Sadly, two of my favorite Offenburg denizens are making a Big Move. In the US, when someone takes a distant job it is likely to be in another state. Here, with country-sizes shrunk a bit, a distant job is likely to take you to a different country. Our friend Niko has taken a job in Warsaw! My Great-Grampa Englebert Kwasigroch (pronounced just like its spelled, quazi-grow, of course!) would surely approve. And, yes, Warsaw is definitely on my increasingly long list of Places I Really Want To go While We Live In Europe. But, Warsaw is not Offenburg, alas, so Niko and Emily were making the Good-bye rounds.
How do you say Good-bye in Germany? Well, like anywhere else, with food!
I was originally supposed to do another Coffee with Emily, but my chemo sort of wiped me out that day. So, the entire household was kind enough to invite us over for a really pleasant mellow dinner at “The Pink Castle” (their apartment is the upper level of a fabulous historic Victorian with parapets- and, yes, it is definitely pink). Niko took to the grill, Elena made quiche, Patrick made a fabulously German sausage and potato dish, and even Vladimir pitched in with his own rendition of Swiss Raclette. Plus, special bonus- we got to hang out with the household’s 2 kittens and 2 adult cats. I am always happy to go somewhere where I can utilize the services of Loaner Pets!
Phase Two: STEAK
We have come to learn that our local German community really, really, really likes steak. Every excuse to go to an Argentinian Steak House is seized and utilized. When it looked like Niko and Emily were going to sneak away without being fêted in the properly meaty fashion, a last minute outing was swiftly planned. And by “last minute”, I mean that much like a bride and groom being whisked away on their honeymoon, the happily nervous couple went straight from dinner to meet their movers and ready themselves for their all night drive to Warsaw!
Actually, let me back up a bit, because that last part deserves its moment. They went straight from *dinner* to meet their movers. The movers showed up at their house at 9:30PM on a Saturday. WTF? Apparently they used the “two guys and a van advertising on Craigslist” style movers. They had helped folks move into a place in another city all day, then met up with our friends at their apartment at night for a long-haul over to Poland. I am told they did stop off in Berlin to sleep. But, yowza! That is a long day’s work!
But, back to the festivities. We all met up at the Ranchito Restaurant for dinner and Many Funs were had! The place is run by a real live South American couple (not common in this area!) and if my language centers get scrambled when I am expected to be able to speak French and German on the same day, they get *really* mucked up when I am suddenly seeing a German menu with Spanish-language dishes and occasional French translations. So, basically I lost all ability to communicate functionally in anything but straight English as soon as I sat at the table. Luckily, with the BFG crew that isn’t an issue.
Silly Wabbit- Weird German Food of the Week
Rabbit is a very common food locally. But, up until now we had chosen to avoid it on “awww bunny!” grounds. I guess David must not have been feeling all the cuddly (or he was really desperate for an alternative to steak) because he opted for the “Conejo al Ajillo,” aka Lapin à l’ail, aka Kanninchen mit Knoblauch, aka Garlic Rabbit. I did try it. For those who have not, I would compare the texture and flavor to be similar to a cross between chicken and pork. It was pleasant, but probably not worth the guilt. David keeps hoping he will come across a menu with horse on it. He has a mental list of all the various things he has eaten and takes pride in the diversity.
Side Dishes, The Germanitude
One thing we notice as “Have It My Way” Americans is the lack of choices one can make about a meal. And side dishes are not as large a part of the experience as we might expect. Honestly, it sort of drives us nuts. For instance, I got the pork ribs. Ribs are served with two small completely plain potatoes and a little saucer of sauce. Period. There is no sauce served on the ribs. There are no rolls for the table. There is no butter or sour cream served with the potatoes. Oddly, there *was* sour cream served with the steaks. If I had gotten a steak, I could have put sour cream on my potato. But, since I got ribs, not so much. Some dishes are served with rice, others with corn. David’s rabbit came with three little slices of bread. The same steak served with slightly different side dishes is called something different and probably has a different price. Substitutions *might* be negotiated if you have the language skills, but it is not really an expected thing. You can, of course, order extra sides. I ordered “platano frito” (fried plantains), and several people ordered salads and fried potatoes and the like. But, that is all extra. The only restaurant that we frequent that allows for side-order choices is, conspicuously, the American themed Coyote Cafe.
All in All other than the sadness of seeing our friends leave, I have to say it was an extremely pleasant evening. The weather was warm, the bugs were kind, and the company unsurpassed.
Since I covered the BBQ last time, I figured it was worth showing a couple other kinds of German gatherings. So here are a few photos from all the fun. As usual, you have to click on the photos to see the captions, and you have to load the second page before seeing those