Thursday, April 9, 2020

Buy Local!

Now more than ever it is so important to support small local family businesses in any way we can. The ones around us are doing what they can to make this "new normal" as manageable as possible for their customers, to keep us fed and to stay in business.

This is one of the things I have always loved about living here in southwestern Germany - the open air markets, the small butcher right in our village an 8-minute walk from home, the family bakery in the next village - also within walking distance though it's more of a commitment at 45 minutes, the Hofläden (farm shops), and our vegetable guy who parks his produce truck in front of our neighbors' house once a week.

I've written often about walking or driving to these little shops, some of them often enough that the propriaters and their employees knew me by name quite early on. Sometimes in the past, however, I've been lazy and just grabbed a pork tenderloin or bag of potatoes at the grocery store because I was there anyway. Not anymore. During this Covid-19 ordeal I have been avoiding the grocery store like the...uh...never mind. I will only go there for milk, juice, water and a few other minor items I can't get anywhere else.

Our butcher is open for regular hours despite Covid-19, but they have increased their delivery service and encourage customers to pre-order by phone. They offer a daily lunch deal as well, but now only to-go. There is a sign on the door asking customers to keep to only two in the store at one time, and they are enforcing it by politely asking the 3rd person who walks in to wait outside. They also have plexi-glass partitions now between the customers and the workers, as do most places.

Glory be, if there's anything to get happy about during this pandemic, it's that Spargelsaison has started! This means several trips over the next few months to the Spargelhof, which is also a Hofladen with fresh produce, noodles, homemade jams, candies, Schnaps and eggs. This is the place that supplies our local butcher with eggs, and that's where I usually buy them (why buy grocery store eggs when you can get farm fresh ones?!).

The photos are from a different time.

I went there Thursday morning (the day before Good Friday), and I have never seen it so packed. In order to only allow a limited number of people in their shop at any given time, they had a traffic light at the entrance! I did expect it to be busy, and I'm glad for them. Spargel season has just started, and everything is closed on Good Friday, Sunday and Easter Monday - so it's common for Swabians to do a whirlwind shopping tour on Thursday. Pretty much everyone is being cautious, keeping their distance, some wearing masks, many wearing gloves, but no damn Coronavirus is going to keep Germans from their Spargel!

To the left of the door in the photo above you might be able to just see the red light telling us all to sit tight and wait. That's not my cart, by the way - the woman in front of me parked it there while she dashed off to check out the strawberries. It was kind of funny when the light turned green. Each person went to the door and hesitated, wondering if s/he would make it through before it turned red again.

Then there's the Bäckerei in the next village. This has been a family bakery since 1890, and it is the only one around that I know of where the bread is made fresh daily rather than delivered frozen on trucks to be baked. They're closed on the big holidays, but they sell half-baked baguettes, pretzels and rolls that one can finish baking on the day they're needed. Perfect for these long weekends!

They have tables for guests to have a breakfast or coffee break, but due to Covid-19 that's currently a no-go. They sprang into action and have done everything they can think of to keep their customers supplied with bread, cakes and life-sustaining Butterbrezeln, despite not being able to allow customers to dine in. They've added an on-line shop where we can pre-order and pay online (no touching money - yay!), and then we can pick up our order there or they will deliver. The delivery service is new, as far as I know, and so important for the elderly who really need to stay indoors. They swing by sometime between 7:30-8:30 and leave your order on your front porch. You don't even have to get dressed! 

Ok, we're not elderly, but the delivery
only costs €2, so I gave it a try.
On weekends when you pre-order you can even just go to their back door and ring to pick it up rather than having to wait in line. I did that last weekend and it was brilliant!

On Tuesday evenings Mustafa, "our vegetable guy," parks his truck on our street for about a half hour. His produce isn't as local as the Hofladen because he loads up from the Großmarkt in Stuttgart, but it still feels better than the grocery store. I appreciate his service even more now that I really don't buy any produce at the supermarket. He also has peanuts in the shell, a special treat for M, as well as some dried fruits and eggs.

The situation here during the virus is that only one customer is in the truck at a time, which is fine since it's pretty narrow anyway. He also told me this week he has several older customers who put their basket outside their front door with a shopping list and money, he picks that up and collects what's on the list, puts the change back in the envelope and returns the basket to their front porch. He showed me a picture of one customer peeking through the door cracked open just a hair to thank him! He giggled at the cuteness.

I need to give a quick shout-out to the Kartoffelhof, which sells potatoes (of course) and several other products, including a potato salad that even I like. They also have boiled, peeled and vacuum-sealed potatoes for when I forget to boil the potatoes for Bratkartoffeln the day before. I don't have a great picture of the place, but they have recently added a vending machine, which I find fabulous! Now even if they're closed we can pick up some of their products including a bag of potatoes. Local potatoes rather than a plastic bag of taters that came from heaven knows where? It's worth the drive - and it's not far from the Spargelhof, so I often stop at both.

I'm not sure if they're doing anything special for the Covid-19 situation, but they probably don't have to other than limiting the number of people in the little shop. Germans love their potatoes, and the vending machine also cuts down on close contact.

