By now you know I have a total love-hate relationship with my tiny German kitchen.
The four burners are small, the oven is small, the fridge is old and makes noises.
But, I love to cook and bake.
Taking full advantage of having a rental car in the city for a couple of days, I went on an adventure to a REAL. The store is a ‘hypermarket’ that is a large supermarket and offers some other products like clothes and electronics. I’m used to this being called a superstore, but in Germany I just don’t think that exists.
I knew that I wouldn’t find everything I was looking for here: cough – corn tortillas, but I figured I’d explore and at least find some stuff that would be easier to transport with a car home opposed to walking.
My purchased items included a case of Beck’s beer for 10 EUR. I can still remember the first time I drank a Beck’s, it was just outside of Bremen. My Onkel Gustel really enjoyed this beer, so on my first trip to Europe, I drank Beck’s at his and my Tante Leni’s house. The second Euro-Trip 3 years later included more beer. This second trip, was also when I was actually enjoying drinking beer. It was on this trip that my Tante Leni lent me her mini-beer boot. You see, the 1-litre beer boot glass was my Onkel’s and no one else was allowed to use it. I’m clearly overjoyed that I got to drink German beer in a glass boot. (Cheers to Beerfest for popularizing this, however all Germans know the trick!)
Circle back to REAL. I looked for some pulled pork meat or beef brisket without any success. What I was surprised to find were boneless skinless chicken thighs. Yum. These juicy suckers haven’t been in the food rotation since moving to this sausage-loving country. Why? Well simply because I have never seen them in my neighbourhood supermarket, nor the bigger shop I go to for more varieties of food. Sweet, going to get creative with some thighs.
I spent over an hour in this hyperstore. Taking my time, I knew I had a car so I wasn’t rushing to get home for something. Just out of curiosity, I looked through all the food aisles. In the toiletries aisle, they too, were subject to the Hamsterkauf. I mean come-on people, didn’t we learn anything from the March 2020 lockdown? That’ll be my only mention of something to do with the ‘Rona’ in this post.
I was hoping to buy some larger sizes of items I already buy, but I was a little surprised at how much there wasn’t. For example, I did get a kilo sized bag of long and wild grain rice. However, when I looked in the baking aisle, it was the same 1KG bags of flour at all the other shops. You know in Canada, I don’t think I’ve seen flour come in a bag smaller than 5KG – just saying.
Now that I had my shopping cart literally full to the top, it was time to find a check-out and get out of there.
First, I had to find where the check-out counters were. I entered the store in a door with a sort of separate room for beer. Needless to say, with my spectacular spatial skills, I was confused. I politely asked a woman in German “Entschuldigung, könnten Sie bitte mir sagen, wo ist der Platz wo ich meine Dinge bezahlen?” Anyone who understands German will instantly know that this is not the correct question “Excuse me, could you please tell me where the checkout is?” As I don’t know German for check-out, I went with words I could splice together to have what I hoped would be an understandable meaning. She was kind and gently directed me to the polar opposite section of the store. Even on my way out, I asked the cashier, how do I get to my car, because the checkout counters then led into a mall-type area.
Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without the availability of Google Maps on my phone. I do remember using physical maps and then when it became easy, I’d use Mapquest and print out directions somewhere. Interestingly enough, there were a couple of instances over the years where I tried to reverse the Mapquest directions and would somehow get lost. Just highlighting how spatially challenged I am.
Around the time of my exciting grocery shopping experience, I received a care package from Canada. My mom mailed me a few favourites, like Kraft Dinner, some loose leaf teas, Laura Secord Easter Egg, 100% corn tortillas, and some other items. I won’t get into the feels over the surprise. My partner suggested we make chicken tacos al pastor when he saw the tortillas.
Yes, tacos! Always yes.
Maybe it was also because of the recent Die de la Muertos, or just because I was really excited to eat something with actual corn tortillas again, but it was time to take on a new cooking adventure.
