Grünkohl 2Grünkohl, or kale,  is a typical North German winter meal.  Soon after the first frost Restaurants will announce traditional all-you-can-eat  ‘Grünkohl’ arrangements  in the local papers.

A real Grünkohl meal consists of at least two kinds of different pork meats and a special sausage, the highlight of the meal. The meat that is boiled with the Grünkohl is usually some Kassler, a salted (cured) and mildly smoked pork meat, some belly of pork,  and  Schweinebacke, meat from the pig’s cheek. It is also salted and smoked and, at least in my opinion, neglectable, as it tends to be kind of rubbery and tasteless.

Grünkohl  is served with potatoes, as most North German dishes. However, you can get special potatoes just for Grünkohl. They are very small, and after boiling they will be fried or roasted in butter. They taste a bit more sweetish than ordinary sprouts.

Now, each region in North Germany has its own special sausage for Grünkohl. Around Bremen you will  have ‘Pinkel’, a very rough, spicy sausage, Kohlwurst  (‘cabbage sausage) is served in Schleswig – Holstein,  and  Bregenwurst in Northern Saxony.

P1030652Having grown up in Northern Saxony I like Bregenwurst best, of course. ’ Bregen’ is the Low German word (Plattdeutsch) for brain, and in the old times, when nothing was wasted after slaughtering, brain was an important ingredient. These days you can eat the sausage without being afraid of BSE, it is not allowed to use brain any more.

Last Sunday my 77-year old mother invited the family to a traditional ‘Grünkohlessen’, and, oh, I really, really loved it. She is growing her own cabbage in the garden and it is a lot of work to clean and cut the cabbage for so many people. But honestly, nobody is able to make it as good as she does, so  thank you, Mam, for making this for us! It was a real treat!


Traditional Norwegian Cake
Traditional Norwegian Cake

Christmas is over and I feel stuffed. As every year there has been too much food. Good food, and some good wines too. Delicious things we have only once a year.

In Germany, and also in Norway, Christmas Eve is the heart of Christmas. In our family we have made it a habit to have traditional Norwegian Christmas food, prepared by my partner. He has been in Norway not long before Christmas and brought back dried and salted sheep ribs, specially prepared pork meat and different sausages made of sheep and pork. After having been soaked in water for at least 24 hours the sheep meat and sausages will be steamed, while the pork is roasted in the oven. I love the smell of the steaming ribs permeating the house, this very heavy and basically simple food gives me a feeling of tradition and belonging.

When my sons with their girlfriends and my parents have arrived the meat will be served with mushy peas, mashed up turnip and carrots, sauerkraut, Norwegian style, potatoes and gravy. Before, during and after the meal some  Aquavit is served, and we are all  a little bit merry by the time we start exchanging the gifts. That can take some hours, as only one gift at a time may be unwrapped, and during this process we will have coffee and some ice cream. There are big “bunte Teller”, plates with nuts, dried figs and dates, mandarins, chocolates and marzipan on every table, and we nibble away all evening.

On Christmas day the rest of the family joins us and yet again we have a big meal. This year we tried to do it a little bit simpler and everyone brought some cake, cookies and muffins, and to balance out all the sweet stuff, we had a lot of different cheeses, baguette and pickles. The years before we had a big buffet with cold cuts, cheeses, salads and a lot of salmon, also brought from Norway, as we are too many to fit around the table. On Boxing day  we had ham of wild pig and deer, some smoked breast of goose and of course loads of leftovers. Oh, and I forgot to mention that we had more of that nice red wine, some ice cream and sweets.

Now everybody has left, and for a few days life will be almost back to normal before once more we will prepare a big meal for  New Year’s Eve. Until then I will take a lot of long walks with the dog to work up an appetite and get rid of some calories.

Roots – just some thoughts about them

Trees have roots. Through their roots they get nourishment and water. Roots keep the trees stable. When too many roots are cut, the tree will die.

Not every tree has deep roots. Some trees have roots spreading widely, but close to the surface. Others have roots growing deep into the earth. The roots get thicker and stronger the older a tree grows. As long as it is alive it is able to form new roots.

What about us humans? What about me? Do I have roots? Are they as important for me as they are for a tree?

Well, I believe that humans must form roots. They might not nourish our bodies, but our hearts and minds. Like trees, we have some strong roots and some smaller ones. When too many of our roots are cut, we will become unstable and lose our mental and emotional balance. When we lose all our roots, we die. Not physically, but our souls are destroyed when there is nothing left to nourish them. We might function, but are dead inside.

But what are human roots? Where do they come from?

From the moment we are born, we start forming roots. Strong root in my opinion are growing out of relationships, especially with our family or with the people caring for us, giving us affection and helping us grow up. They determine how we feel about ourselves and how we are able to cope with our lives. If this root is strong it will form many side arms, as we form friendships and enter relationships.

Each of us is born into a society, which again is influenced by its religions, its culture and its political system. I was lucky to be born into a democratic society, where it is up to me to choose my religion, to form and express my political opinions and the way I want to live. This society and its institutions have formed my values: I believe in freedom, tolerance, equality and social justice. Part of this root is my education, thus I have an understanding of history, my country’s history and world history, I have been introduced to the arts and science, and both the society and the education it has given me are strong roots out of which have grown my personal values and beliefs.

A third root is my profession. I love the kind of work I am doing. It includes teaching, counseling, managing a team and part of an institution, sometimes traveling and learning new things every day. One day I will be a pensioner, but the experiences, the knowledge and some of the relationships I have formed during my work life will stay with me even when I retire.

During my life I have formed many more, smaller roots, growing off the big roots. Maybe you could say they were the places, the people and the activities that gave and still give me a feeling of purpose, of belonging and of being safe.

However, I believe that my values and my family ties are my main roots, the ones that nourish and form the smaller roots. Losing them would unbalance me, as the one is giving me security and the knowledge that there will always be people I can count on. My values and beliefs are my compass in life. They give me orientation and help me to find my way. They are my filter and help me to distinguish between right and wrong.

Losing my roots would be dangerous for me. Not having anything to believe in anymore, having no values and no believes, being completely disillusioned and at the same time not having anybody to care for and nobody caring for me would destroy me both mentally and emotionally.

Weekly writing challenge: Roots