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« Home is Where the Cake is | Main | Satays, Staff of Life »

Hello, Deutschland

What do you know about German food?

My dear readers, I owe you some news.

Barely one year ago I woke up this page from a three-month slumber to tell you about our safe landing in Seattle, a return from Europe (for me, at least) to the city we thought we would be calling home for a very long time. I'm sure you remember. But life has a funny way of derailing even the best-laid plans, doesn't it? When I wrote those words, for example, we could have never fathomed the storm that was brewing, and the impact the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression would have on our new lives. And we certainly couldn't have imagined that if, in late spring of the following year some work opportunities arose for Manuel back in Europe, we'd be willing to turn around and just like that say goodbye to our new home... But they did, and we did, and that's how we came to find ourselves, one year almost to the day from the last time, delivering twenty-two boxes of household belongings to the port to be put on a freighter bound for Germany, and not long after, stepping on yet another one-way flight ourselves.

In contrast to our move last year, this one was a piece of cake. I already knew all the questions to ask when calling shipping companies, and we knew exactly how and what to pack. Craigslist made liquidating our physical assets a snap, though it was hard to part with so many nearly-new things (including the ice cream maker I had coveted for so many years in Edinburgh!). Unlike last time Manuel went ahead, securing us a place to live and a car and some furniture, so that by the time I arrived the hard work was done, and all I had to do was get over my jet lag. That's not to say it was all easy, though - saying goodbye to my family again was something I would have gladly done without.

Also in contrast to our last move, this one happened very quickly. From inception to completion barely three months passed; in some ways the fact that we were moving didn't actually sink in until after it happened. And sadly, the unexpected nature of the whole thing meant that we didn't have much time left to enjoy our soon-to-be-former home. In particular I regret all the things we never had a chance to do, thinking at the time, of course, that we had years in which to do them. We never went camping on the coast, for instance, or hiking in the Cascades or kayaking in the San Juans. We ate in only a fraction of the restaurants in Seattle I wanted to try. We never planted a garden or owned a share in a CSA (actually that's not entirely true - I signed up for one before we knew we were leaving, and we were able to work it out so that we got four weeks' worth of beautiful, farm-fresh veggies before passing our share on to someone else). We never cast our sails and explored things further afield like Vancouver and Eastern Washington and California and Mexico. And of course we never got a dog, which, in light of how things turned out, was probably a good thing.

But then, there were so many things we did get to do. I got to spend more time with my family than I had in a decade. We got to live in a beautiful cottage by the sea, waking up every morning to one of the most spectacular views in the world. We stuffed ourselves silly on Mexican, Ethiopian, Japanese and Vietnamese food, including so many Bánh Mìs from Seattle Deli I'm sure they'll notice a drop in profits now that we're gone. We had picnics on the beach and barbecues in the rain and glasses of wine against the backdrop of a city aflame in the evening sun. We also got to spend more time with each other than we had, well, ever.

And just as I consoled myself about leaving Europe, I'm telling myself now that Seattle will always be there, home for me in theory if not in practice. And who knows, maybe someday in practice again too.

For now, though, we're installed in a roomy apartment in a hundred-year-old building in a medium-sized city in central Germany (Göttingen, famous for its university and its beautiful medieval center), and while I won't even hazard a guess as to what the future will bring, there's plenty on the agenda. Like getting my permanent resident visa (bureaucracy is the same everywhere, isn't it?), and ahem, brushing up on my German. And taking advantage of the fact that all of Europe is on our doorstep again. And, of course, devoting some attention to my new home - there is, of course, a whole new culinary culture here to discover, one full of zwetschgen and zwiebelkuchen and bratkartoffeln and knödel...

And to think, learning to pronounce them all correctly is only the start of the adventure.

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Reader Comments (66)

Well then... welcome back to good old Europe... I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Believe me, I'm European, Continental...

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam/The winter guest

I have been following your gorgeous blog for quite some time now. I am an Australian expat living in Bad Homburg, which is about 2 1/2 hours southwest of Göttingen. I am so thrilled that you have moved to Germany. I totally love the lifestyle and travel here, but I have to be honest and say that I miss the wonderful fresh seafood, great quality beef, lamb and asian influences in cooking back home. I've been retraining my taste-buds and there are some dishes here that I have grown quiet fond of but I wish I had more time to experiment. Therefore, I will be devouring your blog (even more) from now on, as you start to experiment with local produce. A couple of tips: Traditional food like Schweinehaxe (roasted ham hocks) can be beautifully tender and melt-in-the-mouth when prepared by someone that knows how! The cheeses (Käse) and fresh organic fruit and veg (Obst und Gemuse) available from your open-air local farmers markets (twice a week) are wonderful. It's the right season for making Pflaumekuchen (batter cake with glazed sliced plums on top) which is delicious. If you and/or your partner drink beer of course Germany has the nicest beers (followed closely by those in Belgium). Good luck with your new adventure and I am looking forward to your next post! Viel Spaß!

