Monday, September 5, 2011

Oh, those Germans

The SO and I just returned from our vacation to Europe, and we're currently unpacking our overstuffed suitcases. Seriously, we brought back a lot of stuff (we were within a kilogram or so of our weight limit for the flight), and a lot of that was stuff from the grocery store -- tomato paste in a tube (great invention!), cans of vegan mushroom pate, ridiculously cheap and tasty fizzy vitamin tablets, German christmas cookies, etc. My SO understandably misses a lot of food items that you can't get in North America, and even though I've never lived in Germany there are already some things that I'm pretty addicted to as well.

While I love browsing through German grocery store for new things to try, I also like going for the amusement factor. There's some wacky stuff in there. Exhibit one: jars of pickled white asparagus. I don't know quite why I find this so weird, but I really do. Every time I see this stuff, it still strikes me as Star Trek alien food and I wonder why it is that someone would actually want to buy/eat this. Pickled albino alien tentacles!

Another thing that I find amusing about German grocery stores is that they have a lot of beverages that you wouldn't find in North America, and a lot of drinks in general. We went to one "drink store," which was an entire store for juices, water and beer. Some of them are familiar -- I find tomato juice quite tasty, and I'd be willing to try vegetable juice and beet juice, but sauerkraut juice? Who buys that?

Here's the water section of the drink store. Yep, that whole big warehouse space is entirely devoted to different kinds of water! There are several dozen different brands of water here, from different springs and with different degrees of fizziness.

I'm a big fan of fizzy water, but even I can't imagine a need for this many different kinds of fizzy water. The SO suggested that we have a water tasting, and we picked five different brands to try. The green bottle is a "medicinal" water that is supposed to help with digestion and comes with instructions on recommended usage. They do all taste different, but not in any strongly identifiable way. I thought that I'd be able to pick out the ones with high sulfur contents, for example, but they don't really taste like sulfur.

Finally, it's funny but a little horrifying to see what other countries think of your own food culture. It happened to be "American week" at one of the grocery stores that we were at, and the special foods section was stocked with products like these:

I'm guessing the "hamburger sauce" is some sort of blend of ketchup and mayo? Every single "American Way" product was pretty terrifying, and I'm sure that at least some Germans are just as weirded out by those marshmallows as I am at pickled asparagus.

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