Thursday, May 21, 2015

And that's why all the toilets smell funny this time of year.

It's that time of year again!  Better than Christmas...better than Easter...and if you just guessed Pfingsten, what the heck are you thinking?

IT'S BÄRLAUCH und SPARGELZEIT!

Seriously...it's a big deal.  In a matter of a few short weeks, the threat of winter is gone and people begin to see some decent looking vegetables in the markets.  Although you can get a lot of things year-around if you search hard enough, Europeans tend to eat their seasons.  By April/May everyone is damn sick of potatoes and cabbage.  And two fingers to you, turnips and celery root!

It's what's for dinner
 Only the sheer boredom of winter vegetable depression can bring on the celebration of wild garlic (Bärlauch) and asparagus (Spargel).  Cookbooks devoted exclusively to these two ingredients start popping up in train stations and restaurants actually feature special asparagus menus.  Germanic people go berserk for the stuff.  Wanna impress your special Schweizerin?  Screw chocolate. Give her the green.

When I first saw a city banner announcing the arrival of Spargelzeit strung across one of the main streets of Rotenburg last year as my sister, our friend Monique and I were touring around Germany, I laughed.  Even better was when a random German lady came up to look at a Spargel menu posted outside of a restaurant with us.  She declared her love for the vegetable so proudly by exclaiming, "I eat so much Spargel, I believe I am mostly made of Spargel!"  We thought she as cracking a joke. She wasn't.

Back home on the farm, we spent hours picking what was basically a weed that grew along the irrigation ditches with my mom, running home, eating it and giggling because it made our pee smell funny.  I'll never forget the experiment we conducted one summer when we actually timed how long it took for the "magic" to happen.  Pretty sure I remember mom yelling at us that it wasn't proper to sit on the toilet with a sprig of asparagus in one hand and a stopwatch in the other.  All in the name of nutritional science, of course.  I guess we just didn't have the appropriate reverence for asparagus.

For miles and miles and miles.
Bärlauch is delicious and tastes like garlic on steroids.  And it grows everywhere.  Springtime hikes in the forest smell like they were sponsored by Pizza Hut.  Eat it and you'll smell like garlic for the whole day, and probably most of the next as well (just an FYI, this also happens if you eat Raclette) You can stink up and entire train car by consuming just one portion of Bärlauch.  Hmm...no one wants to sit by me?  Have a bit of a stretch-out?  Don't mind if I do...

To give a word to the wise, while Bärlauch grows everywhere, so does its beautiful, evil twin, Lily-of-the-Valley.  Of course, nothing delicious can be too easily procured. Lily-of-the-Valley is deadly.  So if you decide to harvest your own, I strongly suggest you take a springtime nature walk with some of the plant experts in the area.  Additionally, watch out for the wild boars. They love it so much that they are probably mostly made of Bärlauch.