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Tessa

Exploring our town one day, we ran into the Mayor.  An ebullient, extroverted kind of guy.  After half an hour of talking, I found myself drafted into the town choir.  Hysterical because I can’t carry a tune. I can’t even carry a note!  Since then I’ve gone to several Tuesday night practices.  Everyone tolerates me, makes me feel beyond welcome, and I get some much needed time out of the house.

Fast forward to last Tuesday, and after practice a sign-up sheet was passed around.  I too was expected to sign-up, so sign-up I did. It was time for the annual zwiebelkuchenverkauf.  Onion pie sales.  Many bigger towns have zwiebelkuchenfests, or onion pie festivals, where the zwiebelkuchen is served with Federweiße, a very sweet, freshly pressed, alcoholic grape juice, or “must”.  Our village is small & we “just” sell the zwiebelkuchen.  In our case to raise money for the music club.

I showed up for my first volunteer shift late Thursday afternoon, Tessa in tow.  Tess is as curious as I am about all the traditional going-ons in town.  We knew we’d be cutting onions, and we had knives and cutting boards in hand.  We found everyone tucked away in an old barn/halle at the edge of town, into the dark trees of the Black Forest.  I have to say, before pushing open the old wooden doors, we both felt a little freaked out & slightly in the middle of a horror movie.

Inside it was warm, cozy, filled with chatter & laughter.  We were heartily welcomed and given a choice of peeling or chopping.  Our choice to chop was met with loud cheers. We quickly found out why, as we cried our way through several pounds of onions.  Tess managed to slice her finger open, and immediately half the crew had whipped out pflasters (or bandaids).  Tess was very happy with her smiley-face pressure tape.

The next morning I showed up shortly before the booth opened, still smelling like onions.  I was quickly informed that coffee grounds are an anti-onion-finger remedy.  Now I know.  Half the crew had been up since 4 am baking zwiebelkuchen.  Noting my obvious interest, and big camera strung around my neck, I’m so subtle, I was given a little tour of the old Backhaus (bakery) and how-to bake zwiebelkuchen.

Our zwiebelkuchen are still baked in an old-wood fired oven.  The wood itself can only be from certain pine, fruit or nut trees and is cured for two years in the attic above the ovens themselves.  The wood is placed into the ovens, and burns very hot down to coals & ash.  It is critical that the massive iron doors stay cracked during the heating. Once the ovens are heated, the ash is brushed to the side with an old-fashioned twig broom dipped in water.  Then the onion pies are placed inside the ovens, now without a direct heat source.

Only the Chefin mans the ovens and places the pies.  The pies are handed in brigade style, from the kitchen to the ovens and baked a beautiful golden color.  At this point in my education I was handed a fresh slice to eat to illustrate how delicious they are. Of course I’ve had zwiebelkuchen before, but this, was so fresh, so creamy, so naturally sweet.  Oh. My.  Drool.

The crust is really a dense bread.  Our village has one dough maker, and she makes all the dough for the hundreds of pies baked this weekend.  For the last several years she has a big, old, industrial mixer  (think Kitchenaid times 100) to help.  Before that it was all by hand.  Once the dough is made it’s set aside to rise, once, then again, then rolled by hand into perfectly even crusts.  The filling is made in big vats by a team of two, a mixture of both sour & sweet cream, onions, eggs and little else.  So incredibly delicious.

The zwiebelkuchen are baked in big, heavy cast-iron “tins”.  The circumference much bigger than an American pie.  There is a special, extra-wide, short spatula thing (it has a proper, long, German name.  I went with “Das Ding” or “that thing”) that is used for scooping the pies out and onto big, round, wooden boards for cutting or onto the customers own tray.  Most of the villagers came by to buy a whole zwiebelkuchen, that I placed directly onto their cooking sheets, I imagine to take home & heat & serve.  I’m again struck by the practicality of Germans, and how prepared everyone is for everything.  I love this.  The cut pieces went primarily to the kids getting out of school, off the bus, on their way home.

By the end of my 2-hour selling shift my arms were sore from lifting the heavy, cast-iron tins & pies and my German was again much improved.  I bought my own zwiebelkuchen to take home, sadly needing to spend the extra €0,50 for a carboard box.  I didn’t get the memo to bring a tray from home in time. I just finished my last piece of pie for breakfast, it’s also awesome with coffee, and I’ll be heading out to buy two more shortly.  I’ve heard they freeze beautifully and I know I’ll be craving this again as the days grow colder.
21SEP13

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Yesterday is a blur. It was Tess’ first day in secondary school.  Unlike American school with elementary, middle & high school, German schools have Grundschule (elementary school) and secondary school.  There are 3-4 different types of secondary schools, and honestly I’m still learning the difference between each.  Tess started the Realschule, the middle-of-the road school amongst the different types.

