Category Archives: Cooking

a german twist on thanksgiving away from home

Hello from the line at the Danish Immigration Service Centre in Copenhagen!! I am #194. They are currently assisting #125. If any place could make me painfully aware of my situation in Denmark, it’s being huddled in among a hundred other people who are also very obviously not blonde. But I found a heated bench, and can now think of happier things, so-

My first ever Thanksgiving away from home was without a doubt the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.

Thanksgiving is an interesting phenomenon- it’s really the only holiday that everybody in the States celebrates other than New Years. No matter what religion you follow, if you are American at all, you’ll most likely at least try to have a nice meal in the company of some people you care about.

Europeans are shocked that American expats freak out this much about Thanksgiving so, to explain, we just tell them that our Thanksgiving is like their Christmas. Which, especially in Germany, where everyone is Christian, everybody celebrates. They’re planning their dinners, presents, pudding etc. even before their weird Halloween celebrations are over.

And so since Avery was living in Germany and Josie was headed to Odense for a course with her lab, the obvious choice was to head to Bayreuth to get my Amurrica fix. I didn’t know at this point that we’d be cooking said Amurrica fix for just under twenty Germans, but the more the merrier.

Trying to eat like an American in Germany for this particular holiday presented several setbacks:

  1. The grocery stores don’t have pumpkin puree.
  2. The grocery stores don’t have yams.
  3. The grocery stores don’t have Italian sausage.
  4. There is no Asian grocery store (ok only my problem, but everyone does it differently).
  5. Grams to ounces, Celsius to Fahrenheit, cups to liters, kg to pounds ARGGKHRAUEJjkN
  6. German cuisine generally consists of lots of potatoes and starch and not that much else. Acclimating to the 7264356 flavors Avery and I usually cook with was going to be the biggest challenge…

But we did it! It took us roughly four days to pull it off, but everyone seemed to like it:

An American experience for 20 Germans? Challenge accepted.

An American experience for 20 Germans? Challenge accepted.

Menu: Thanksgiving 2012 in Germany

To start, creamy spinach dip: Germany gets major credit for this for contributing this awesome melty cheese that, when mixed with spinach and garlic and herbs, topped with a layer of shredded cheese and then baked, made an awesome appetizer.

ha you know just casual hors d'oeuvres

ha you know just casual hors d’oeuvres

Pumpkin soup: Thanks to setback #1, we had to collect hokkaidos all over town, gut them, slice them, roast them, cube them, and blend them to make enough puree for a gigantic tank of delicious soup and a hefty pumpkin pie. We could taste the labor afterwards. Base of celery, carrots, onions, and potatoes, and then added four pumpkins worth of our own puree along with stock and a whole bunch of spices. On top- cranberry apple onion relish with paprika, Tabasco, and apple juice, thank you Rachel Ray.

the pumpkin soup to end all pumpkin soups.

the pumpkin soup to end all pumpkin soups.

Cornbread: we found some excellent cornmeal, none of the mass-produced Alberts brand, and a great recipe using cream, flour, butter, and salt, and made it a la Julianne Havel (Tyler’s mom) with a layer of pepperjack cheese in the middle, served with herb butter. I’m not sure if she knows I’ve made cornbread this way ever since she served it to me at her house a few years ago, but if she ever Googles herself and sees this, she’ll know :)

Yams: Thanks to setback #2: no yams, I now know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes: yams (the orange, soft kind) are generally found in specialty or international markets, and carry both ‘sweet potato’ and ‘yam’ labels. If it looks like a sweet potato at Safeway, it probably is. My mom makes this YAM dish every year for Thanksgiving, with sliced apples, orange juice gravy, and dried cranberries. It tasted great, just looked a little different.

Chinese Naw Mai Fan: Well shit. Setback #4 NO ASIAN STORE was a major one, so my stomach will have to wait for this one until Christmas :(

Cranberry sauce: It took us a few days to gather all the berries we needed for sauce- we ended up having to go with a few jars of preserved elderberries (at least I’m pretty sure they were elderberries, not speaking a word of German makes shopping itself a setback also), a few jars of preserved cranberries, two packages of fresh cranberries, and Asian pears. It was delicious! One of the best cranberry sauces I’ve ever had.


Bread stuffing: Avery’s big project that tasted AMAZING. Our family doesn’t have a traditional bread stuffing recipe, as we usually go with the Chinese sticky rice one, so I was suuuper excited to see how this was going to come out. Shopping for this dish was more nightmarish than the others, as we ran into setback #3 NO ITALIAN SAUSAGE… but being the genius she is, Avery turned it German and got the traditional weiβwurst (white sausage) to take out of the casing and mix in with all the other ingredients: celery, onions, dried cherries, spices, and lots of German bread, including those amazing gigantic pretzels… eating it was bliss. Avery can you mail me some?


Green beans: steamed, with sliced almonds and a dressing a la Manfreds & Vin in Copenhagen of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.

Mashed potatoes: Fluffy with creme fraiche and salt. I hope these matched the German gold standard of excellence.

