22 November 2008

That was nothing!

In the previous post I wrote about being excited to find many gambe secche and to try them out. Well, that that time's funghi hunt was nothing compared to the next ones! One of the good things about living here right now is that I have a lot of time to explore and to be swept by whatever current is passing by. So a short walk to the postoffice turned out to be a funghi hunt with a real expert. We encoutered an uncle on the street who was just on his way to collect funghi and he offered us a ride and free advice. Hours were spent in the fields and it is a great thing to be outside, surrounded by beautiful mountains, breathing fresh air, searching for free food!
That day, we looked for prataioli, boleti pinophili and again gambe secche. And after hours of collecting, chatting, drinking homemade limoncello at the uncle's house, I came home with this bag in my cold hands: 1,5 kg!

Collecting food yourself is exciting: contrary to growing food in a garden (which I'd like to start next year), which entails the slow process of seeing seeds sprout and plants shooting up in the air, there is the fast excitement of finding the things you are looking for. You start recognizing the places in the grass where boleti are hiding, and the ring shape that gambe secche make. There is some greed in it, but fortunately the quite early sunset here in the south of Europe puts this to an end. It is slow, though, and collecting is not the end, for this 1,5 kilo worth of edibles needs to be cleaned before consumption. Removing snails, legs, slime and grass, meanwhile pondering over in which way they will end up on the plate.
After cleaning and sorting:

Now, the question is: what to do with this abundance? Here are some answers.
The prataioli:
- went into a salad (the fresh pink ones)
- were chopped finely into a thick soup with nothing else but butter, flour, pepper, salt and stock. (The soup was described 'Nordic'. I took it as a compliment.)
The boletus pinophilus is not very valued by Italians as it is a very watered down, C-class 'version' of the famous porcino, still I liked it:
- 'classic Italian style' in red wine, garlic and peperoncino and eaten on fire-roasted bread.
The gambe secche
- were eaten with linguine
- were put to dry.
Finally, all leftovers and also results of another hunt were made into risotto.
Here is a picture which shows some kitchen marvels and my excellent computer skills:

And as winter is coming, I will spend some more time in Scurcolan fields armed with nothing but a knife and a plastic bag....

17 November 2008

Dry legs

I moved to Italy now one month ago. From January on, I will start my new job as translator for INRAN, the Italian national institute for nutrition. Until then, I will focus on learning Italian and exploring my new home and its surroundings. Fascinated as I had become in Berlin by eating 'found food' from my roof terrace, I am happy to be able to explore this further here in Italy. It is autumn, and warm days where I can sit outside on the amazing terrace and read a book find their counterparts in heavy rains and thunderstorms. (Yesterday night, a lightning and thunder were right above the house and both struck so hard that the windows shook in their frames, the cat stayed under the bed for hours and my own body seemed to be electrified with adrenalin and maybe even electricity....) Autumn brings interesting weather and many things to find.

The first ever mushrooms I picked myself are called 'gambe secche', dry legs, and are apparently good in pasta (but hey, in Italy, everything which is not ananas or banana or peanut butter seems to be good with pasta! It is great that I finally can live without eating the dreaded 'Nudeln', the German blasphemisation of pasta....). Gambe secche have long stems which are quite hard and not very enjoyable. After having picked them on a field at sunset their legs were brutally removed and the crowns were carefully placed on newspaper so that they can dry. Interestingly, today they began to release their spores. Resting high on a shelf in the kitchen (to shield them from the cat and her omnipresent hairs), they throw a wave of their smell into the room every now and then: a bit irony, and downright weird. As they are still drying, I have no clue about how they taste, but I read somewhere that they are sweet and therefore are sometimes used in cookies. I do not have the abundance, nor a working oven to try such interesting experiments, but I trust the Italians and their pasta!

