Zwei Gläser Feuerzangenbowle

Glühwein, many Germans would imagine, is a very German thing. Hot red wine with citrus fruit and spices … we’ve known and enjoyed it for generations. Those affiliated with the Swedish culture – by relation or through the marketing stunts of a certain Swedish furniture company – will be familiar with the Scandinavian variant glögg. But did you know that the English have it, too?

I was surprised to hear that ‘mulled wine’ is not just a translation of glögg or Glühwein, but is actually its own long-standing tradition in Great Britain. Though probably drunk primarily at home and not at Christmas markets, which are just starting to gain ground over there, the concept – and presumably most recipes – are utterly identical.

The Wikipedia entry for ‘mulled wine’, however, reminded me of an interesting German variation of the Glühwein formula, namely Feuerzangenbowle (literally ‘fire tongs punch’), which has earned its own right, both as a cult film to be watched as a happening Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show style with bring-along gadgets such as an alarm clock, a torch and a sparkler and as the beverage which gave the film (or rather the book it is based on) its name and is now the flagship drink for New Year’s Eve. Picture a large bowl of mulled wine and a bridge-like metal contraption suspended across the opening of said bowl and holding a large sugar cone. This sugar cone is then soaked with rum and set on fire. More rum is added until the sugar cone has completely dissolved, dripping, together with the rum, into the wine. This light, low-calorie drink is guaranteed to make all of your guests happy.

And, how do you take yours – subtitled or dubbed? Read more next week …

For the purpose of promoting international understanding, here’s Jamie Oliver’s recipe for mulled wine(including one lime!):

The Pommes Buddha says: Dust off your punch bowls and stoke the fire!

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A saint called Martin

Different handmade lanterns, Sankt Martin

Have some of you expats, newly-arriveds and visitors ever wondered about parades of children with lanterns accompanied by a horse and rider crowding the streets in the November twilight? Or about open fires that no-one seems to be concerned about? And what is a Martinsgans, anyway?

Apart from the regional beginning-of-carnival-season craze, 11 November in Germany is also St Martin’s Day. In late October and early November, schools and nurseries are busy making lanterns with the children, which the little ones then carry proudly on the day of the parade, suspended from poles with little light bulbs to illuminate the precious artworks. Songs are sung, ‘Sankt Martin’ being the most famous one, and ‘St Martin’ and the horse guide the crowd around the block to the bonfire. And then, there’s the best part: each child gets a Weckmann, also called a Stutenkerl in some regions, a man made of fluffy white yeast dough clutching a clay pipe (which used to be a real pipe until everyone knew that it was excellently suited for smoking weed, so now it is just a phoney thing).

This is all in honour of St Martin of Tours, an ascetic monk-turned-bishop who, the story goes, compassionately cut his cloak in half to share it with a beggar who was freezing in the snow. The custom of the bonfire (‘Martinsfeuer’) is likely to stem from Germanic midwinter and thanksgiving traditions, with the lanterns (and sometimes torches) fulfilling the same role. The Weckmann probably represents St Martin himself.

During this time of year, many restaurants offer a traditional ‘St Martin’s Goose Meal’ of roasted goose leg served with red cabbage and potato dumplings. This goes back to a legend of St Martin hiding among geese to avoid a fuss over his becoming a bishop and being ‘told on’ by the animals. If your bouche has been ‘amused’ by this, you will look forward to the Variations of Lime on next week’s menu.

The Pommes Buddha says: We love a bit of goose-flesh in the winter.

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Rut un wieß

Pommes frites

Damit meint der Rheinländer eigentlich die Farben seines Herzensfußballvereins, des 1. FC Köln. (Das gleichnamige Lied der Kölner Band Bläck Föös wurde zur Hymne, die vor jedem FC-Spiel im Stadion gesungen wird.) „Pommes rot-weiß“ allerdings, gelegentlich auch „Pommes Bahnschranke“ („chips railway gate style“, da die Schranken an Bahnübergängen in Deutschland rot-weiß gestreift sind) genannt, sind ein Klassiker in deutschen Pommesbuden.

Die Farbbezeichnung ist eine Anspielung auf die beiden deutschen Beigaben zu Pommes frites schlechthin, nämlich Ketchup und Mayonnaise (im Volksmund kurz „Mayo“).

Mayonnaise??? With chips??? Schüttelt es die entsetzte Engländerin. In „good old Britain“ wird diese sämige Verbindung aus Eigelb und Öl ausschließlich als Geschmacksträger auf Sandwiches verwendet, oder gelegentlich mal in einem Salat. Nein, der echte Brite, vorwiegend der unteren und mittleren Gesellschaftsschichten, isst seine chippies niemals ohne Essig! Und zwar nicht irgendeinen Essig (obschon er, so er sich länger in unserem schönen Land aufhält, mangels Alternativen in deutschen Küchen manchen Kummer tapfer zu ertragen gezwungen ist), sondern Malzessig.

Obgleich in unseren Breiten inzwischen die Kartoffelchips mit „Salt & Vinegar“-Geschmack Einzug erhalten haben und zahlreiche Abnehmer zu finden scheinen, treten dennoch bei den meisten Teutonen allein bei der Vorstellung von Pommes frites mit Essig die Geschmacksnerven in Generalstreik.

Nun ja. „There’s all sorts,“ wie der Engländer sagt. Oder: „Jede Jeck is anders,“ wie es im Rheinland heißt. Im Norden Deutschlands sagt man eher: „Wat dem eenen sin Uhl, is dem annern sin Nachtigall.“ Aber mehr dazu nächste Woche …

Der Pommes-Buddha sagt: Es ist egal, was du auf deine Pommes tust. Hauptsache ist, es macht dich glücklich.

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Wisdoms of the Pommes Buddha

Wisdoms of the Pommes Buddha KW40

The Pommes Buddha is not, as you might suspect, the guru of some new type of religion in the style of the Spaghetti Monster. Rather, it is based on an acoustic misconstruction.

When my English husband first came to Germany, he misheard the very German concept of the Pommesbude (‘chip shop’) to mean Pommes Buddha, and mused what kind of a wondrous authority this ominous Germanic Buddha may be. Like a number of other words, the word Pommes for chips, or French fries, comes from the French pommes frites, as they are also called on most German menus. In colloquial German, however, we refer to the fried potato sticks as Pommes (with an emphasis on the first syllable and, unlike in French, a distinct pronunciation of the -s) or Fritten (hence the rather nerdy, would-be casual alternative Frittenschmiede, literally a ‘chip forge’ – use only if you also have a penchant to wear white tennis socks with sandals).

This is a good time and place to issue a word of warning, dear reader. The German Pommes have nothing, and I repeat: NOTHING, in common with your good old English chippies, as my husband never gets tired of pointing out. Somewhat larger in diameter than the average French fry (for my German readers who may be unaware: the kind that McDonald’s or Burger King serve), they are neither mushy nor, to use the precise and more appropriate technical term, ‘chippy’ enough for any self-respecting Englishperson to write home about. Even the larger, square and chunky Belgian variety, available at selected Pommesbuden at least in our western part of the country, does not elicit outbreaks of patriotic soppiness worth mentioning. So a call at the local fish and chip shop is first on any agenda when visiting la Grande Bretagne – which brings me to the matter of chip accompaniments. But that’s a whole other story … to be continued next week.

The Pommes Buddha says: One man’s Pommes are another man’s chips.

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