Monday, January 7, 2008

The American Wife

We just got back from 10 winter wonderland days in Germany. It was gorgeous. The trees covered in light layers of white, lights twinkling. The Germans invented Christmas. Even with my thin, wimpy California blood, I appreciated it. I even took walks outside. Really. I did. But I digress. Theses are things that make me a good German: enjoying fresh air walks despite the temperature. (A balmy 20 something - when we left LA it was 75 and SUNNY.)

But really, I am a horrible German.

1. I don’t speak German. My three years of high school French followed by three semesters of college French and an extension course in Spanish do NOTHING to help me speak German except to think of the word in French or Spanish instead of German, which is, of course, no help at all.

One thing I love is that Pete’s family likes to sit around the table after a meal chatting. My family does it, too, and I think it’s so great. Bonding. Laughing. I mean, people don’t do this much anymore. Everyone is running off to meet other people or watch TV or clean or just get away from the people they are with. But after an hour of Pete or my sister-in-law translating, we all get tired so they stop translating and I’m left staring off into space. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and had to sit with my parents while they talked to some other adults about taxes or gas prices. I’d sit there and tap my fingers, zone out and wish to be dismissed from the table. Well, listening to people laugh when you have no idea what they are talking about feels about the same as being eight and not understanding taxes or the double-entendre joke. Basically, it sucks.

2. I am not and will never be a member of the clean plate club. This fact alone makes it impossible for me to be a German. I don’t know if it is residuals from the war or what, but the Germans do not leave food on a plate. I mean NEVER. Luckily, I have a husband and brother-in-law with hollow legs who clean-up after me and my wimpy appetite. But occasionally, even they are too full to cram the last piece of meat on my plate into their gullets. The servers won’t even clear plates with food still on them. I swear. I sat with my fork and knife placed in the finished position for not one, not two but FOUR passes of the server before she picked up my plate. I mean, really. I can’t eat three pieces of pork with creamy, tasty sauce, spaetzle, and salad all at once.

3. Meat. Every meal has meat. EVERY meal (at least during the holidays). I like meat. I eat meat. But not every meal and definitely not pork with every meal. Breakfast? Check? Dinner? Check. (It seems that there are only two meals and the cookie snack time, which is mercifully, meat-free.) I won’t even start talking about the two-meals thing. I graze all day. ALL DAY! I’m not a two-meal a day person. I’m more like 1 plus 6 snacks.

Breakfast German-style. It's tasty, but wow did I miss my smoothie.

4. Wheat and dairy aren’t my friends. Seriously. When I was a kid, I was allergic (as deemed by a real life doctor) to milk and wheat. Yes, birthday parties sucked since I couldn’t eat anything. Rice cake instead of chocolate cake? Welcome to my childhood. I’ve mainly grown out of my allergy, but my body still prefers if I stick to a rice based diet. Guess what the Germans eat with every meal? You got it: bread, cheese and/or cream. I only saw rice once, and it sucked, which might be why they don’t eat more of it. But they can bake some killer pretzels, rolls, cakes and cookies. And I should know since I ate them all. Often. Did I mention I put on at least five pounds? (I knew I was in trouble when I’d get back to the house and go straight for the sweats. Always a bad sign.)

5. I’m a light-weight. I can’t drink. If I have two glasses of wine, I’m either silly or have a headache. And I never know which it will be until I’m there so often I skip the alcohol altogether. Well, in Germany, ordering a pilsner with lunch is normal (at least during the holidays). Schnapps toasts? Sure! Remember how I said Pete’s family sits around and talks all night? I neglected to mention over beers (and wine).

In a moment of pity during our trip, I said to Pete, “It’s not your fault you picked an American wife who can’t speak German or eat wheat or diary or drink much. It’s all my fault.” Maybe that wasn’t exactly what I said, but you get the point. Yes, Pete married an American, but at least I'm not a vegetarian.

They even have meat cigars!!!

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