My family and I have been spending the Christmas holiday week on a farm in the Rheinland, right by the fabled Lorelei. (Often part of the Korean tourist pilgrimage to Germany.) We’ve rented a holiday house on a farm (Bauernhof) with my husband’s family to celebrate Christmas and my oldest’s sixth birthday in the small town called Bacharach. Every time we passed the exit on the Autobahn, it was like a compulsion. I couldn’t help but start swooning out, “What the world needs now, is love sweet love.” Indeed this is where Burt Bacharach’s family is from. And what an adorable town it is. Typical German Fachwerkhaeuser (half-timbered houses) all in nicely refurbished shape with ornate signs in the shape of a pretzel for the baker or a bunch of grapes for one of the many wine bars line these narrow streets. Since we are here during the off season, everything is closed including many of the cute wine tasting bars (Strausswirtschaften) which are open when the self-produced wine is ready. We’ve made a vow to come back again!
For this stay, the focus was on simply finding a holiday farm in a scenic location that was no longer than a 2-3 hour journey for all parties to reach and that had easy walks in front of our door. Since we would be here over Christmas when shops are closed from the afternoon of the 24th till the 27th, we also knew that we should come prepared with as much food as we needed for the first half of the stay.
We arrived with kilos and kilos food: two kilos of apples, three kilos of clementines, two kilos of potatoes, two kilos of other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beet roots, parsnips, cucumbers and tomatoes, one kilo of cold cuts, 1.2 kilos of “Diplomaten-Steak” for raclette, 1.2 kilos of ribeye for bulgogi and 1 kilo of oxtail for oxtail stew or ggorigomtang. (And if you are wondering if there were any vegan efforts this week, they were placed on hold. My husband and I have been struggling to exercise a vegan diet in Germany in relation to feeding our kids a non-vegan diet anyway. But we didn’t want to add an extra complexity of explaining why we were not eating the same food as everyone else to my husband’s parents.) We also brought a couple jars of kimchi plus ggagdugi (radish kimchi) and some jangajji (Korean pickles).
After five days, nearly all of those kilos of food are gone. I’ve had to move fast to get all of this food for my family of five plus three more adults on the holiday table. Springing from frying or sauteeing one dish in a fry pan to bringing a soup to a boil (often turning on the wrong burner!) to getting kimchi from the jar into a serving dish while responding to the questions or needs of my little girls and untangling my toddler from my legs. I’ve been fortunate to be able to delegate some of these tasks, but it still takes clarity of mind to articulate and communicate everything with grace. Unfortunately, the speed and circumstances in which I’ve been moving have resulted in remembering midway through the half-eaten meal that I should have taken pictures of my Korean food made in Germany! Yes, clearly my photo trigger finger is still in early training.
I can say that we have all eaten well. The first evening I witnessed my normally restrained sister-in-law declare that she was already so full but just had to eat a third piece of chicken teriyaki because it was so delicious! I also tried Korean potato salad for the first time which is only Korean at all for being served in Korean restaurants as a side dish. Funny as I always scorned it with my purist attitude, but now have accepted it as part of the “traditional” repertoire. Both of these recipes I found on my current fave Korean food website, Beyond Kimchee.
The other highlight was making ggorigomtang (oxtail stew) for lunch and then miyeokguk (seaweed soup) out of the remaining broth for the next day. My mother did this for me when she came to Germany to take care of me after the birth of my first two children. (For which I will forever be grateful.) When my third child was born in California, I expressed a craving for this miyeokguk, but my mother explained that I would probably be disappointed as the oxtail was nowhere as tasty as it was in Germany.
We also followed tradition by having raclette on Christmas Eve or Heiligabend. Of the things we forgot to bring, our raclette grill was one of them. Luckily, we could drive 30 minutes to Mainz and buy one on the morning of the 24th before the shops closed for the next two and a half days. On Christmas Day, I marinated some bulgogi and my husband suggested that we grill it on the new raclette grill since this one had a ridged grill top. That was a good idea; the bulgogi tasted so yummy! Maybe the next recipe to experiment with is Korean style raclette, but I haven’t made the fusion leap yet to integrating cheese into any of my Korean food. I think this might be the end of where Korean food meets Bauernhof for me.