I get nostalgic about Europe sometimes, Austria and Germany in particular, since I haven’t been there in over a decade, and I particularly miss the different foods. I get awfully tired of the same American flavors, and I try different ethnic variations. I can’t get into flavoring main courses with peanuts or lemongrass much, which is my own bias, and I can’t seem to get my family enthused about the foods I really miss from Austria and Germany.
I have tried making these things at home, but our ingredients are just not the same, or I couldn’t get the ones that are. I did finally find an online company that will ship perishables that might do the trick. I won’t recommend them until I’ve tried the foods.
1. Bauernbrot: There is no bakery in any area where I’ve lived for the last 26 years that makes real Bauernbrot. What makes that particularly obnoxious is that it’s ubiquitous in Austria and Germany – not at all a delicacy, it’s available everywhere, all the time, and is eaten the same way we Americans eat squishy white bread. And it used to be dirt cheap, too. It’s a rye bread, but not with seeds or distinctly dark, it just has rye in it but that doesn’t dominate the flavor. It’s got a wonderful, chewy crust, the bread is firm, and it went great with everything, even when it was starting to get stale. When fully stale, you could hammer nails into mahogany with it, though, which made it a good crouton for French onion soup.
2. Leberknoedelsuppe – Liver Dumpling Soup. I am one of those few people who actually enjoys the taste of liver, but there are only two ways to get it in a restaurant here in the states – fried to within an inch of its life, in a big slab, with either bacon or onions, or, if you’re lucky enough to be down South, you can get breaded and fried chicken livers in a nice gravy, over rice. No one else in my family will eat it either way, so I wind up settling for slab liver maybe once a year out in a restaurant. I miss Liver Dumpling Soup. It was a perfect winter soup – warm, filling, flavorful… Did I mention filling? On a student’s budget, that was particularly important. About two years ago I did drive two hours to meet a cousin at a “real” German restaurant. I ordered LDS in the restaurant, and I just about swooned with delight. I even got some to bring home. That’s a long way to go for a bowl of soup, though.
3. Gulaschsuppe: Goulash soup. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this, not even on a menu in an ethnic restaurant, here in the states. Maybe it’s exclusively, or predominantly, Austrian. I lived on it for the better part of my exchange year because it was cheap, nutritious, and, yes, filling. It also taught me how real paprika can be used in cooking – Oh, boy!
4. Semmelknoedeln: Dumplings made from bread cubes. It sounds nasty, but they’re really tasty – more flavorful than most large dumplings, and a perfect accompaniment to anything with a gravy worth savoring. And, if you only have a little Gulaschsuppe left, pouring it over a Semmelknoedel is a great way to make sure you don’t miss a speck of soup!
5. Fresh Austrian Marzipan: Both Austria and Germany have a lot of spankingly good pastries and desserts, most of which are more the type I usually like – not too sweet, excellent pastry, fruit in abundance, unsweetened whipped cream, but there’s nothing in the whole world like sitting down with a Wiener Mélange and a piece of freshly made Austrian marzipan and people watching. One bite, one slurp of coffee, and my bones used to just slide right out onto the pavement as the rest of me got all blissed out on that perfect combination of flavors. I was probably, unknowingly, quite entertaining, getting all relaxed and smiling like a lunatic over my marzipan and mélange. So what? I’d make a fool of myself all over again, for just that reason, if the opportunity arose.
So, when my goodies get here, I’ll give them a try and report on the results. Until then, have a great weekend!