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoris

When you get to Bavaria, please hunt down Obazda -- a yummy, artery-hardening cheesy spread served with pretzels. Wilkommen an Deutschland!

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterother side of the river

Welcome to Germany! I hope you like Göttingen. I've spent a wonderful part of my life there and I really miss it. Give a big hug to the Gänseliesel when you meet her :-)

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJens

Having had a sudden move myself just a year ago (though nowhere near as distant in terms of destinations) I do understand the bittersweet feelings. Congratulations on the move going so smoothly and I look forward to continuing to read your wonderful writing :)

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCity Girl

Good luck in your new home! I look forward to reading about your adventures!

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersprite

Welcome to Germany. I moved to Nuremberg from sunny Scotland last year and love the new lifestyle. I must admit that I do miss the fresh fish of home, but here I can walk to the market in 15 mins and buy all my lovely fruit and veg (grown on a farm less than 3.5 km away) for what I consider to be peanuts.

There are lots of cultural differences between Germany and Scotland, but overall I love it here. I hope you do too!



September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Elsweiler

Dear Melissa, What great news!! A warm welcome to Germany and please don't forget to pay a visit to Munich, we'd love to show you guys around :)

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicky

Thank you for that wonderful installment of perspective and optimism. It's easy to get on the computer and see people venting their frustrations over life's inconveniences. Nice to see someone appreciating the adventure. I can't wait to see what happens next for you.

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIlsa

Wow, two big changes in such a short time! Welcome back to Europe....I echo Nicky's statement - if you come down to Milan, it would be great to meet! :)

It's certainly not easy moving overseas, as I'm sure you already know.
You will miss things about your old home that you never even knew you loved.
But by the same token, there are a million new adventures to be had, things you never imagined.
I wish you the best of luck with your new life and hope many good years await you there!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

bittersweet yet exciting...look forward to hearing more about your new adventures!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkat

wow, such a surprise! i hope you two get settled soon, and all the best wishes in your new home. looking forward to see what you discover. here's to new adventures!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrick

How exciting! Best wishes as you start another new adventure! I'm kind of jealous. ;)

WOW! So glad to have you back, and such exciting news! I've only been to Germany once, and it was when I was 15, so I'm not sure it should count. Göttingen sounds wonderful, and so many places to explore from there. Imagine what the next year could bring!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Welcome to Germnay and feel free to contact me for german foodie questions! It's not all about "Würstchen & Sauerkraut" ;-)

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

Melissa I can so relate to this post. This year we were supposed to move away from Germany a home to me for almost 16 years, but as you say life takes funny turns. We're still in Germany and all I can say is welcome to Deutschland hope you like it. Like Claudia said it's a lot more that Sauerkraut & Würstchen. I#d love to help if you have any questions!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeeta

Welcome back to Europe! I'm excited to read all about your continuing adventures, both food and non-food related. If you decide to make a trip to Switzerland and Zurich I'd be happy to show you around!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRomy

Oh Melissa, I'm sorry to hear that you've had to move again in such a short time and to leave your family, but I'm glad that you're slightly closer to me now :) Take care and let me know when you and Manuel have a chance to come to London.

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkeiko

What a surprise and how exciting :) I've been twice to Göttingen (I've got very good friends living there) and it's a lovely, lovely town.
Looking forward to reading about your take on German food :)

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPille

hi melissa, what wonderful news... i know how hard it is to move, and especially that far, but i am sure you will enjoy germany very much. and who knows, seeing that you're now once again much closer, maybe we find the time to meet up again! let me know if you're ever planning to come to london! x

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

welcome back!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Welcome to Germany! It's not all sauerkraut, and even that can be good if well prepared. I look forward to reading about your discoveries and adventures.

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

I wish you a good time in Göttingen. Enjoying your blog and your tips since some time, I hope to get soon tips for locations nearby.

Greetings from Hannover,

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLily

I would truly love to go to Germany!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMixed Drink Recipes

Oh yeah! Welcome back to Europe! Ah Deutschland... We're hoping to move back there after our 3 year stint in England.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMinh

Herzliche Wilkommen :-) Europe is exciting with rails and transport well connected to get you anywhere for a foodie getaway or lil adventure. You will love it!

