Sunday, 19 September 2010

It was all Deutsch to me!

I've just been reading Ma Rainey's blog, "What's New at my House"  in which she speaks of "Oktoberfest", which, in common with anything else that might be fun, we don't 'do' over here (unless you happen to be a German ex-pat of course).  WHOA - somebody altered the points and sent me hurtling off down Memory Lane again............

"Kohlfahrt" literally translated means "cabbage-tour". Doesn't exactly help you much, does it? So here are some more details: Kohlfahrt-countryKohlfahrten (this is the plural) are only known in north west Germany, roughly as indicated by the red circle in this map. If you live around Oldenburg it is almost impossible not to go on one at some stage. Already not far southwest of Bremen some people have never been on a Kohlfahrt, although probably everyone knows what it is.
Kohlfahrten usually take place during January and February, preferably on a sunny and cold day. But I've also been on a Kohlfahrt where it rained the wholly day. So be prepared if you are ever invited to one...
You can only go on a Kohlfahrt if you are invited to one or if you organise one yourself. Usually you go with a group, be it your company or department, be it the football team you're in or just the people you studied with at university. It's not like the Octoberfest in Munich, where anybody can just turn up, put on Lederhosen and a silly hat and start drinking lots of beer.

I never imagined that having a German Foreign Language Assistant in the house for a year in the very early 80's would lead to a firm friendship that's still going strong today, 27 years later.  Heike's home was (and still is) Oldenburg, a city quite near Bremen in northern Germany, only these days she lives with her husband and almost grown-up son.  She has always loved England and first came here when she was 13 so she speaks our language very well.  In fact, in England she taught German, in Germany she teaches English.  My German isn't all that wonderful but it would be non-existent if it were not for Heike.  Well, her mum actually!

Her mum. bless her heart, speaks barely a word of English but, with my 'barely a word' of German and a bottle of good German wine she managed to teach me all sorts:  how to tell the time, how to say please and thank you, the rituals of 'coffee and cake', how to eat a smoked eel.  She did this in the same way as she would have taught her kids but not in a childISH way, more childLIKE..  Maybe that's where we're going wrong:  our kids have technology thrown at them when they might learn some things better if we talk to them.

When Heike lived with us we used to spend hours chattering about anything and everything.  There was no such thing as an early night!  She's also a very good cook and even signed herself up for a 10-week basic cooking course on a Thursday evening.  I have her collection of recipes still.  But the REAL great memory is KALE!

Now, it has become very fashionable all of a sudden to eat this beautiful brilliant green veg but back then, here in England, (well Scunthorpe at least) it was not to be had.  You just simply could not buy the stuff anywhere.  The reason was that, though we grew it here, it was only for feeding to the sheep!  So, unless you went foraging about in sheep troughs you'd have to make do with cabbage!  Not Heike.   She had been telling us about the Kale parties ('kohlfahrten', yet another ritual steeped in tradition) they had at home every winter and decided that we must hold Britain's first ever kale party in our little house in Scunthorpe.

She went home for the Christmas holiday and came back in early January.  How on earth she got through Hull docks customs with a car stuffed with bags and bags of kale, and with vac-packed bratwurst, pinkel sausage and smoked pork under the front seat I don't know!  Then 2 kilos of Jacobs coffee and a dozen bottles of wine in blatant full view of anyone who glanced in!   As soon as it came in the house, out had to come the food processor.  The kale is normally chopped quite small with a knife after it's been washed and picked over but if you had seen that lot you might have been forgiven for having nightmares.  We chopped it in batches in the food processor, finally burning out the motor I might add.  Every bowl and basin I had was filled with this strange green stuff.  Not to mention the bits that didn't make it that far - the counters and floor were covered too.

The next day was the designated party day so we rang round the other foreign language assistants and, in fact ended up with not only the first Kale Party, but a multinational one at that!  Apart from 6 English there were 2 Germans, a Swiss, 2 French and a Spaniard.

