Saturday, 31 December 2011

ugly good food

Bavaria. My homeland. Spectacular mountains, idyllic pastures, fairy-tale castles, romantic cities, quaint traditions, pretzels, Lederhosen, beer, you get the jist.
Yet nowhere else in the world – in the world, my friends – does food look SO bad… and taste so good. Maybe it evolved that way to frighten off predators? Is Darwin’s law at work here? We may never know. All I know is this is food I miss on a daily basis. So in a bout of homesickness, hunger and gluttony, let me present to you the five greatest perpetrators of this heinous crime, of repelling people from their deliciousness with their ugly appearance.
5. Leberkäs

Coming in at number five, it’s Leberkäs, whose name encouragingly means ‘Liver Cheese’. Be not afraid, liver and cheese are not components. It’s a kind of massive sausage – TWSS – and I’m just going to go right ahead and quote Wikipedia here and tell you that it “consists of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions and is made by grinding the ingredients very finely and then baking it as a loaf in a bread pan until it has a crunchy brown crust.”. Om nom nom nom nom. Often served, as you can see above, with potato salad and a fried egg. Considering its relatively bland appearance, this is the least punishable offender.
4. Schnitzel, Kellogs Style
You all know Schnitzel, right? Yes, it’s a real thing. You beat some meat, you cover it in breadcrumbs, you fry it, hey presto you’ve got yourself a heart attack on a plate. Is it possible to improve on this tried and tested recipe? YES! Replace breadcrumbs with cornflakes and it suddenly becomes silly and odd in a good way all at once. They only thing is, it looks like your meal has some skin condition. Not appetizing, unless you know what’s coming.
3. Kaiserschmarrn
I hope you’re ready for more fried food! Bavaria is. Well, many people say Austria is to blame for the utterly heavenly Kaiserschmarrn, but to be honest Austria and Bavaria are like two peas in a pod. Two, deep-fried, butter-coated peas in a beautiful sugary pod. This dessert, which looks like soggy chips after snowfall, is what happens when you make pancakes, tear them into tiny shreds, and – you guessed it – FRY THEM. Dust with icing sugar and gorge yourself.

2. Currywurst
Another three step recipe – don’t you just love the simplicity of German cooking? No bain-maries here. No tender simmer, no artfully cut vegetables. Currywurst is happily exactly what it sounds like. Step one, get a sausage (that’s a Wurst to me), something like a frankfurter would work. Step two, cut it up. Step three, slather it in ketchup and curry powder. Yes, curry powder. Yes, I really mean it. Do it. Do it now.
P.S. Step four, more curry powder. Usually it’s a three step recipe but you’re a novice and you didn’t put enough on the first time.

I. Germknödel
Words cannot describe the infinite glory of the seemingly soggy pile of dough and custard. I dream of Germknödel. Every year I go to Germany, I pretend it’s to visit my 91 year old grandmotehr but really – it’s to eat Germknödel. I can’t get enough. When I die, I want to come back as a Germknödel.

What are they? Well, Wikipedia once again comes to the rescue because I do not have. The words. Here goes: “The dessert's main ingredient is a yeast dough with sugar and fat, usually butter, added to the dough. The dumpling is filled with Powidl, a sweet and spicy plum jam. The dumpling is steamed and then served still hot with either melted butter or vanilla dessert sauce, and topped with crushed poppy seeds and sugar.”


Hope you enjoyed that. I know I did.

Images shamelessly stolen from Google.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

simple really

You know what inspires me? No, I’m not talking about wishy-washy stuff like the scent of rain on dirt (though that does) or sitting down with some personal one-on-one time with Kerewin, my guitar (though that too produces a lovely uplifting effect).
The object of my inspiration is this woman.
This woman.
This woman.
If you’re too cool (or busy, or tired – I don’t know) to click on those links, let me give you think quick 101 on what Shanley does and why it’s got my odd, crooked toes twitching for 2012.
This is how it goes. Shanley goes to Uganda, more specifically, to the village of Kakooge. She meets a young orphan girl named Cossy Nakate and through getting to know her, finds out the situation women in the village are in – working harder than any person should, some even having to prostitute themselves in order to earn enough money to feed, clothe and home themselves and their children. Often these women also suffer from AIDS and need to buy medicine for themselves and their families on top of everything else.
But instead of blindly, shallowly throwing money at a problem she couldn’t think how to solve, Shanley did think. She saw the necklaces some women were making – necklaces with beads made of paper wrapped around needles – and realised there was something she could do. These handcrafted, beautifully simple beaded necklaces had a market back in the US, and indeed all over the world, a market which would hopefully begin to be able to support the women of Kakooge, Uganda. So she brought the necklaces to the market and she called it The Nakate Project. She worked hard, pushed herself to the brink of exhaustion and desperation to make it work and she bloody well did make it work. She built up a business. She built up relationships with the women. And she has started to build up a future for them and their children. 
She documents this journey, a mix of life which is sometimes perplexing, sometimes amusing, oftentimes frustrating, endlessly uplifting, and driven by her innate determination and passion, on her blog, Voye’m. A good first post is this relatively recent one which starts off well and just gets better in process.
Well, I guess that’s just Shanley feckin’ Knox.
Yeah. She’s pretty awesome.
So how has she inspired me? She’s shown me a way to help people that is not only donating money – though that is not to be belittled as it is the cornerstone of every great philanthropic organisation from Amnesty International to Cancer Research UK – but it also means thinking small to think big. The women of Kakooge live in one village in one country in one continent in one world – this is not the scope of Greenpeace or Oxfam or Fair Trade. This is personal, and that is one of Nakate’s and Shanley’s great strengths.
Another thing which inspires me about Shanley is that she’s involved – she’s just come back from Uganda and is planning her next trip already. The people there are friends and business partners, not some distant, abstract ‘poverty-stricken community’. Again, I’m not disregarding the immense effect which Water Aid, Save the Children, and The Red Cross have, but here I can see a close-up of how one person with one idea and a hell of a lot of energy can change the lives of many.
So what’s the end result of all this inspiration?
Amnesty International. Cancer Research UK. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Fair Trade. Water Aid, Save the Children, The Red Cross.
I’ve namedropped an awful lot of charities and organisations here. Shanley and her blog have made me more certain than I was before that I want to work in the 3rd sector – that is, aid, environmentalist, fundraising, charity. But what, where, how? What inspires me? Where do I start? How do I get going? I don’t have the experience, or the specific cause to focus on in order to follow Shanley’s steps exactly. Instead, I’ve got to figure out what exactly tickles my toetips and that’s the task of 2012. Seeing as travel is my life, it’ll be international, ideally based abroad (this whole Unversity malarky is the only thing stopping from leaving Britain for good). I want to be able to use my language skills. I don’t ant to fundraise – I’m bad at it and find it boring. I’m good at organising… But this is all far too advanced. I’m only a freshman, an ickle firstie, and I too have to start small.
So, in 2012 I will be finding new ways to volunteer abroad --- and at home. If you want to find out more, you can click the nifty little ‘Charities and Causes’ link at the top of this page.
Till then, tara!
Oh one more thing.
My first two Nakate necklaces are in the mail. I can’t wait.