Culture

Why German is the Best / Warum Deutsch ist die Beste

My brain prefers English and German over all other languages. If English is my mother tongue, then Deutsch is my best friend. Yes, the German language often trips me up or frustrates me – usually it’s something grammatical and irritating – but there is so much to love about German.  In addition to the many cognates that exist, some German words are cuter, sweeter, and funnier than their English translations.  “Hedgehog” becomes “Igel” which I feel better describes the animal’s adorableness. And naturally “gloves” are “handschuhe” – literally “hand shoes”! It just makes sense… 😉

In German, if something is little or cutesy you can add “-chen” on the end of it. A kitten is a “Kätzchen” or “little cat”.  One might call a sweet little kid a “Mäuschen”, or little mouse.

German also has it’s fair share of great onomatopoeia, like “Schluck” for sip, as in taking a drink. Instead of saying “shh” if you are trying to quite someone, Germans go for a harsher version that sounds like “bst”…makes me wonder if their librarians are more effective?

Finally, there are some words in every language that describe a human experience or worldly object for which there is no direct translation. My favorite German examples include: “Schadenfreude” – joy gained from other’s misery or misfortune; “genau” – a combination of concurring and correctness; and “Kuddelmuddel” – a mess, chaos, a nicer way of saying clusterf@$%.

If your German is rusty and you’d like some practice, there are a lot of great technologies available to help you practice and learn that go beyond the old audio tapes.  If you’d like to talk to a real person and get help along the way, WeSpeke is a great way to begin. Another fun app is Duolingo – both companies started here in Pittsburgh!!! Which just goes to show that us yinzers are proud of our multicultural heritage 😀

The final reason I love knowing German is because every time there’s a bad guy in a movie who is inevitably typecast to be German, I know what he or she is really saying. Often, the English translation is not spot-on and knowing that makes me feel smart!

Clothing

Dirndl bodice trial-run / Dirndl-Mieder-Testlauf

While I am not surprised that preparation of my dirndl pattern took me a long time, I must admit that I am getting nervous about the amount of work it is going to take before I have a completed dress! I have cut out the basic bodice pieces in plain white cotton in order to practice sewing them together and see how the fit feels before I take the plunge and cut up my good fabric.  Yes, this is an extra step that is taking up time, but I’m glad I’ve decided to do it because trouble has already arisen in the form of a princess seam.  You’re only trying to sew two very differently shaped pieces of fabric together to form a perfect 3D curve, why should that be hard? SMH well, it’s a good thing we have talented sewers in the family from whom I can get advice! I’ll share the solution with you once I know what it is…Here’s a pic of the front without the back sewn on yet – slow and steady wins the race, folks!

dirndl muslin pic

Something that made me smile today was when my man showed me this wonderful inflatable pretzel on sale now at Toys’R’Us…only $10! I feel an intense need to go buy one, and we don’t even own a pool!

inflatable pretzel

Food

Glücklich zuerst von Mai / Happy May Day!

I can’t believe it is already May 1st!!! Here in America, as well as in Europe, today is marked by holding meetings, marches, and giving public speeches in support of laborers and unions.  But the first of May has long been a day of celebration for Germans since pagan times; festivities can include bonfires, the raising and decorating of a tall maypole, or Maibaum, and dancing and partying around it.  A few years ago my husband and I were at Penn Brewery for May Day and got to see traditional German dancers twirling ribbons around a small maypole. Perhaps they had already sampled the beer, but their intricate dancing and weaving looked rather tricky!

The great thing about this time of year is the increased opportunity to visit the Biergarten (beer garden), although there are not as many open air venues here as I would like.  The most popular and accessible place to drink good beer in the sunshine is at the Hofbräuhaus Pittsburghbut sometimes you want to try a new place. I’m hoping to visit the Biergarten on top of the beautiful Monaco hotel downtown soon, the pictures of food look so good! Last weekend we went to the brand new brewery right across the river in Coraopolis, Cobblehaus Brewing Co. and their beers were great!  This weekend we’ll be heading to the public Maifest being held at the Teutonia Männerchor – last year we went to their Reinheitsgebot fest and had a lot of fun 🙂 Really, any excuse to drink beer and wear my dirndl brings a huge smile to my face!!!

Before I go I also wanted to let you know that April 26th was National Pretzel Day!!! If you missed it, that’s ok, you can still honor the most amazing baked good ever by baking some at home from scratch – don’t worry, it’s easy!!! Check out my sister’s step-by-step recipe below; they taste very close to the real one that can only be gotten in Germay.

Recipe for Bretzeln

Makes 12 pretzels

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 Cups flour (more or less depending on humidity)
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • A butt-load of baking soda
  • Coarse salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Dissolve yeast in water. Mix with oil, sugar, and half of the flour. With electric mixer, beat the mixture for about 3 minutes or until it becomes smooth.
  2. Stir in remaining flour until it forms a loose ball.
  3. On floured surface, kneed the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 5 min).
  4. Put dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or wet tea towel. Place in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour).
  5. Empty dough onto oiled surface – a clean kitchen counter will do – and punch it down. Divide it into 12 equal pieces.
  6. Form each piece into a rope that resembled a skinny snake (takes you back to childhood play-do days, eh?) Twist the dough into a pretzel shape.
  7. Place formed pretzels onto 2-3 oiled baking sheets, allowing the room to grow. Cover and let them rest for 30 min.
  8. In a large pot, boil 10-12 cups water and add 1 Tbsp of baking soda for every cup of water in the pot – yes, it is a lot!
  9. This next part can be tricky – Gently place one pretzel into the water at a time and let boil for 20 seconds. Remove and place back on baking sheet, sprinkle with coarse salt.
  10. Bake the pretzels for 13 minutes or until nicely browned in a 450°F oven.
  11. Serve warm with butter, or cut them open and top with jam, nutella, etc.  Warning: Pretzels will not be good the next day, so eat ’em while you can!