The first day was for parents too, and we drove down our little mountain together.  Since we live in a very small village, the biggest out of the 7-8 villages hosts the Realschule.  Yesterday Tess got her reduced Fahrkarte that identifies her as a student & allows her to ride the local bus & train system.  There is already such a well-developed, complete, public transportation system that separate school busses are not needed.

We joined her class, the incoming 5th graders, in the Festhalle next to the school.  The principal, teachers & glee club welcomed us all.  After the speeches, and some Lady Gaga tunes, they brought out the sorting hat & sorted kids into four houses.  Oh.  Wait.  No.  No hat.  Just the principal & his list.  And no houses.  Just classes 5A, 5B, 5C & 5D.  Thankfully Tess was sorted into class 5C with all her friends.

Observant me followed the other 5C parents out the Festhalle, across the field, through a door, a long hallway, up some stairs, another long hallway, into a slightly dark & very crowded room, to find my daughter happily beaming at me from a chair. I got to stand behind her, wedged in with other parents, and work up  a sweat.  Her home room teacher explained a lot, handed out a lot of paperwork, including an insurance form.  Germans love insurance.

This particular form was to cover any damage at school.  There was also an option to insure jackets, shoes, clothing that was damaged or stolen from the hallways (it’s only 1 euro for the year); and an option to insure music instruments; and an option to insure bikes (necessary if you have an attractive bike, the teacher added).  I was thinking lockers might have been a better idea than insurance with 10 different options.

After classroom business we said goodbye to our big kids, and I again played lemming and followed the troops back to the festhalle.  The older grades had cake & coffee ready for us and I happily filled up with both, then turned around and realized it was my first day at the high school cafeteria all over again. I froze.  I didn’t recognize any of the parents, all four classes were there (and many kids had both parents, and a grandparent or two, there), and in a quiet panic I went and sat by myself at a lonely table.

I was lonely for less than a minute.  As the only American (and the only Dutch) woman there, most people know who I am.  It’s a little creepy, though this time very happily creepy.  All the Turkish mama’s came & sat with me, as they said, they know what it is like to be an Auslander (foreigner). It was a fantastic little hour, chatting with other moms just like me. I think I have a lot more Turkish in me than I do German.  The only bad part was that they love coffee.  Every two minutes, it seemed, one of them got up to get us all more coffee.  I’m a joiner. I drank at least six cups of coffee.  I think I’m still bouncing off the walls today.

Finally our kids came in, more talking, and the day was over.  Well, the day at school was over.  Armed with Tess’ supply list we headed over to the Müller to find things like a DIN A4 red, lined; DIN A4 blue, not-lined; DIN A4 red, double-thick graph paper, and on & on & on.  We spent over an hour staring at the different DIN A4 before moving on to the DIN A3 & deciphering what “dickies” are for Dane.
(for the record dickies are fat pencils, now we both know!)

11SEP13

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There’s my beautiful girl with her beautiful purple teeth!  I miss her.  She has a best friend, it’s summer, and they are either at Becca’s or squirreled away in her room making Littlest Pet Shop videos.  I’ve been loving how happy she is, how adorable those videos are, and then, yesterday, I suddenly realized I’ve barely seen her this summer.  She’s been in & out & busy so much, there hasn’t been a lot of mommy & Tessa time. I really miss her.  Thankfully we have a little R&R coming up and that will change all that.  Yay!

In between all her summer activities, we’ve fit in a slew of dental appointments.  It seems getting a new dentist is always the last thing on the list with a move, and that was true this time too.  Can I just say, I love, love, love our new dentist!  She is adorable (I know, I know, #1 quality to look for in a dentist), she is smart, gentle, competent.  She takes her time with us and answers questions patiently.  I really feel we have the perfect dentist for all of us.  And that is something rare.

Along with her personal adorableness, I love the office itself.  Not so much the office, it’s clean, professional, modern.  You know, a dentists office.  But it’s location?  For someone who’s still happy as a clam to be living in Germany, this office is in the perfect location.  Or almost perfect.  Inside the actual city wall would be best, but it is right outside and I see the history & beauty every time we drive in.  Our dentist is in Weil der Stadt, also know as the Gateway to the Black Forest & the birthplace of Johannes Kepler. One of my favorite little cities here.  See, I am beyond lucky!

Thankfully we get to go to the dentist a lot.  It’s not just because of the German way of seeing the Dentist (visit 1: check stuff out; visit 2: cleanings; visit 3: fillings (as needed)), but also because there are so many of us, even without all six kids living at home.  You can see by Tess’ face (and that was visit #3, in as many weeks) that she loves being there.  Everyone should have an adorable dentist, outside of old city walls, to put a smile on their face.

14AUG13

 

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