Gravy: We found two cream of mushroom soup mixes, and just cooked them up with cream and a ton of fresh mushrooms.

nothing like fresh mushrooms... although we could use our produce man Dan to tell us how to pick them

nothing like fresh mushrooms… although we could use our produce man Dan to tell us how to pick them

Gravy #2: Turkey drippings, the remainder of the herb butter used for the turkey, and the neck meat. Plus some of whatever beer I was drinking. I had no idea what I was doing with this, but it was all gone off the table, so apparently it was good!



Neither Avery or I had ever cooked a turkey before, our dads always do it. Smoked, deep-fried, either way, we didn’t even know how to roast it. We started by unearthing a 6200g turkey (setback #5: LEARNING THE METRIC SYSTEM) from the freezer section… it was the biggest one they had. That’s approximately 14 lbs. Aren’t they usually around 25 lbs?? Anyway, we got to know Floyd Mitchell pretty well over the next couple of days, which is why we named him that. Sorry, Floyd, for violating you. You were delicious.

Brine (no idea what I was doing): A roasted shallot and some garlic, a gallon or so of chicken broth, Worcester sauce, mysterious German spices found in the Dierkes’ spice drawer, peppercorns, more of whatever beer I was drinking, and some dried basil. We rubbed the bird all over with salt and drowned him in the brine outside overnight (outside = easy refrigerator).

'his life sucks' -Avery

‘his life sucks’ -Avery

Stuff: So I read somewhere (seriously if it were not for Google, this Thanksgiving would not have happened) that a half orange inside the cavity would keep the turkey from drying out. Dry turkey meat sucks, so, to play it safe, we stuffed Floyd with half an orange, half an onion, and every apple scrap we had left over from making a giant apple pie- there were ten apples cores in the cavity, peels all up in the pits, an orange where his heart should be… again, sorry Floyd.

stuffed... with lots of vegetation

stuffed… with lots of vegetation

Rub: We had already sufficiently salted Floyd all over, so the rub was sugar-based. Some brown sugar, lots of raw sugar, paprika, some smoky mesquite flavoring, rosemary, salt, and pepper. After rinsing, it went over the skin, under the skin, everywhere…

Roast: We put Floyd on a rack over a pound or two of apple peel and some of the leftover brine. Plus some more beer. It went in the oven (500 degrees F) under a tinfoil tent for about two and a half hours until the internal temp was 165. Done!


Carving (kind of drunk at this point and, more than ever, no idea what I was doing): Before this whole thing, Karin told us a tale about the last bird she prepared and how it was a ‘fight’. That all made sense when it came time to start carving…


But it happened!!




And it was good! Salty, sweet, crispy, not dry at all. I now know how to prepare a turkey. Dad would be proud.

I got to eat the leg. All miiiine.

I got to eat the leg. All miiiine.

Dinner was all finished off with:

Pumpkin Pie: Probably the most beautiful thing ever. An improvised gingerbread crust, three or four pumpkins worth of puree, cream, sugar, cinnamon, mmmm…

Apple Pie: Made the Swedish way with crust crumbled over the top. Sophia especially liked this one!

Spiced (and spiked) cider: This was actually the first thing we started, so the cider had mulling spices in it for four days. Three bottles of pure apple juice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and a chopped apple. Added a bottle of sparkling water, toffee schnapps, rum, and some caramel sauce, and topped it with whipped cream and cinnamon.


Espresso cookies: I do miss the CoHo- they gave me good ideas for snacks. And for feeding my caffeine addiction.

Sophia and her friend Flo bouncing off the walls after being fed espresso cookies to satiate them while dinner was cooking. Mistake.

Sophia and her friend Flo bouncing off the walls after being fed espresso cookies to satiate them while dinner was cooking. Mistake.

So dinner was fantastic. More than anything, though, I was thankful to be able to celebrate the holiday like this. It’s not every year I can conveniently trek over to visit a best friend a country over, and be welcomed with a warm house and bed and all over coziness, from where I am living in Scandinavia, of all places. I never thought we’d be here. As much as this post grad experience has been a process, I’m incredibly happy it took the turn that it did.


until next time,




Filed under Beer, Cooking, Germany, Travel

mental health retreat in Bayreuth, Germany

This is Avery.

someone let us go to Vegas

Yeah she’s pretty much my spouse.

The two of us flew out here to begin our abroad adventure on the same day, September 9th. Since then, we’ve been going through similar life processes in different cities… for lack of a less cliché term, we’ll call it soul searching. Last week we realized together time was much overdue, so I booked a bus ride and a carpool to get to Bayreuth.


Bayreuth is like San Rafael- seemingly conveniently close to big cities, but really just out of the way enough to make it difficult to get to using public transportation. Eurolines got me to Berlin for $46, and a carpool took me the extra three hours south for another 20 euro. (For budget travelers, is the best resource to find car shares going anywhere in Europe!)

Traveling from Copenhagen by bus is uncomfortable, as the night bus stops two hours into the trip to (surprise!) load everyone onto a boat, where people sleep on the floor from 1:30-4am to keep some semblance of a night’s sleep, and then back onto the bus for the rest of the way to Berlin. The girl driving the carpool from Berlin probably hated me because I passed out in her front seat pretty much the minute she picked me up from the Mexicoplatz train station. Being a boring co-pilot is a really consistent bad habit of mine but something I’m probably never going to kick.


