Beer, Bakeries, and Gardens
I love how you always bring it home with a "tangent" that becomes the core of the piece. Beautifully done
Ummm, it should be “Some Things ...” not “Somethings”.
Chris, you are unfortunately wrong about weight management being a simple accounting of calories in/calories out. Would that it were so, and I'm happy that it appears to work for you, but read Gary Taubs about the complexity of fat-storage and fat-burning. The "calories" argument is delightfully simple, but just winds up pointing the finger at fatties and suggesting that they eat too much. Hormonal and gut-biome research is at its infancy and will hopefully in our lifetimes deliver more complete knowledge of how and why we become porkers.
"Because the more you see of the world, the more you get frustrated, and sad, with where we are headed."
Thank you for this. I've lived abroad for most of my adult life and now need to go back to the US, and I'm honestly scared and sad and very much trying not to talk about my feelings for the same reason you probably wrote the italicized disclaimer at the end. Americans have been conditioned into accepting very little while insisting it's the best in the world, and this feels so foundationally woven into the national culture that I don't see a realistic path to true improvement. ("True improvement" being defined as: quality healthcare, affordable rent, good public transportation, and workable food systems--all of which exist where I live now [Japan] and are a given, not something you need to earn by being upper class.)
I really enjoyed the rant at the end and pictures throughout the article, but as a Belgian (kind of), I gotta do everything in my power for you to retract the statement “Germany has the world’s best beer, which is pretty well known, but they also quietly have perhaps the worlds best bakeries.”
If you’re ever in Belgium, I’ll quickly fly over from Spain and act as your personal bakery and brewery tour guide.
I also agree that, in general, German’s drink to be social, not wasted. But this definitely isn’t the case when you go to a beer festival. When I went to The Berch (which means mountain or hill) — it’s the local nickname for Bergkirchweih, Erlangen’s annual beer and fair festival — we danced on tables, many pissed their pants, and we drank beers by the liter faster than we would a pint. Also, after 3 days in Berlin, with clubs opening Friday and closing Sunday, my experience wasn’t much different.
Still, on a typical weekend or weekday, German drinking isn’t quiet like what we experience in many English-speaking countries.
“In Canada people drink because they like to get drunk. In Belgium, we get drunk because we like to drink,” is something my father used to say.
On another note, “Compared to Germany, the US has a cult-like attachment to individuality, and self-reliance, at a thick cultural level. Which explains our low trust society,” is an interesting note because there’s a strong correlation between individualistic countries being business-first and collectivistic countries being relationship-first. In countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, and China, it’s important to establish trust and relationship before getting into business. It might seem time-consuming too many of us raised in North America, but from my experience, it has always led to more loyal customers and business relationships.
Rant accepted and endorsed. We are an awesome free country and I love America. But we are WAAAAY past the point of having enough or adequate intelligence about, responsibility to and for, appreciation of and respect for our rights and privileges. I’m sick of us. I just am. The last 8 months I’ve been in Scotland, Germany (Munich and two much smaller towns), Mexico City and then Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto/Nagoya. At this moment I’d move to anyone if those places with great joy. We’re post-rational idiots and I don’t see it getting fixed soon. Your dispatches only reinforce this.
Compared to Germany, the US has a cult-like attachment to individuality, .... Which explains our low trust society. I can add as a runner and traveler for 40+ years that I have a deep understanding of how people react to runners. In the US I have to be very careful not to startle anyone and I am especially careful around women and young African American males as they can have a terrible fright if they don't hear me coming. In the late '90s I spent 6 years working in Hong Kong and ran extensively in the hills above the city along secluded drainage canals that followed the contour lines. (Perfect places to run) I would often encounter single HK women out for a nice walk in the woods often with the Walkman plugged in. After 100's of encounter I realized they were never startled / frighten by me. They were completely wonderfully indifferent. I thought how nice to live without the jump out of your skin fear of strangers. We give up a lot in America that we don't even fully realize.
Interesting, didn't know about schrebergartens in Germany. It's common here in Sweden too, here they're called "kolonistugor" or a "koloniträdgård".
Those bakeries really can‘t make lattes. You are absolutely right.
Another thing I really like about the pub/bar/beer hall culture in Germany is how socially encouraging they all are. It's hard to find a "two top" in a German bar where you can just sit with your drink and play on your phone/laptop while waiting for company; the few German cities I've been in—Munich, Köln, Stuttgart, Mainz, and Frankfurt—have bars, communal round tables, or big long shared tables.
My partner and I (NYC metro area) eat almost exclusively "at the bar" whenever we dine together. Whether it is a local restaurant a block away or a big night out at some top places in the city. I'm ex- and she's current F&B industry so that might be part of it but a table for two seems so private and transactional it kills most of the reason I'd like to eat out of the house.
All the things I miss about Germany in one article - the baked goods, the beer, and the memories of the Schrebergarten (my great-uncle still has his and he’s so proud of it)... I agree with a lot of the things you said and definitely think that we are in a bad place right now. One I hope will get better again!
I'm glad there isn't a bakery near me. I'd weigh 300 lbs. Love sweets and a diabetic to top it off. :-)
Wonderful piece. I miss those bakeries a lot :)
We are definitely in a very bad place as a nation. In fact, we really are no longer a nation- just a place with competing ‘Tribes’ at war with each other. No sense of community
No desire to even tolerate opposing opinions or speech. We are approaching the level of vitriol and hatred not seen since the Civil War and people are actually talking about a national ‘Divorce’. Might be better than an actual war, but the results are catastrophic just the same
We have absolutely no leaders who are statesmen. Just competing ringleaders
A nation gets the leaders it deserves and we are reaping the whirlwind now. Sad. No, it is Tragic
Someone please tell me why I am wrong
No Chris, you’ve absolutely nailed it about America’s fetishization of the “Individual”. We have no sense of the common good or even how to go about achieving it, or that we even should.
I lived in Germany twice. First, in 1969, as a chambermaid in a hotel in Grainau, the small village at the foot of Germany’s tallest mountain. Then 8 years later I returned as a foreign exchange student to study at Georg August University in Göttingen.
I loved living there, and reading your missives from Germany especially brings back all the wonderful memories. Thanks
There are certain areas of the US that do have more of a bakery culture (e.g. along the shore of Lake Erie), but as with most of the US, they are spread out farther, and are primarily accessible by car. And, they almost never have seating - meeting the description of the more transactional culture you describe in the US. Many of them do have excellent baked goods though - and often they will be the only locations where you can buy the local specialties.