Saturday, 25 December 2010

How happy was this duck really?

In Germany (and German speaking countries/regions of countries), the day they celebrate Christmas is really the 24th. What I think of as Christmas Eve. The shops are open in the morning till the early afternoon, but then everyone hurries home for the festivities. Both the 25th and the 26th are holidays, so those seem to be best spent recovering from the indulgence of the shopping/eating.

One of the things I like most about living here is the food. Not the stereotypical Bavarian or German cuisine that you might think of, although that's not bad in moderation. What I love is how seriously they take quality control. Both government agencies, as well as private watchdog groups, constantly check that the listed ingredients match what's actually in the package. They take food quality very seriously.

As a result, you'd think that I'd never doubt the veracity of the packaging. You'd be wrong. If you want organic meat, you pay a fortune. Don't eat a lot of meat in my daily life, so during holidays, I often go whole hog, as it were.

But in this case I decided to cook duck. My mother says the first time she ate duck was when we lived in Munich in the early 70s. Have had bad results cooking dry turkey. When the cooking's up to me, I prefer duck.

I'm not the only one who questions whether the duck was really organic, but I thought I might be the only one only asking the company for some sort of assurance. I was wrong. They were ready for the likes of me.

First, they fill me in on the history of serving goose in Germany. Why are they talking about serving goose? I guess there's only one form letter for goose/duck. Allegedly, the Germans borrowed the tradition from the English who started eating goose because it's what Elizabeth I was eating when she found out about the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Am not going to let my mind wander for too long and imagine the horrible alternatives of what she might've been eating instead. Not going to do it.

The Germans started following Elizabeth's lead and eating goose around 1900, but we're not eating goose. It's a duck. Where's my form letter for the history of eating duck?

Never mind. Next, they assure me that the duck was raised on the nearest farm. If you consider Pfarrkofen in Lower Bavaria the nearest farm. Well, it's close enough that they insist unnecessary delivery travel is avoided by using this family-owned farm.

The normal lifespan of such a bird is given as 12 weeks, while my duck lived to the ripe, old age of 24 weeks. And then they make a special point that the animals are not force-fed, have plenty of room to run around and eat food only from the region. Can I really believe all of this? Well it is a moderately convincing form letter. They end with a nice closing touch. Because their geese/ducks aren't injected with antibiotics and/or other chemicals, they're sure I'll be able to tell the difference when I bite into the 'tastier, softer, and juicier' meat. Meat unlike that of what they call a Turbobird.

Really? You think I'll taste the difference? Why'd I write my original query if I thought I could taste the difference.

But the form letter achieved its goal. I bought the mentally well-rested, able to exercise duck, and here's the finished result:

So the only question left unanswered is: How did it taste? It was delicious.

Frohe Weihnachten/Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The grandmama of Christmas Markets

Aside from the one in Nuremberg, this is the first goal and a nice introduction to Christkindlmärkte in Munich. It's the one on the Marienplatz, and although it's rather traditional and hyper commercial, it is the grandmama of all the ones around here.

Here are a few more photos I took of the sights:

The stands are uniform, but what they sell is anything but. On the left angels are on sale and next to them is Bavarian honey. Not real angels. Do you really think the Bavarians would allow real angels to be sold?

Not sure if you can have a Christkindlmarkt without Nutcrackers, but this one is in no danger of losing its credibility. Presenting the requisite Nutcrackers.

When one stumbles by stand after stand of this craftwork, it's relatively easy to forget how remarkable the creations really are. I'm assuming none of these pieces made of wood can be made by a machine. The hours of time invested to make these things sends my thoughts to elves at the North Pole. Well, until the ice up there all melts away.

First the wooden whirly birds, then the butterflies. Anything you can imagine carved out of wood-they just might have it. Within reason.

I like the Glühwein/Lebkuchen stand juxtaposed with Munich's own Apple store in the background.

And finally two shots of the tree that was felled in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. One from under the branches and another from a distance with the Neues Rathaus/New City Hall behind it.

Monday, 20 December 2010

a selection of Christkindlmärkte (Christmas Markets)

The more I read and hear about German Christmas markets outside of the Fatherland, the more apparent it is that I should be more grateful for where I live. We have such an abundance of these that you can even say things like, 'That one's got the best organic food.' Or, 'This one's the most traditional.'

So in the next few days, before all the people manning their Christmas Market stands pack up and go celebrate the holidays with their families, I'll be taking photos of the festivities. The photo above is from the entrance to the one in the English Garden under the Chinese tower.

Below I've included some photos from years past in Nürnberg:

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Did he say, 'Fockenstein'? I think he did

This is Fockenstein, which is a little mountain between the town of Lenggries and Bad Wiessee on the Tegern See (Lake Tegern).

Often the best part of hiking is seeing Louis and Ella's joy as they scamper up and down the mountain as I trudge along slowly.

Not sure if you can see it in their expression, but these dogs are thrilled to be up in the mountains. On the train down to Lenggries, they were alert and even a bit nervous to get out and run. Alternatively, on the train on the way home, they slept peacefully and happily.