Next morning, Heike got started bright and early.  Into a huge pot (she brought one of those from Germany too, fortunately) went all the kale, half a bottle of white wine, a few bay leaves and juniper berries, salt and black peppercorns the whole pinkel sausages and a big piece of smoked pork. Then it went on the hob over a low light, lid on and it simmered slowly, slowly, for about 6 hours.  The sausages didn't disintegrate because they are specially for this purpose.  You don't eat the skins, just scrape the meat out of them.  The bratwurst were thrown into the pot about an hour before the end of cooking.  A huge pan of potatoes went on to boil and when they were done we were ready for off.

We fished out the smoked pork and sausages and sliced up the pork - difficult as...well how tender would you expect it to be after so long?   The kale (or some of it anyway) was piled onto the centre of a huge oval platter, with boiled potatoes at each end;  the sliced up pork was arranged at one side and a selection of whole sausages at the other.  Over the whole thing was ladled some of the liquor from the kale pot and to the table it went, where it was devoured with gusto!

There was no dessert - after that lot you couldn't have managed it - but copious quantities of German beer (you'd be amazed what contraband one VW Golf can hold) and wine were consumed.  And we ate and talked and laughed and ate some more and drank a little bit and then we chose our 'Kohl koenig', our Kale King, the one deemed to have eaten the most kale.  Guess who?  Keith!  Don't tell me he hasn't lived!  Well, it WAS his house!   He has his silver plastic Kohlkoenig pig  'medal' to this day.

Leftovers went back into the pot to be reheated next day.......and the next.....and the taste got better and better.  Finally we were down to the last little bit.  It got whizzed up in the food processor, I made some bread and we had the most delicious soup ever.

  After that we decided that the other nationalities were not getting off scot-free so one or other of them took over my kitchen one day a month and we all shared the fruits of their labours.  And just GUESS who got to do the cleaning up?  

I was supposed to be excused from doing any English delicacies as I was providing facilities but I did have a Yorkshire Pudding eating contest  at which English were excluded.   Well, they could eat but not compete.  It seems that Yorkshire puds and gravy are beloved by all who taste them.  We had to abandon the contest as everyone was having 'just one more'    and we lost count!

Happy days!


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

It all sounds and looks delicious. I've never had Kale, but anything cooked with all the other ingredients put together like that must have had a good flavor. You were blessed to be able to have someone from another country give you an authentic meal like that.

Ally Lifewithally said...

Angie what a lovely interesting entry ~ everything looks absolutely delicious ~ Ally x

Andy said...

Having just returned from France it makes you realise just how much good food we are missing out on

Ann in the UP said...

The description of your Kale fest was wonderful! We see kale here, more often as an ornamental in gardens than in the produce section. The magazines tell us it's wonderful for us----but we resist.

Sort of like the metric system. LOL

Grammy Staffy said...

What a fun post. I have never heard of a kale party and I have never eaten kale. I can see that my life is sorely deprived.

How are you my friend? I hope that you are doing well and are as sassy as ever. You make me smile. Have a grat week. Many hugs, Lura

p.s. Lets skype sometime. That was fun when we did it before.

Jasper said...

Sehr gut Angie,

Ruth war im Deutschland fur zwei jahre, sie habt viel spaß! Sie wohnt im Rottweil am (die lecker) Necker, in der nahe von Tubingen (ein uhr oder so als Stuttgart). Das war dem hunde (Rottweilers) bist vom.

Bis spater, und mit bestem Gruß,


Jasper xxxx

Rita said...

Great story Angie. Really enjoyed your version of the Kalefest. What a privilege to be invited to your place; would have loved to be there and help you chop up that kale and maybe have a bit of that wine.

Anonymous said...

oh your blog took me back to the days when we lived in Germany and The Netherlands...learning parts of the language was fun and fun to use...even the kids enjoyed it...thanks for a nice trip down the "autobahn" LOL...and yes..I can still hear you in the back!!! and the header pic is precious...LOL hugs all day to you

Marie said...

Yet another post I missed. I think I've been to kHOLfarte. (rude name wot!) Anyways, I am a great lover of German food and tradition! My ex boss always loved K\ale. I cooked it for him often. He liked it just braised with bacon. It was pretty good that way. I am longing for a trip to Germany now. sigh . . . maybe next year. XXOO