Wednesday, May 6, 2015

There's a Season for Grilling?

Germans love the outdoors. They love street cafes, going for strolls, working in their yard or Schrebergarten, biking, hiking, sitting on benches or on a blanket on the grass watching the world go by, and they love grill parties. As soon as the grass gets long enough for the first mow, cooking magazines, store adverts and displays, posters, and local newspapers declare "IT'S GRILLSAISON!!!"

Now, I'm from Wisconsin, and my husband loves to grill. Fans at Packer games go tailgating before the games even in the bitter dead of winter, which is both a little crazy and quite normal for Wisconsin - or at least for Packer fans.
This was our Packer tailgating party on 20. Jan., 2008
Temperature: -4 °F  (-20 °C)
Windchill: -24 °F  (-31 °C)
The tarp did not help keep us warm, but at least it blocked the wind a little. And I'm not kidding about the temperature or the windchill that day - Google it.

Once you've grilled in Wisconsin in the winter, grilling ceases to have a season. Ours begins in January and ends in December. Our local butcher doesn't even bat an eye anymore when I ask for  "Schweinehals zum Grillen" (pork neck for grilling) in February, and she knows to cut them thick.  M has grilled in all kinds of weather - in driving rain, blazing heat, blustery wind, and even snow storms. If we have decided to grill (and by "we" I mean "he"), he doesn't change his mind because of the weather. I offer an adequate amount of sympathy, and he bundles up when it's snowing and gets wet when it's raining.
I can't believe, with all the times M has grilled in the snow in Wisconsin,
I don't have one single picture of that. This was our backyard, though,
and you can just see part of the covered grill on the left. 

To M, "Grillsaison" sounds as silly as "cooking season" or "television season." We love grilled meat. Often M grills Schweinehals  and I make Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) on the stove. He does hamburgers, thick steaks, shish kebabs, Turkish meatsticks, beef or pork tenderloin - well, he'll grill pretty much anything, even vegetables bathed in olive oil. But we don't do what most Germans grill - sausages. There is an elaborate sausage culture over here with endless varieties - not just the bratwurst and Italian sausages available in Wisconsin. But when he fires up the grill, he's putting a couple of steaks on it, not sausages.

When he grills, he turns his back on his Swabian side and goes full-on American. The steaks need to be thick, the grill needs to be big, and the beer needs to be chilled. And he doesn't care what the meat costs.

I don't actually know when Grillsaison ends in southern Germany, but I'm guessing March isn't part of it.
Wisconsin - March, 2008
At least most of the snow had melted.

Since this is Germany, there are rules during grilling season, which appear in a spring edition of our community's newsletter each year as a reminder. It's a darn good thing we live in a single-family home and our neighbors don't seem to be complainers. Because according to the rules, we grill too often.

Wait. You can't grill whenever you want to in Germany?

It depends. If you live in your own house and don't pick fights with your neighbors, they probably won't complain. However, if you live in an apartment building or a multi-family home, you do not have total freedom when it comes to grilling. From April to September, renters are allowed to grill once a month on their balconies or patios. If it's more often than that, your neighbors have the right to complain and the law is not on your side. The problem is, of course, the smoke from your grill wafting up and into your neighbors' windows, which are almost always open because people don't have central air here.

Once a month?!? We grill at least once a week from April through November, and probably every other week throughout the winter!

You should also not grill spontaneously if you live in an apartment. The other residents in your building who might be bothered by the smoke and the delicious smell of grilling meat while they are digging in to their Linsen mit Spätzle und Saitenwürstchen (lentils, noodles, and hot dogs) should be given a 48-hour notice that you are going to grill so they can plan accordingly by closing their windows or leaving home for the evening.

Our neighbors have had a fair chance to get used to our grilling habits since we started right after moving in, so we're probably safe. I think M bought his grill before we had living room furniture. Priorities, people.

Correction: He had the grill before he had the house. It sat in its box at the office until after the closing.

Recently our neighbor bought a big fancy Weber grill - one model up from ours, we think, but we don't want to be too nosey - and has tried it out a few times this week. M thinks he's only done sausages, so we're pondering finally inviting them over so M can show him what that grill is capable of.

Grilling season. Don't be silly.

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