasant surprise to find out that a few stores in Kaiserslautern participate. One was a fast food fish restaurant (Nordsee), which isn't for me because I don't like fish. However, the other offering, Real, a grocery store, was just what I had in mind: for 3,50 euros, I would receive at least 10 euros' worth of fruits and vegetables. Participating stores sell a limited number of shares but several were left at Real, so why not give it a try, I thought.

I downloaded the app, found the offer from Real, tapped buy, selected one portion, clicked buy, added my payment method, and received a receipt. Pickup times were between 1600-2000, so I tooled over to the store and went to the front desk and told the staff member I was there for the TooGoodtoGo pickup. After looking over my in-app receipt, she swiped it and told me to pick it my package in the produce department and then come back through customer service so she could buzz me through the gate. Easy enough.

I received about 8 different items, including: rucola salad, another container of some weird lettuce, some pale yellowish-orange carrots, cherry tomatoes, oranges, an apple, a head of broccoli, and a container of broccoli and cauliflower. Everything is still fresh enough to eat raw but I won't have high hopes for a long shelf-life since part of the purpose of the setup is to help the store move some of its older produce.

My treasure trove of fruits and veg
So, do I feel that it's worth it? Yes, I was happy with my purchase and I feel that I received even more than ten euros' worth. It is somewhat difficult as one person to use all this up so it might make sense to split the purchase with a friend, especially when it comes to the salad and fruit. I could make some vegetable dishes and freeze them though. For those who juice fruits and vegetables, it's a good haul. I think I'll even blend some up for a fruit smoothie of my own.

One downside is that the app is still gaining traction. In Kaiserslautern, there are only three participating locations, and even in bigger cities in the area, like Mannheim, there aren't a lot of options yet, but I hope that the app's popularity will grow and more stores and restaurants will participate.

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All opinions are completely my own. I received absolutely no compensation or consideration from the app or the store. I'm independent, yo!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Didn't you want us to integrate?

Over the years, I've gnashed my teeth about learning German. I'm finally to the point that I can attend an event that's fully in German, can participate, and understand about 95% of what's going on. This is thanks to continuing to take German classes, because meeting with tandem partners has dissipated as a result of lack of time.

One of my current classes is the last one that is typically offered by local institutions. Sure, one can take the next level at a city about an hour away, but remember the comment about having no time? Therefore I took matters into my own hands and started, years ago, requesting some upper level classes at institutions not so far away. One place was stubborn and said that I would have to provide the entire class of students, and it would've been more than a dozen. I didn't have so many contacts there any more so couldn't bring that to fruition without the class at least being listed, even tentatively, on their schedule.

However, currently I'm in a full class with a lot of highly motivated students (several doctors, computer programmers, etc. who all work for German companies and need a high level of German to reach their career goals). I floated the idea of asking the institution for the next class, which was met  with enthusiasm from everyone.

I took the idea to the person in charge of the classes. "Why would you want to take that level? It's not required. You only need the next lower level for most requirements," he asked in German, surprised.

I explained to him that we are all working professionals, and that we want to fit in to our community or perform work functions properly and speak/read/write/understand German to the best of our ability. We're highly motivated, especially if you consider that most people won't even study at our current level unless they absolutely need to.

I was thankful that he was open to the idea, though slightly skeptical, and a week later, he approved it after speaking to the future teacher. Yippie!

When thinking over this situation, I found it ironic. In pretty much any country, citizens express wariness about outsiders, especially immigrants. New arrivals are criticized for not knowing the language or not speaking it well enough or having too much of an accent or or or...but here we have a full class of expats, refugees, and people somewhat temporarily stationed here who want to go on to the highest level possible and the idea is met with surprise.

Monday, September 10, 2018

This did not put me in the Christmas spirit

but the subtitle could be: but it did make me laugh!

My lovely cousins send me a box of random, odd, and fun items for the holidays. Last year I received many different things, but the most odd one was a Santa Claus toy that excretes candies into a chimney*.

What was truly disconcerting, besides the idea of eating candies that Santa had "excreted," was that to set up the toy, one had to cut the zip tie off that attached his head to his body, remove his head, break open his "guts" from their plastic lining, then dump the contents back into his body. The whole time his head was shouting, "ho ho ho!"

I didn't know whether to laugh, or to scream in terror.

*There are so many things wrong with this.