Earlier in life, I was following hot food trends avidly. I lived in London at the time that it was becoming a food capital of the world finally leaving behind its dismal reputation as a food wasteland. My friends and I used to shop at Borough Market before everybody else did and run into Jamie Oliver. We used to buy cheese at Neal’s Yard Daily and knew which cheese Philippe Starck himself loved. Through my job, I got to dine at some of the best restaurants in the city experiencing the chef’s table at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridge’s, regrettably after having dim sum in Chinatown for lunch that day, lunching at the Savoy Grill before and during Marcus Wareing, and breaking into the most divine passion fruit souffle at Le Gavroche. The latest, the who, and the where of food and cocktails were important to me during the Noughties. Yummy? Yes. Fattening, frivolous and pretentions? Yes.
That all along with my eating lens changed once I moved to Germany. We live in a rural area. The largest city, Stuttgart, is a good 80 km west of us. Rather than trend, glamor and posh, the emphasis here is quality. As provincial as it is in Aalen, there are a surprising number of restaurants in our surrounds that are in the Michelin Guide. In our town, we don’t have any fancy restaurants, but any restaurant you go to will promise you a very good meal: a steak properly prepared (they do know how to handle meat here), a sauce the right thickness made with a rich meat broth (and they are notorious for putting sauce on everything) and spaetzle that is clearly made from Oma’s recipe. The bar is high. While I’ve felt the limitation of not being able to buy a slew of fresh Korean ingredients or the convenience of buying a jar of kimchi when we run out, I’ve been able to seek out which fresh ingredients we have in abundance. Thanks largely to my mother’s help, I’ve been able to figure out how to make the most amazing stews and soups that I wouldn’t bother to attempt in the US.
The market here is large – about 35 regular stands, not bad for a city of 66,000. Aalen has quite a number of elderly people, and you see them shopping here. My stroller often accidentally clipping the wheels of their shopping trolleys – we make up the other noticeable demographic of young families. When my parents started visiting us here in southern Germany, they swooned over how tasty the vegetables were. How sweet the radishes and leeks were, how fresh and green the spinach was, how juicy and tasty the cucumbers were. Even when they shopped at the grocery stores and discounters instead of the market or butcher, they were impressed with the depth in flavor that they have long lived without in the States. The big difference in Europe, especially here in southern Germany, is that food tastes like what they are supposed to. In future posts, I will share recipes that my mom and I developed or made more frequently to take advantage of the freshest and best ingredients available to us here.