Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meals and Memories

Like my left cheek and my Box Brownie, my appetite is something which automatically accompanies me whenever I travel. It always needs the appropriate attention. I am not one to demand that my trip be an international culinary experience of the highest order. Neither would I be seen too often – if at all - under the golden arches. Why even at home I tend to avoid Macdonalds, and KFC and Hungry Jacks and....... But the inner man must be fed.

Now I could mention a few dining experiences like eating Hungarian Goulash in Sopron (Hungary), Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna, Sauerbraten and Bratkartoffeln in Bavaria or savouring coffee and cake on the footpath of an expensive cafe in St Moritz (Photo); but I won't. Instead I want to mention a few gimmicky things.

Let's go to where the hills are alive with the sound of music and the confectionery shops are full of Mozartkugeln. If you love chocolate and are in Salzburg you will certainly try a selection of Mozartkugeln (Mozart balls) – a round chocolate delicacy full of tantalizing tastes. They are definitively morish. The original Kugeln were first produced by a confectioner back in 1890. He called them Mozartkugeln after the famous musician who was born in the city. Perhaps one could imagine a sweet in the shape of a piano key (white and dark chocolate) more suitable to bear Wolfgang Amadeus' name. Perhaps we could call them Mozartfinger and sell them to the tune of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik! I suspect that Herr Fürst, who first made the Kugeln was a shrewd businessman. He realized that 1891 was the 100th anniversary of Mozart's death, and I am sure that would have boosted sales. The Fürst company is still operating in Salzburg making the Kugeln by hand according to the original recipe. But he did not copyright the name.

We now travel to the home of the Rothenburg snowballs. These are something you can nibble on while visiting the popular town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber on Germany's Romantic Road. This snowball is a round pastry delicacy the size of a large apple, dusted in sugar powder to give it the appearance of a snowball. Then there are others covered in chocolate or caramel and various other concoctions – certainly not your pristine snowballs. Nice to nibble on it's true, but I wouldn't go to Rothenburg just for the Schneebälle. They do, however, add to my Rothenburg memories.

More generally, there are foods which take you back to specific occasions which you cannot forget. Still in Europe, but years ago, I ordered a “butcher's plate” in Erbach in the Odenwald area of Germany. This was a selection of fresh sausages with accompanying vegetables; well, potatoes and sauerkraut. All was going well until I cut into the blood sausage and warm blood ran over my whole plate. Memorable also was being at boarding school and having flybog and peanut paste on bread. This was in the days before fly-screens and the school was adjacent to cattle sale yards. And golden syrup is very sticky! Or that Sunday lunch at my second boarding school when the cook must have put too much gelatine in the jelly. Which is hard to grasp for we had jelly and custard EVERY Sunday. The inedible jelly prompted certain undisciplined boys to bounce jelly cubes off the dining room walls. Such memories could be multiplied.

Meals and memories. Which reminds me of a drawing hanging in our dining room (Photo).It is our daughter's representation of the last supper when she was in grade two many years ago. OOPs! Some years ago. This Jewish festival of Passover and its Christian “equivalent” of Mass, Holy Communion, The Lord's Commerative Meal, epitomizes all those advantages (Dare I say blessings?) of eating together – memories, thanks, bonding, security and love. Babies first experience it at their mother's breast, or indeed in the arms of their father who is feeding them. Children feel it eating as a family at the dining table and this feeling of unity is heightened when the meal itself has been prepared in the family home by family members. The take-away fast food industry has a lot to answer for apart from its contribution to the present nutrition crisis in Western Societies.

The other two photos:
1.A medieval depiction of the Last Supper set in an outer wall of the Gothic church of St George in the small town of Dinkelsbühl in Southern Germany.
2.The main panel of The Holy Blood Altar carved by the fifteenth century artist Tilman Riemenschneider located in the Jacob's Church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Much more interesting than a snowball!

1 comment:

Kris said...

Ttina loves Mozart balls but me, not so much. I think my most memorable travel food is a creamy tomato soup in Vietnam - ethnically pure but so good. Also, strawberry shortcake in a little farmhouse in rural England, with roses and Queen Anne's lace all around.

Who is it who doesn't close drawers shut? I want to know where I got it from? I don't fill glasses either, and I know that's from the stingy orange juice pourings of my childhood.