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLianne

Herzlich Willkommen! If ever you come to Kassel just a few miles south of you, drop me a line, me and my wife will be most glad to show you around. You know, show you the Cascades and eat some 'Ahle Worscht', some local flammkueche with 'Duckefett' or just have a slice of smetana cake. Also, if I can help with translations or anything else, just mail me at Reuben at Morningchilde dot com.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReuben Morningchilde

I am **SO** jealous. Gottingen is a beautiful city. I remember there is a fabulous pastry shop on a direct line into the city from the train station. Gosslar should be your first weekend trip. Don't miss Fulda either.

Do us all a favor and convince people here that there is more to German food than wurst and sauerkraut. Real pork tenderloin (lendchen). Maultauschen. Poppy seed cake. Chanterelles should be in season now. Steinpilze. Wild boar. Berries. Kohlrabi. Bienenstich kuche. Cream, cream and more cream (creme and sahne).

Heresy in foodie circles - but I always thought that the little pastry shops in our village (Flieden) were better than anything I ever ate in Paris.

Convince your family that flights to Germany are cheap in the winter - that they must come visit you for six weeks of German Christmas.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterchrisMD

I don't know a lot about German food. Hope you can share to us a little of what you have learned while staying there. Good luck on this new adventure!

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjobsearch

In Goslar (town center, next to a church) I ate the best ravioli ever..
Welcome to good ol' germany :)

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReNi

I hope your transition remains smooth and that you find yourself at home there very soon. -Renee

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

I haven't been to Germany, so to me it sounds like rather an exciting adventure. Good luck with all the challenging parts, and I know you will make the most of the fun times!

September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKalyn

Exciting news! As a similar transplant to the US with a Danish husband and children in tow, we still wait for the other shoe to drop that will return us to Europe. I look forward to reading your blog from Germany!

September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynda

all the best with ur new start in germany! i know the slightly desperate feeling of leaving a place u feel u havent finished with adventure-wise, but i have no doubts gottingen will be tried n tested, n if by any chance u will leave at some point, i wish u will end up being even closer to me:)

September 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergoogs

oooh, I'm so jealous! I keep telling my husband he needs to find an expat job in Germany, but somehow he doesn't quite get the hint.. :) I lived in Germany when I was 7, and those memories.. sigh.. I'd love to give my daughter the same experience!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatyo

Welcome back to this side of the world. I look forward to hearing about your new food discoveries. My Austrian friends have convinced that autumn and winter are the best times for Central European foods--mushrooms, plums, braises and the like.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShira

good luck Mellisa! i'm sure you'll do great and enjoy a whole new world of adventures

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaya

Welcome to Europe Melissa. I'll give you a few weeks to settle down before I invite you round to The Netherlands :-) When you need a break, come on over and experience some Nigerian food in the Netherlands ok? Take care

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen Butterfly

Welcome back to Europe Melissa! Life does throw things at us, doesn't it? If you ever have a chance to come to Rome, Italy (where I am now!), I would love to show you my foodie Rome!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHande (aka food vagabond)

Excellent! Welcome back to Europe! I love reading your blog and was very disappointed when you moved to Seattle. Glad to have you here in Germany and looking forward to hearing about all your culinary adventure and hopefully, copying some of them. Viele Liebe Gruesse aus Heidelberg!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

Wow, another adventure! Enjoy the ride...and we'll be reading about it =)

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Oh wow! What a huge move! (I relocated from the UK to OZ around the same time you moved to the USA and I could not even imagine doing it again now!) Germany is a pretty great place to live - I cannot wait to see what you post now that you are back in Europe. I loved all of your travel features.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan@Feasting on Art

You have a heart for any fate it seems. I know you will make the best adventure out of your move possible and come back to the USA when the time is better. Make many happy memories in Germany.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGabi

Aha! Now you have given me the perfect excuse to link to your beautiful blog with all the other expat blogs on The Blue Suitcase! Seattle is home for me, too, in theory. In practice, I'm your neighbor the Netherlands.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blue Suitcase

Say hello to my home country for me! Whilst I love living in Sydney, thinking of home will always be bittersweet... Can't wait to see your take on my favourite foods! I wish Zwetschgen weren't so hard to get down under...

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEva

I'm really jealous - I would give up a lot to be able to "legally" live in Europe, especially in Germany! I lived there for a year, and fell in love but then I had to leave for visa reasons. Enjoy, and feel very lucky for your recent change!

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle, German want-a-be

Fantastisch! I lived in Munich for the better part of a year and grew to love the markets there. There was a woman at the Italienische Feinkosten in the Viktualienmarkt that used to draw me into conversation and then give me a recipe.
It will be a big change from Seattle to be sure, but I'm certain you and Manuel will find adventure aplenty!

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa

Melissa, how exciting! Just get in touch if you want to visit Berlin. I'd love to see you two again! (I'm also happy to help however I can with the bureaucracy, having been through it all fairly recently...)

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylee

Wishing you all the very best!


September 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

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