Last but surely not least is our favorite restaurant! No one can dine in or outside, of course, so the Chefkoch got right on it and completely changed his business model to keep serving the delicious food he and his team prepare. He just published his Ostermenü, and Mama Mia!! We've signed up for Monday...

With just a phone call you can place your order for one of three options: to go, to car, or Lieferservice (delivery). "To car" means they will bring your order out to you so you don't even need to get out of your car. You tell them what time you will be there and your food will be ready. "To car" and the delivery service are new because of the virus, but they have always offered to go service for pick-up.

One last note, just before the Big V hit, we'd attended a Wein-Menü at Straub's Krone where Martin and his team prepared four delicious courses and the Winzer from a family winery from the Kaiserstuhl in Baden presented two types of wine for each course. We were suitably impressed with the selections and placed an order that was delivered during our second or third week of the Kontaktsperre (contact-ban). So we even filled up our wine cellar with near-local Bio beverages (also grape juice). That was good timing because if nothing else during this rotten virus, let's enjoy some good wine.


Do you have small local family businesses near you? What are they doing to make it through this?

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Ten Popular Things

10 Popular Things I've Never Really Cared For

A college acquaintance of mine posted this listy thing on his social media page (albeit without explanations), and I thought it was an interesting topic to ponder. Nine were relatively easy to think of, but I had trouble coming up with a tenth. I don't do the tagging-other-people thing, but if you're a blogger and decide to give this a shot, let me know and I'll come and check out your list! Otherwise go ahead and put some of your answers in the comments.

So here we go. But first a Steinkauz to set the tone.

10. Sheboygan brats

You might have to be from Wisconsin to know these, but "brats" (short for "bratwurst" though they're nothing like German Bratwürste, which I also don't like much) are hugely popular there, especially at "brat frys," which are held pretty much every weekend somewhere from March or April through September.

9. Halloween

I don't like masks or costumes that include concealing the face. Masks worn for Covid-19 are a different ballgame - those aren't for stupid fun and silly games. I also don't think it's a good idea to have children beg for candy from stranger. Haunted houses, Halloween decorations, horror movies, costume parties...just none of it. Thank God it's only one day of the year.

8. Mystery novels

I know I'm missing lots of obvious hints as I'm reading and I want to know what those are to get the most out of the book. So generally I skip to the end after the first chapter to find out who did it. That defeats the purpose, obviously. I don't want to be tricked and misled by the writer while I'm reading a book.

7. Chicken soup

I actually don't like any broth soup. It doesn't matter whether I'm sick, or cold, or need comfort food - broth soup is just not for me. It also doesn't matter what's in it - noodles, chunks of chicken, corn, vegetables, all of the above... I like homemade cream soups and tomato soup, just not broth.

6. Gardening

There was a time, the first year or two after I moved to Germany, when I did sort of enjoy gardening, so "never" isn't exactly true. But lately it's just a chore to get over with. Weeding, planting, clipping, etc., aren't the worst chores I can imagine, but I'd rather wash windows.

5. Nutella

That is not chocolate, it's brown hazelnut spread. And even if it were chocolate, chocolate does not belong on my bread. It is an understatement to say I do not like the taste of hazelnut. Many a good ball of chocolate (such as in an Adventskalender) has been ruined for me by hazelnut filling. Blech.

4. Texting / WhatsApp

I'm a 10-finger typist. I need a keyboard. Those short message things are for me strictly for near-emergencies or short schedule notices ("Train delay, arrival now 13:35"). Even typing something like that takes me longer than it should because I have to keep correcting my mistakes. It first looks more like this: "Tfaun deöay, attival noe 133:35."

3. Winter & snow

My daughter's Golf after a Wisconsin snowstorm
I don't like being cold. I don't like being wet. Cold and wet is the worst, so being out in snow and winter is one of my least favorite things. When I was young (teenager and younger) I remember enjoying cross-country skiing - until I got cold and wet. I quite like southwestern German winters, though it does rain a lot. There's just not the layer of ice and snow one has in Wisconsin for months, making driving treacherous. It doesn't get very cold here, which is probably "thanks" to climate change.

2. Parades

This might come from my having to march in so many when I was a kid. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Homecoming... I was either in the school marching band pretending to play my flute because I never memorized more than the first 7 notes, or marching in my silly brown or green uniform with the Brownies or Girl Scouts waving at throngs of onlookers for what felt like a 25-mile hike on concrete. Spectating is even worse because of the crowds of people and screaming kids. No thanks.

1. Beer

I still remember my first beer - in Esslingen during the exchange when I was 17. I ordered it at some dance or party we were at because I could, and after my first gulp I choked back a gag and secretly wondered why the hell anyone would drink that willingly. I'm sure I tried to play it cool as I also later did in college, but that stuff is nasty. On a scorching hot day after some physical effort or exercise I can enjoy a Radler - beer mixed with Sprite or something similar - but otherwise, no.

No thanks.

In case this came across as too negative in these already trying times, here are ten things I like very much!

10. Corn on the cob
9.  Easter
8.  Historical novels
7.  Cream soups
6.  Cooking, and even more - assisting M (he's the better cook)
5.  Cream Cheese
4.  Writing long emails or hand-written letters
3.  Spring
2.  Solitary walks in the forest
1.  Grauburgunder (a dry white wine)