This blog is a place to share my passion for cooking and inspire people to cook more from scratch. With six people in the family, cooking is something that is always on my mind. I want to share some of my favorite foods and recipes and share more about traditional diets (like the kind of food our great, great, great grandmothers would have made). Right now I am fascinated with fermented vegetables, coconuts, seafood with a cerviche twist and organ meats... although maybe not all in the same meal!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Munich: a tour through food

Exploring a cheese shop in Munich's Viktualienmarkt

I know it has been too long since my last post but I hope to reward you with the sights of the food from my recent trip to Germany.  I was lucky enough to be able to use some frequent flyer miles and hitch a ride in the back of the Lufthansa plane to accompany my husband on his business trip to Munich.  While he was hard at work, I set out across the city of Munich exploring all the local food options.  And what a treat that was!  From the bretzels to the pate' to the cheese and on to goulash, pork chops and of course SAUERKRAUT.... I just spent 5 days in foodie heaven!  And that's not even counting the beer, which even though I am not a big beer person must say was also very tasty!  My favorite place to visit was in the Viktualienmarkt, which is Munich's local farmer's market with a rich display of local produce, meat and cheese providers. They even have a special sauerkraut booth!
Local produce at the Munich Viktualienmarkt
How could this booth be CLOSED on my day to visit??
Sadly some of the market shops were closed on the Monday (SAY IT ISN'T SO but the sauerkraut booth was closed!).  Some of the booths were closed because of all the hoopla leading up to Fausching (what we'd call Fat Tuesday).  For Fausching there are costumes everywhere and music and of course beer flowing freely for several days leading up to Fausching on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday).
A celebration for Fausching in the U bahn (subway)

Marienplatz City Center and glockenspiel

Look at the meat and fish on the buffet!
One of the things that struck me most was how EASY it was to have great food.  Instead of lots of chips and candy and fast food, there were ample places to buy pate', various meats, cheeses and food that gives you proper fuel.  These booths were set up by street vendors all over the plaza at Marienplatz (where the famous Glockenspiel clocks chime), and there were unbelievable spreads of food at every department store.  My German friend Dagmar told me about the food buffet at the department store Karstadt and it was a feast!  
A buffet station at Karstadt
Venison Goulash (note there are no noodles....just mushrooms and sauce)
  One evening we went to the local beer garden more popular with the Munchners (the locals of Munich) called Augustiner Beer Garden.  I noticed how organ meat was much more commonplace on the menu with things like calf's sweetbread and liver dumpling soup.  Even roast knuckle of pork was also on the menu.  I wanted to order the minced lung of veal "sour" with bread dumpling but the waiter said this was not proper for a lady... whatever that meant!  So I went ahead and ordered the venison goulash with cranberries and potato dumpling and I must say it was DEE-LISC-OUS so everything worked out fine. 
   It just went on like that day after sumptuous day!  I had the browned calf's sweetbread and milt sausage with home-made potato and cucumber salad at the more touristy Hofbrauhaus, liver dumpling soup at the Karstadt buffet, and a tasty bretzel on a day trip to Salzburg, Austria.  I think I was born in the wrong country!  I actually do have some German in me on my mother's side and married a man with strong German heritage so maybe that's why I liked the food so much!  There may be a German food paradox as well as most of the people I met were quite slim and stylish save for a few men who clearly spent too much time in the beer halls.  How can they eat this way and stay so slim?  I think it is because they eat real food and don't snack all day on junk food like we do here in the USA.  I can report from my own experience that I didn't gain any weight even after five days of feasting as I limited the bread treats (had only 1 bretzel and pastry...which were SO GOOD!) and tried to eat only during mealtime.  I certainly slathered on the pate' with duck fat and had my fair share of pork and liver so go figure...  
All in all, I left the country desiring to make more of my homemade kraut and to keep exploring what locals eat around the world.  Back home, I feel a bit like Cinderella when her carriage turned back into a pumpkin.  After five days in the land of fairy tales and inspiring castles of Bavaria, I've returned home to scrubbing my floors and the daily routine as a mom to four busy children.  But I leave with wonderful memories and a spark that I didn't have before that will inspire me to reach new heights of culinary exploration back here at home!

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