The other day, I wrote about the Ten Things I Miss About the US. Today, I just want to mention a few odd little kitchen-related things about life here that aren’t bad, really, just different.
For example, I’ve been shopping for a slotted serving spoon. You know, the kind that’s like an oversized soup spoon with holes in the bottom to drain, say, veggies? We eat green beans often, and I don’t want green bean juice soaking into the other stuff on my plate.
I haven’t been able to find one anywhere! The only slotted spoons I can find are either wooden spoons (fine for cooking, not for serving) or huge ladle/skimmer spoons (like for deep frying).
Now, when I packed kitchen things to ship here, I remembered my English-measurement teaspoons and cups. I remembered my iron skillet. I remembered my left-handed angled spatula. I even bought a travel roll for my knife set, and wrapped my shipped stuff in dishtowels so I’d have my towels. But never for the life of me did I think I wouldn’t be able to find a serving spoon!
Things you would expect to taste about the same here just don’t. I haven’t yet found a salad dressing I really like. I’ve tried ranch (different than US ranch), Joghurt (which is basically yogurt and dill), Balsamico (not quite Italian or Balsamic Vinaigrette), even Raspberry Vinaigrette … none quite right. So I’m still searching.
Another taste that’s different: most butter here is unsalted. It’s a different taste, since I’m used to salted butter. I like it, but the salt adds something. The unsalted just tastes a bit too sweet sometimes. (UPDATE: I’ve found ONE brand of tub/soft-spread butter that’s “lightly salted”—just enough for me!)
I’m used to using Parmesan and/or Romano cheese on spaghetti and such. I can find Parmesan here, but it’s rare and more expensive (no Kraft shake-cheese / cardboard shavings!). What they tend to use here is an Italian cheese called “Grana Padano,” which is really unappetizing. It has a really strong “stinky cheese” odor and taste that just doesn’t work for me.
As far as cheeses go, it’s interesting to shop for cheeses. Things that were cheap in the US are more expensive here, and vice-versa, since the local/import status is basically reversed. Cheddar is English or Irish, not from Wisconsin, and is higher than German cheeses. There isn’t any Swiss — it’s Emmentaler. There are lots of inexpensive cheeses to choose from, pre-cut in sandwich slices: Gouda, Edam, Tilsiter, Masadamer, Cheddar, Butterkäse—not to mention the dozens available from the deli.
Dried/cured meats are also widely available, and in wide variety. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to try all the different “Würste” (sausages, both fresh and cured) available, and there’s also an incredible selection of sliced meats. While you can find ham, turkey breast, and chicken breast sliced, it’s fairly rare—instead there are cured “hams” (Proscuitto, Pastrami, Capicola, etc.) and salamis by the dozens.
The eggs here are fresher and brighter colored (yellower yolks) than in the US. They taste better, too. I think it’s because there’s a shorter time from hen to table—last time I was at Marktkauf buying eggs, the “fresh” section had been brought from the farm that morning! Most of them are brown eggs, but I’ve seen white ones, too. Eggs are sold in either 6- or 10-piece cartons (not by the dozen). It’s also common to buy cartons of brightly colored, hard-boiled eggs year-round (not just for Easter anymore!). For the fresh ones, they’re laid out in large stacks of egg-crate, and you slect the ones you want and put them in a carton.
I was surprised at the number of pre-made mixes available for soups, sauces, and various dishes. In the US aisles, Knorr (for example) might take up a few slots of one shelf in the “sauces and soups” aisle. Here, they have a whole section! I’ve found everything from Wedding Soup to Hungarian Goulasch, Spaghetti Sauce to Brown Gravy, all in dehydrated powder form, to which you add meats or veggies. Pre-made baked goods, on the other hand, are pretty rare. There’s a small section, but only a few choices, and it’s clear they are convenience items. And no cookie mix! (Except, of course, on the “American” shelf at Karstadt for around five euro.)
Breads are another thing. There are fewer packaged, sliced breads (typically called “toast” and sold without the heels) and more rolls (Brötchen). Fresh breads are available at bakeries everywhere—you go in, place your selections on a tray with waxed paper, pay per piece, and pack them yourself into a waxed paper bag to take home. Aldi’s even has what Sheridan calls the “Bread-O-matic,” where you press the button for the roll/loaf you want and it drops out of the machine for you to bag up! Typically you only buy a day or two’s worth of bread at a time, and many farm-type breads (“Roggenbrot,” typically rye) are sold in half-loaves.
Okay, now all this talk of food is making me hungry….