16 October 2008


Yesterday I moved to Italy, after having spent the last 5 years in Berlin. There was a lot of packing and categorizing stuff to do, this gave me no time to reflect or get sad, fortunately! I took some pictures those days, for as we all know, pictures tell more than words!
View from my window on a clear night:

A nice dinner shared with my nice boyfriend. Potatoes+salvia, leeks+peas, scamorza+chives:

Autumn is beautiful, for it produces wonderfully colored things like this:

Hokkaido pumpkin for risotto

And mangold/bietola:

And speaking of autumn colors, this pic made by Bruno this week shows one of the reasons I moved to Abruzzo:

19 September 2008

Deze weken doe ik mijzelf eens tegoed aan het veelvuldig bellen met Belgische mannen. Oftewel, ik werk in een callcenter en heb in het kader van dit hooggewaardeerde werk de volgende zin:
"Goedemorgen/middag, mijn naam is LP, ik werk voor Professor Baaken van de Universiteit van Münster en bel in het kader van een klantentevredenheidsonderzoek voor het bedrijf WILO. Heeft u met WILO pompen te maken en zou u een kwartiertje de tijd hebben om wat vragen te beantwoorden?" zo ongeveer duizend keer uit mogen spreken. Naast het plezier dat dit mij verschaft, maak ik grappen met mijn collega's, oefen ik mijn Frans, kijk en luister zéér geïnteresseerd naar mijn Deense collega's en verbaas me erover hoe weinig kennis Duitsers bezitten over het verschil België-Vlaanderen-Nederland-Holland. Mijn collega Sander en ik spreken dus deze weken beide 'holländisch'. Moge de beste winnen ;).

Hoe dan ook, het werk is dusdanig stomvervelend dat ik me uit gewoonte en verveling richt op details. Op afwisselingsgebied is helaas bij dit werk Schraalhans keukenmeester, maar ik heb toch prachtige dingen gevonden. Het adres wordt altijd aangegeven als ik een potentiele geinterviewde bel. Sommige Belgische straatnamen zijn prachtig, ik laat ze voor zichzelf spreken, maar heb wel een hierarchie aangebracht, mijn top 3:

1. Weg naar de Grauwe Steen
2. Engelse Wandeling
3. Politieke Gevangenenstraat

De volgende namen verdienen niet minder een plaats op dit blog:
- Ginderbuiten
- Oorlogstraat
- Kastanjekouter
- Lutlommel
- Madeliefjeslaan
- Roodkapjeslaan

De plaatsnaam 'Dworp' wil ik mijn eventuele lezers ook niet onthouden, en 'Elewaut' moet worden getrouwd!

17 September 2008

berlin roof food

I have a huge roof terrace with many plants on it. The plants that were planted in spring all died from the month-long drought early summer. When it started to rain again, new, 'unplanned' plants came up, and some of the spring plants did survive. Now is the time to harvest, and I am ever so happy to be able to eat a meagre amount of stuff I consume from my own 'backyard' in the city!
There is enough to make a salad rumex and tropaeolum with turnip and watercress:

and my favorite pasta-comfort-food, penne with salvia, butter and parmigiano:

06 September 2008

After having worked in so many schools in little villages, it was time to visit a big-city-school in Berlin. Despite the apparently smaller distance between the sleeping place and the school, this still meant getting up at 6 in the morning. One advantage about sleeping at home: the coffee is much much better! And the cat likes to spend her nights on my blanket.
Big city school impressions: quite spoiled, bored, uninterested kids. So much to do at such little distance, but their main hobbies were 'chatting and talking on the phone'. This mood worsened, insults were made, kids were kicked out, not so nice. I had to go drink an after-work beer to make it up:
I should make the second theme of this blog 'pictures on the walls of schools'. The pictures in Berlin reflected a deep longing for the not-so-far-away country life.

Yet the animals outside wanted to explore the inside world.

Today not so much text, but only some pics...I noticed I have to learn some HTML to make this blog and the pics look nicer, and the clickable pics should be smaller next time.
Promise! For now: I will eat the chocolate-almond pudding I just made, with of course a cherry on top. Rain on a Saturday night.

03 September 2008

Genthin and Parchen

Oh dear! I finally, finally worked at two German schools again, after 1,5 months of submerging myself in Italian goodness. I came home on a Sunday and dove deep into Sachsen-Anhalt village life on Tuesday. Quite a culture shock, and I think I can say I was the one with the darkest skin color in entire Genthin....
Once again, the culinarities that German small town offers were also represented here, and not more than that: one "Asia-Imbiss", one pizzeria (but with real oven!) and one Gasthaus with German food. Spoiled as I had gotten by Italian pizza, I appreciated the German interpretation even less this time: thick crust, 1 kilo cheese and 3 olives. That covered one night of dinner. The second night I was lazy and opted for the Gasthaus in the hotel we stayed at, which resulted in eating a not-even-so-bad tomatosoup (yet the mozzarella which they had creatively added, had tried to take its original ball-shaped form again at the bottom of the cup) and boiled potatoes with butter and parsley.