Yeah I have no idea how to pronounce this either. The family Avery is au-paring for lives in this area, where they have the most wonderfully comfortable house in a suburban neighborhood in a hilly context that reminds me of Marin. The Dierkes family is an incredibly warm family that loves to entertain, and their house reflects it, with a big open living space on the ground floor with a connected living room (Vonzimmer in German), dining room and (the best part) HUGE kitchen, and big bedrooms upstairs with cozy lofts in each of them. Oh, and heated floors. This is what the Copenhanish attempt to make their city feel like when they have a fraction of the space to do so.


Within an hour of being reunited, Avery and I started cooking. We made a pot of spicy minestrone soup that ended up being enough for four meals and cheesy garlic bread… mmmm. We were granted free reign of a giant, stocked kitchen!! Bliss.

On this particular night we opened a couple of beers and watched Night at the Museum with Sophia and her dad. Easy night at home in a small town with chips and beer on the couch. It’s like we never left Davis.

Winterdorf and Irish Coffees

We went shopping and of course, everything we brought home was edible. We bought Christmas presents for ourselves, a bottle each of Tullemore Dew Irish Whiskey and Baileys (among curious bacon chip snacks and an almost obscenely large log of marzipan, oops). We called them Christmas presents because we asked the cashier to wrap them up, expecting brown paper bags, and instead got frilly packages with bows.

Sooooo we made our favorite, Irish coffees complete with whipped cream, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Again, just like Davis.

We met some of the people from Avery’s class at the Winterdorf, a bar set up in the plaza of an outdoor mall downtown. It was a really cool concept, mostly open-air with lots of heating lamps. Even though it was in the thirties outside, it was crammed with so many bundled up people drinking warm alcohol in mugs that nobody really noticed that it was maybe thirty-four degrees outside. Most everyone was drinking glühwein, hot mulled wine that pretty much exists all over Europe under different names. (In Denmark it’s glogg– and probably costs four times as much.)

MaisselWeiss Brewery Tour

On Sunday afternoon, Ave and I biked down to the Maissel Weiss Brewery Museum for a tour. It was 100% in German (ha) but only cost 4 euro and came with explanatory packets in English so we could follow along and pretend like we knew what was going on (Avery’s actually pretty good at German now after living here for just three months, but obviously I had no hope).

Since taking our Brewing and Beer at Davis during our final quarter senior year with Prof. Charlie Bamforth, walking through breweries has been so much fun- rarely you learn technical terms in lecture that can be applied in such a fun context. Avery hugs lauter tuns, Ani loves mash filters. Everyone likes saying ‘wort’ in a British accent.

The museum was right down the street from Avery’s house, and contained all this old-school equipment that was used almost a hundred and fifty years ago to make beer! It’s incredible how far we’ve come since. Brewery workers in the 1870s crawled into the copper lauter tuns to clean it after every use. Now, lauter tuns are a) much bigger, b) stainless steel and c) clean themselves. They used to blow cold air over wort after boiling to cool it down. Today, that’s called a refrigerator.

The COOLEST part was the hop room! Bags on bags on bags of hops, and decorated further with dried hop plants. Although it’s hard to believe they use that many in these beers. They said about a handful per liter like it was a lot, but they have no idea what New Belgium Ranger is (I predict five handfuls). I miss California and those Sierra Nevada Torpedoes (mmmm Cascades) so much. Nobody here understands.

And then of course, the tasting afterwards was awesome, with Weiss beers in the usual concave glass. More on the different glassware for different beers later- until then, no more standardized 16oz. pint glasses!

Following the Lonely Planet guide

We stopped to pick up pizza for dinner one night at a small pizza place Avery found in the massive Lonely Planet bible she has, called Hansl’s Holzofenpizzeria. It was small and very clearly family-owned, smelled FANTASTIC, had an amazing selection of toppings (must try the seafood next time, Ave!), and a giant old-fashioned oven. We got beers and sat at the counter to drool over the pizzas being made and then strapped all five of ours to an extremely clutch bookrack on the back of the bike Avery’s been riding.

Just one of the many amazing meals I consumed this week.

To sum up, things I loved about Bayreuth:

  • It was small! The concrete jungle that is Copenhagen definitely put the homey suburbs in perspective.
  • The university looked like Davis! Avery pointed out all the things that had made her feel at home- eggheads, a very arboretum-esque lake running around the outskirts, even red busses.
  • BEER WAS CHEAP!! No more sacrificing taste and going with Carlsberg or rather just the weekly bankrupting for seven dollar beers. Bavarian beer is both affordable and delicious.
  • The Dierkes family. Quite possibly the warmest and most hospitable group of people I’ve been lucky enough to become acquainted with in awhile. They made me feel at home for a week, even calling me “Panda” (thanks for that Avery) and letting us throw a Big Fat American Thanksgiving in their house. But more on that later.

Thanksgiving, Prague, and more beer adventures to come!

tschüs (definitely had to look that one up),



Filed under Beer, Cooking, Germany, Restaurants, Travel