Steamed Apple Pudding (& trying to learn German)

The women’s toilette at Nopi is all mirrored, the door, the walls, everything. When you wash your hands and look at your reflection in the mirror you see yourself (obviously and hopefully) but behind your reflection, is another smaller you and another and another. I feel my brain’s mental eye expand until what it perceives is so large the edges of the picture wobbles, the picture implodes and then contracts into a tunnel, me hurtling through it into the tiny pinprick at the end before resetting to normal leaving an unsettling shadow of what just happened, in a fraction of a second.

I think German is having the same effect on me. Like a never-ending deck of cards, each with an answer, all furling out and laying on their backs, information bared as far as my eye can see and then just as quickly, *thup*, they get sucked back in, into a neat stack, contents impenetrable.When I say it’s hard to learn German people say, “Yes, the verb is at the end.” But where the verb is hanging out equates to a little Chihuahua nipping at my ankles, when the real problem is that I am locked in a cage with a hungry tiger.

Before melodrama overtakes me completely, let me explain (and also say to you all who have learned German as a 2nd language - hell even as a 1st language: RESPECT!).My grievances can be outlined in 3 main points:

1. The words are long. You will no doubt say to me “Ah yes, but they are mostly made up of words strung together, like ‘kugelschreiber’ which means pen - and could be translated as ‘ball writer’ because of the little roller ball in ball point pens. And I will answer back to you ‘Gänseblümchen’ which means ‘daisy’ but translates as ‘goose flower’.

And also,that my ability to stay concentrated is much like my ability to hold my breath under water, finite. So when I am confronted with something like this: ‘Verständlichwerweise, denn der Vogel war schon von Generationen von Köchen, die hier ein-und augegangen waren, getriezt worden -…”* my brain gives up and goes out for a smoke after the first word, which I think might mean ‘understandably’.

2. The capitals in written sentences are totally distracting, like visual Stolperstein (Stumbling Stones) without meaning. Equivalent to a news reader wearing a bright red clown nose. Anyone prone to distraction (me) will immediately think WTF? and not hear the news. Spoken German has a lot of consonants bunched up together (Someone help that man! He’s choking! Oh, no - my bad, he’s just speaking German), dipping down into vowels and then back up again. So that if I do manage to utter a sentence, I end up feeling like one of the Von Trapp kids crossing the Alps. It’s physical. Olivia Newton John would have not trouble working out to it.

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Cherry & Cranberry Puff Pastry Pies (+ Recipe for Rough Puff)

The reasons I love my gym are:

  1. Free creche service (kinderbetreuung, doesn’t that word just roll off your tongue?)
  2. It’s cheap! €45 a month for weekday morning membership
  3. It’s pretty, all purple lights. Even the sauna has alternating colours, something that is supposed to relax me but has the opposite effect, like being trapped in a confined hot space with a schizophrenic ”I’m blue! No red! No pink! No Blue!” Pick a colour and stick with it for crissakes!

The reasons it drives me up the wall are:

  1. There are no partitions in the shower, not that I have body shame or envy, but do I really need to see you lather up your unmentionables? Ah, no, don’t think so.
  2. The shower is on a timer. Like 45 seconds or something. So when I crucially need the water because I’ve got soap in my eyes, there is no water.  I’ve got to grope the wall until I find it, and there is NO PARTITION. MY EYES ARE CLOSED. AND I’M NAKED!  Tell me, is there a water shortage in Berlin or something? Because from where I’m standing, it’s literally coming down in buckets.  Who decided the timer on that thing? 45 seconds? A man probably (sorry boys).  They are the only ones that think a shower and getting wet are the same concepts.
  3. They follow the rules to the L E T T E R. So if I want to book my 2 year old into the creche four days before I always get the “Sorry, we only accept bookings 3 days before.” Even though my kid is usually the only one in there. And it means they will receive a garbled phone call from me trying to pronounce Kinderbetreuung. Or take Monday, I arrived with my hair straightener, clothes, shampoo, Polar fitness monitor but forgot my towel.

“Can I rent a towel?” I ask.

“Leider nicht.” (By the way, Leider nicht translates as regrettably / sadly / unfortunately no. But what I hear when people say that is: you lose suckaaa! It’s just so passive aggressive!)

“Okay, can I buy a towel?”

“Leider nicht.”

“So you have no towels in the gym.”

“Leider nicht. If you want, you can go to Butler’s down the road and see if they are selling some?”

Because that’s the solution I was looking for, going out in the rain, walking for 15 minutes and getting one of those acrylic towels that are designed to repel water.  I figure, I can try to dry myself with paper towels and see how far that gets me when my eyes fall upon a special massage deal on offer that day: ’20 minutes for €15′. I go back up to the ‘no’ girl. “So I could book a massage here right?”


“And if I book a massage, well then, they give me a towel so I don’t go in there all smelly and sweaty right?”

“Yessssss.” she answered, suspicious as to where I was going with all this.

“Ok, great, so I will have a massage in 2 hours and take the towel now if you that’s alright with you.”

She stalled a bit with that one, not sure if she was agreeing to some illicit concept. “Umm, yes, well, ok.”

“Great!” I patted her heartily on the back. “Good thing I forgot my towel then!”

I’m telling you, she didn’t know what hit her. She went into the revolving door and came back out on the street where she started. And I enjoyed a great massage, the first one I’ve had in years.

I got a big kick out of that.  From not letting an inconvenience ruin my day and set me in the whole “Aw man, it’s one of those days, I’m giving up on this day, I will try to do better tomorrow.”  Then slump back home and play 10 games of Tiny Wings on my iphone (how embarrassing, I’m deleting that app! No, I’m not.)So I went home and continued the day on a high, deciding to tackle a pastry as difficult as the ‘no’ girl at the gym.  Puff pastry. Read more of this post

Grasshoppers - Chocolate mint brownies

Millionaire bars are excellent but I think I may have just found something that tops them! Read more of this post

Lentil and Beetroot Salad

Credit for this salad (and for many more to come) goes to the wonderful British Deli, Melrose and Morgan.  After I did my diploma at Leiths School of Food and Wine, I bounced around the London independent scene, never really finding my place.  I got a little discouraged because I felt as if I had finally found what I loved but it didn’t love me back!

There was a very modern deli in Primrose Hill that I would pass on my way home, so one day I went in there and asked for a job.  I was too insecure to ask for a kitchen job so I ended up working on the shop floor.

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