On the schools, we were provided with food this time, but I didn't have the time to eat so much, let alone take pictures. The second day, there were salads in boxes, and old fries. The fries were quite disappointing, I thought Germans formed a holy alliance with potatoes? Hm, maybe an exception was made here, for as we all know, Dutch make better fries.

There were more things in the room as I ate the fries:

Only on the last day I found a plate I could eat in peace, after a whole day of running around trying to do my job as well as possible. Unfortunately, I didn't like it so much; on the pictures it looks quite harmless, but I simply cannot bear this slimy substance on an empty stomach.

And even though the food was not too special (but had I expected that?), there were other interesting things: the usual skeletons in the biology classroom seemed to be taken care of with love, grasshoppers seem to like chewing gum, flies and coffee beans can easily be confused and funeral dresses are not so sad after all.

01 September 2008

Thanks to Chocolate and Zucchini, I found this 'game':

"The Omnivore's Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you've eaten.
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

[Update: In response to the numerous questions his list raised, Andrew published an FAQ explaining the how, the why, and the wherefore.] "

I added a couple more things (and Bruno also had some suggestions), as I found that for a vegetarian like me, a lot of things are crossed out on the mere fact they are dead animals which I don't eat. If you don't know some of them, Wikipedia is there to teach you!

The VGT Omnivore's Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare -vaguely remember eating it when i was a kid-
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda -without anchovies, i'd eat it-
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo -without fish, i'd eat it-
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects -yet not as a culinary treat, more a result of biking with open mouth-
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst -vegetarian-
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill - i had the chance once, but didn't eat it-
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse -as a kid-
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam -as a kid-
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I feel free to add a couple more:

101. Chinotto (Neri)
102. Hangop
103. Germknödel
104. Straciatella (the cheese)
105. Cedrata
105. Home-made seitan from scratch
106. Peanuts in coke (the drink, duh)
107. Kale
108. Salmiak liquor
109. Dubbelzoute drop
110. Liquorice (the root itself)
111. Salicornia
112. Marmite
113. Liquid smoke
114. Gobbi
115. 'Patatje oorlog' (fries with peanut butter sauce, mayonaise and onions)
116. Anything from a dumpster
117. Salty hering
118. Gelsi
119. Pierogi
120. Agretti
121. Rapette
122. Bryndza cheese from Slovakia
123. Marcetto
124. Porcupine
125. Raw octopus
126. Slibovica
127. Willow sprouts
128. Chips & vinegar
129. Rabbit testicles
130. Cat/Dog food
131. Quail eggs
132. Tempeh
133. Mosto cotto
134. Fresh stroopwafel

29 May 2008


This blog is often in the back of my head, searching for stories to tell. Yet I have been quite busy these last weeks, and the stories I could tell would be about writing a MA thesis in Political Philosophy, working in the office of the project to set up a ordening system for all the digital and analog stuff produced by us, preparing for a trip from Paris to Copenhagen and leading a group of young kids on a school trip through Berlin. I know there are many blogs managing to write possibly interesting stuff about exactly these subjects, but in me, "the writing muscle was not tickled" (would you use these things with a serious tone in spoken language, I would call such sentence a "pearl") for a while.
I need to stumble upon things, and exactly that happened. Well, not exactly stumbled. I was in the Story of Berlin museum with the group of school kids as I found a memory card on the floor there, just beside the official GDR state officials' car. I asked my group if anyone had lost it, and of course, only about three kids heard this, so I took the card in case someone would come to me to ask for it. No one did. The card ended up in my room and today I decided to see what is on it to detect any possible relations to the kids in my group. To my surprise, I found not a familiar, but a somehow kindred spirit.

The card contained three pictures of people whom I did not recognize. All the other pictures were of food products! Either cans with typical German meat products, seemingly of good quality, or with the products on a plate. I wonder with which purpose they were made, as they are made with some care and try to display the products in the best possible way. Was it the butcher who made the products who wants to advertise the products? A restaurant who has them on the menu? A tourist with an obsession for picturing food products?

The files do not carry any descriptions, and that makes it hard to tell which food comes from which can.

I will write the butcher mentioned on the can, maybe it was his card, and this story will have the happy end it does not deserve. For still: MEAT IS MURDER. And that is where the kinship ends!

27 April 2008

It's been over a week since I came back from Bad Berka (close to Weimar) for two days working with Cultures Interactive. It was intense there, and even more so after coming back to Berlin. My friends from Rome came to play in Berlin with their band Mithra, and it was such an amazing concert. Goes in my top 10 for sure*. It is great that they are my friends and that these friends produce such great music. They keep evolving and trying out new stuff and that is what I like a lot in bands, not sticking to the same old stuff. They brought out a new CD which is great, they play with a percussionist who hits the djembe Senegalese style (which I came to like, to my own surprise); I hope they will soon put one of the new songs on their site for everyone to hear!

With all these Italians coming to Berlin, even a bottle of Chin8 Neri magically popped up. Chinotto is very hard to find in Berlin and even if, it is the Pellegrino brand, which is nothing compared to the real bitterness and full taste that Chin8 Neri offers. Drinking this mix of chinotto citrus fruit extract and herbs, I get launched back at hot afternoon lunches in Rome, accompanied by good food. And there it stands, the rare bottle, during lunch time with good food and friends, on one of the first spring days on my roof! (The bottle has a new design ((here the old design)) and some voices say also the taste changed. I think it looks stylish and tastes the same. Any opinions on this?)

The Romans now unfortunately have left and with their warm presence also the group-excursions into Berlin's nightlife...Which is slightly better for my health and my productivity...More time to reflect when the choice is not between Kreuzburger or Aki Tatsu, but between writing a blog and going to sleep.

Back to BAD Berka, which really does deserve its first name... Intense it was, these two days we spent with the Klosterschule students. Without going into too many details (these on request), I can say that there are some people there who do not share my and the project's tolerant and democratic opinions, and are willing to act on that...

Therefore, lunch break on the first day was mainly spent with checking out some right wing stupids who tried to make their way into the school, causing panic amongst the students. Poor kids, so young, already scared about getting beaten up because of alleged 'political' opinions such as wearing band shirts....But as things had calmed down a little, I made my way into the class room where I held my workshop on Gefundenes Fressen, which is where also school lunch was served. Apparently, this was only for to the young kids. The two 'ovens' were situated in what was really just an ordinary class room. The woman that served it had the task of getting the boxes out and opening them for the kids. I did not get a chance to see what was actually in them, as I had some other things to do (eating lunch myself: bread and spread and an apple, bought by my colleague Nico, thanks for that!). Too bad I did not have time or focus to investigate about this way of serving food at a school.

I did find some other funny things on this school. This picture goes into the category 'pictures that frighten me'.** It was pinned on a wall in a classroom.

Then this sign was above the toilets in the hallway, i think it looks cool!

After work, we ate our „big meals“ in the restaurant in our hotel: very mediocre Greek (!) food and quite expensive....In a small town like Bad Berka, of course, options are limited. There are about 3 places where you could eat food more than just a snack. We ate a couple of times in a place which was not bad at all – it has a quite extensive vegetarian menu – the Ratsstuben in the centre. Well, we did go in, but never got our food!! This due to the fact that we chose to stand behind our colleague when she was threatened by right wing stupids just outside the door – the owner of the place 'didn't want anything to do with that' and pleased us to leave. Nice way to keep your customers happy!***

The next day we spent in Kranichfeld, to put up the Open Space in the sporthall of the school there. This sporthall was not our first choice, but the bad people again decided we could not be at the place where we originally intended to go.

It was very cold in Kranichfeld, and it reminded me of the days in November we spent there. It felt as if the weather had not changed since then; grey sky, a wet cold creeping into my bones, foggy...Remember the potatoes with the radiant sauce taken in this school? This time, no such food for us, since the canteen was only open to students this day. After a long day of work and surviving on bread brought from breakfast, we ended up in Blankenhain. We had to take care of our van at the Volkswagen garage there, because mysterically, a screw had found its way into one of the tires.... All restaurants close between 13.00 and 17.00 in small German towns, which is exactly the time we finish working and want to eat. After making a small closed restaurant odyssee in Blankenhain, we humbly ended up eating our supermarkt-bought lunch on the supermarkt parking lot....

I was more than happy to be back in Berlin and to have a choice of where to eat...Yet realizing that I find myself in the luxurious position to do this, whereas the nice kids I worked with are stuck in that BAD place. Hope the project can contribute to make their lives a little better....

Conclusion: no food for us on the schools, getting kicked out of a restaurant, eating supermarket lunch sitting on a parking place....I wonder if things will become any worse this year! Too bad the next time to find this out will only be in June.

* Also ranking: Trial in Budapest in 2005, Catharsis in Poortgebouw Rotterdam 2001, Zegota in De Vliegende Hond Utrecht 2003, By the Grace of God in Volta Amsterdam 1997, Explosions in the Sky in Paradiso Amsterdam 2007, Yage in Acu Utrecht ????, Highscore in Baracke Münster 2004, Tragedy in Köpi Berlin in 2003 and Betercore in Leiden ????

** The picture that made me make up this category I found in Marnitz. It was painted on the wall in the youth hostel we stayed at. Despite the bright neon light shining on it, it freaked me out....

*** Schlechte Werbung nochmal auf Deutsch: der Inhaber von dem Gasthaus Ratsstuben in Bad Berka hatte uns dringend gebeten, den Raum zu verlassen, nachdem unsere Kollegin beim Telefonieren vor der Tür von Naaazis bedroht wurde und wir sie verteidigen wollten. Seine Worte: 'Mit sowas will ich nichts zu tun haben'. Wir wurden also rausgeschickt, als wir uns in einer gefährlichen Situation befunden, die definitiv nicht von uns verursacht wurde. Super, so zeigt man Gastfreundschaft und Zivilcourage! Leider war das Wort Zivilcourage in Bad Berka nicht nur an dieser einen Stelle unbekannt, sondern scheint es ein weitverbreitetes Phänomen zu sein , dass die Menschen in Bad Berka lieber die Problematik von sich weisen und Veranstaltungen gegen Rechtsextremismus nicht zulassen, Treffen verhindern und generell kein offenes Bekenntnis gegen Nazis ablegen, weil sie alle davon ausgehen, dass es "doch lieber die Anderen machen sollen" und dass man eigentlich mal dem gesamten Ort eine Schulung in Zivilcourage verpassen müsste.

29 March 2008

Having started the school food project, I was really enthusiastic and I could not wait to leave for Marnitz to see what would be waiting for me there, food-wise.

Getting to Parchim (where we were staying two nights) was a small disaster: we left from Berlin at 19.00 for a 2 hour drive. We had just left Berlin as we discovered one of the front lights of the rental van was not working. We stopped and waited 2 hours at the gas station for "the angels of the road" (!), the ADAC, to help us. We saw the clock ticking the hours of sleep away....(had to get up at 6 the next morning). Finally we reached Parchim shortly before 23.00. A local pizza place was convinced to still make pizzas for us and we arrived at our rooms, with incredible hunger and 8 boxes with pizza, at 23.30....The pizzas smelled supergood, but as we opened our boxes they revealed the thing that was gonna plague us in the night....All different pizzas smelled, looked and tasted the same. And that was not good. In bed, my body could not really decide between sleeping or digesting, so it did neither. Here is how it looked like the next day:

The next day I realized I did not go there only to make a project about food, but to also actually work for the project. In this case, work meant a lot of work and stress and no time to care about food at the school. I was busy preparing and giving my workshop and on the second day I was busy organizing the Open Space method. I only ate what I brought to the school from breakfast (bread rolls) in our cosy place to stay, which looked like this from outside (we were staying were the light is burning):

My colleagues did find some time to eat food sold at the school:

What Mario and Menze are eating (Thomas also seems to eat the bread rolls from breakfast) is the vegetarian version of this:

The picture comes from a project I stumbled upon today, "Werbung gegen Realität". The artist bought 100 products from German supermarkets and made pictures of the actual product, to compare them with the picture on the package. It made me think if I take it for granted that there is such incongruency that advertisement creates. I know the picture on the package is not corresponding with the actual product, yet still I buy these products.