Enter the latest culinary craft: Chicken tacos al pastor
In Mexico, it’s often that al pastor is made with pork, as is the common meat of choice in that country. However, around the world it can be loosely adapted. We used this recipe from the Food Network: Chicken tacos al pastor. As I mentioned above, there was excitement in the tiny kitchen over having boneless skinless chicken thighs. What’s great about these babies is that you can cook them for a long time and they don’t become too dry.
Instead of using a spit and turning a giant chunk of meat along a wall of heat, this recipe suggests using a barbecue skewer or something similar and anchoring it in half of a pineapple. Then you layer the magnificently marinated chicken, make sure your oven can fit your meat roasting tree and voila! In Germany, it’s important to check because of the size.
I have to say I am totally intrigued since reading up on al pastor and that it in fact came from Lebanese immigrants around the 1930s to a city not too far from the capital, Mexico City. It was adapted around the 1960s to use corn tortillas. Also Mexicans started marinating pork meat instead of using simply seasoned lamb. The addition of the pineapple’s origins seem to be forgotten and unknown. I personally love grilled pineapple, and pineapple and chicken are a match made in heaven. Thank you flavours.
Curious as I am to visit Mexico and eat tacos to my heart’s content, I wonder how much the tacos will be like what I imagine versus my experiences being skewed from a North American perspective. A different adventure in my tiny kitchen with friends from Venezuela led us to making pupusas (with the wrong corn flour), they knew the dish and we got a recipe from friends who are Guatemalan. I’m not sure that I’ve ever eaten at a Mexican restaurant with a friend who is Mexican. Still, tacos are always a solid yes. Homemade guacamole, pineapple, feta – check, check, check!
There can be some really awesome creations through diasporic dining. When people move abroad, maybe due to poverty, war, safety, personal interests, work, family, etc., one way to take some of your home culture with you is with food. People can celebrate their cultural background with the food they cook and eat. Like when Lebanese people moved to Mexico in the early 20th century, they brought food from their home with them. After a few decades it got adapted with the culinary culture in Mexico – so spicy peppers and cilantro, for example – to make a hybrid food.
Diasporas in this context can be defined as “migrants or descendants of migrants, whose identity and sense of belonging have been shaped by their migration experience and background.” For example, one of my best friends parents came from Guatemala while she was born in Canada. She identifies with her Mayan and Guatemalan roots. She participates through the use of the Spanish language, with connections to family, and especially with food.
What are the social and cultural implications for those of us who consume these foods with different backgrounds? It makes sense that as people emigrate to another culture, they bring their histories of food and relations with them. When in this other culture, the physical climate could be different. The kinds of ingredients one can obtain fluctuates. So, the diverse foodscapes can influence what happens to a favourite dish from the homeland. Below is a picture of a recent online order I made from Pfefferhaus so that we could have ancho chili’s as part of the marinade.
A recent food ‘duh’ moment I had was with Vietnamese food. I was very naive to what Vietnamese cuisine could include. Many friends love Pho and I thought I didn’t like Vietnamese food just because I don’t eat Pho. My eyes were opened visiting Hanoi! There is so much variety with Vietnamese food, and herbs I had never heard of before. In Germany, restaurant-goers can enjoy some variety of Vietnamese food. While tasty options, they’re heavy on the cilantro here as other herbs and leaves that they’d use in Vietnam it seems just aren’t an option in this foodscape.
It would be interesting to learn more about the identities and belonging folks associate with their homeland and bring that to their new home with food. There are certainly heaps of scholarly articles available on specific communities. There’s even TV shows and documentaries about how ingredients available within a given foodscape influence the food. One such show I like is “Taste the Nation” with Padma Lakshi. She speaks with immigrants across the US about food influences and changes over time. Hopefully it’ll be signed for at least a second season. Maybe this could also be the starting point of cultural mixes of food in other nations as well. As we become more globalized, what does that mean for authentic food culture when it’s always adapting?
At the end of the day, exploring different recipes from cultures across the world is fun and exciting. Whether it be Lebanese-influenced tacos from Mexico or something else. Some food for thought – pun intended – consider the history and background of the food being eaten next time you spend a minute in the kitchen.