Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eurodining VI

After a while, I felt I said enough about Eurodining. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, not to mention the palate. And the move to Austria has led to some new comments.

Quite a lot of food in Graz features pumpkinseed oil, or Kuerbisoel. I was suspicious of this after my encounter with the Samen Koenig, and remain wary, but am getting over it. This is the best salad dressing by far. (I mean, pumpkinseed oil.) I wondered why Americans don't make it, since we have no lack of pumpkins, but am told it requires a special kind of pumpkin that only grows in this region of Austria. Get it together, Californian genetic engineers! Get Styrian pumpkins out there! Styrians also have more pumpkin cream soup, and schnitzel in pumpkin crumbs. Delicious. I am already planning a second suitcase for my May trip to SoCal so I can bring several bottles of pumpkinseed oil.

And wine. I noted that Bremen white wine is generally sweet, whereas the wine here is quite dry. Much better. But similar wine can be found in SoCal, whereas the pumpkinseed oil seems to be a truly local phenomenon.

They also make bratkartoffeln differently in Austria. The northern Germans make it with bacon and onions. The Austrians instead skin the potatoes, bake them, and serve them naked. Also quite good, but I like the German potatoes better. I further learned that the locals have some beef with potato skin. Only figuratively; they do not like potato skin. I learned that after cooking for my labmates 2 weeks ago. I sent this email to everyone in the lab:


Chef Brendan will most humbly grace our esteemed establishment with fine dining today (11 Mar) around lunchtime for anyone interested. Our Haute Cuisine for heute shall be:

Canary Island "Papas Arrugadas" (Wrinkled Potatoes), Boiled with Love and Fresh Sea Salt
A Melange of Gourmet Sliced Austrian and Imported Sausages, Drizzled with Gourmet First Cold Press Olive Oil
Fine Spanish Cured "Jamón ibérico" (Iberian Ham)
A Selection of Fine Leftover Pizzas from Cafe Schillerhof, heated a la Microwave
Cilantro Garlic Sauce
Spicy Pepper Vinegar Sauce
Cheese and Garlic Sauce

Chef Brendan personally assures you the three Canarian sauces remain magnificent and fresh, as determined by visual, gustatory, and olfactory inspection ten minutes ago. Chef Brendan further guarantees that the top three items on our prix fixe menu are even fresher, according to the highest standards of a food supplier so fantastic and elite that he is not even recognized by most gourmet chefs, Messr. Billa.

Substitutions are not allowed.

Your humble culinary servant,
Chef Brendan

My Canary Island potato party was disrupted when the boss came around 11, right when I was about to start boiling the potatoes, which need almost an hour. We met for an hour, meaning lunch was delayed an hour. Otherwise, the event went well, except some of my labbies peeled the skin off the potatoes before eating them. Why? Potato skin is good, and quite healthy. They had an educational cartoon on Saturday mornings, in the same series as "Interplanet Janet" and "Conjunction Junction", just to encourage us to eat potato skin. I know the planets (all nine of them), and can use conjunctions, or, at least I think I can. So the potato skin cartoon must have worked too. Surely, if they had them in Austria, the world balance of power would be different.

After the feast, I busted out a gift my brother brought from China: Pop Rocks. Half the lab smiled knowingly, and a few told me that Austria was not that isolated. The other half disproved that. Yes, several of them had the classic eye opening experience of candy detonating in your mouth. I tried to give some to my bosses, but they did not want it. Probably for the best.

People in Austria and Germany asked me what Americans say when they start their meal. Nothing, really. They don't believe me, but it's true. Unless prayer precedes the meal, we just eat. Maybe "enjoy your meal", but that's it. The Austrians (much more than Germans) have the declaration "Mahlzeit", which means meal time, and can be used before any meal. You say it to comrades at the table, waiters say it to you, you can use it to suggest getting lunch with someone; it is universal. "Guten appetit" runs a distant second. After this or really any greeting, Germans and Austrians alike often answer "likewise". In English. Which is odd, since I never heard any native English speaker use that term. Similarly, they also have pizzas here dubbed California, America, or New York pizza with exotic toppings like corn, broccoli, salami, ham, or tuna. Not authentic, but quite good. I have some in the fridge now patiently awaiting reheating. Mahlzeit!!

No comments: