Festive season in January?

Celebrating orthodox Christmas in Germany

“Merry Christmas” is a phrase I would typically say in December as me and my family celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, just like every other Christian families does, right? Well, at least I thought so until I got to know my best friend. She and her Macedonian orthodox Christian family celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January. With the help of her real life experiences, I want to illustrate some background information and traditions of a Macedonian orthodox Christmas celebration in Germany.

What is the orthodox church?

The orthodox church alongside roman catholic and protestant church form the three main Christian groups. Orthodox beliefs don’t differ in many ways from the other two, but it is divided geographically e.g. to Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Church. Those do have theological differences within because this belief forms partly from traditions which differ around the world, even though the main beliefs in Jesus Christ as the embodiment of God and his reincarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, stay the same. The Eastern Orthodox church is again subdivided geographically, rather than divided by nations and all churches are either autocephalous (have their own head) or autonomous (self-governing). They still go by the Julian calendar which explains the time differences to our Gregorian calendar.

The relatively small Republic of North Macedonia shares borders with Serbia in the north, Bulgaria in the east, Greece in the south and Albania in the west and is therefore landlocked in the eastern part of Europe. The Macedonian orthodox church is a belief which about two-thirds of the North Macedonian population professes, but it isn’t recognized autonomously by all of the other churches.

What does a typical Christmas look like?

The orthodox church puts a lot more emphasis on family and Jesus than the typical German Christian family. When I was a kid, Christmas was mainly about the presents and good food, but as my friend told me, her family doesn’t exchange gifts at all on Christmas. However, food is an important part in their traditions as well. In the time before Christmas, they fast, which means in this case following a vegan diet. Fish, however, is still allowed in this diet and the fasting lasts up until and including the 6th of January, so effectively their Christmas Eve.

Another important tradition is the coin in the bread. They put a coin in the bread dough and when it’s time for dinner the bread gets separated between the family members, including a piece for Jesus and Maria and other people or things that are important and loved by the family. All the bread must be eaten or else it allegedly means bad luck and whoever finds the coin in their piece is to have good luck during the next year. If, for example, the kid gets the coin, he or she also gets a little money from the parents and if the coin is for example in the piece for their house, the family is supposed to buy or do something for the house, like giving it a fresh paint or buy some sort of accessory for the house.

A very interesting aspect of their dinner is that once a person sat down at the table, they are not allowed to stand back up or if they do and then sit back down, they are not allowed to eat anymore. Because of that, the family gathers everything they might need during dinner on the table before sitting down, which always ends in an awfully full table, as my friend states.

What does it feel like to celebrate Christmas later than all of your friends?

In this section I can only speak for my friend who told me all of this and I know that it is probably different for everyone experiencing it. First of all, she states that celebrating later has pros and cons. She never has to argue about which family dinner to attend with her roman catholic boyfriend, as they have separate dates for celebrating Christmas and can subsequently simply do it twice. Generally, she says that when it comes to the 6th of January, she is usually not in a festive mood anymore because all of the people around her already throw out their Christmas trees and are done with the festive season. It sometimes feels weird to still celebrate Christmas. Also, because it is usually the last day of the holidays, her parents have to work the next day and she has to attend to university the next day, they only have one day to celebrate and almost no opportunity to visit relatives the following day like I have when I celebrate on the 24th.

After all, please don’t forget to wish your orthodox friends a Merry Christmas on the 6th of January, I know that they will appreciate your consciousness about their culture very much!

Author: Sandra Rieger

Popcorn flavors around the world – Thoughts of a popcorn addict who only goes to the movies to get fresh popcorn.

Who doesn´t love popcorn? It´s crunchy, chewy and puffy, it can be salty or sweet all in all, it´s just incredibly tasty. Popcorn is one of the most popular snacks and has been enjoyed across the globe for centuries. But have you ever wondered how popcorn became such a popular snack?

A historical recap

Popcorn actually is a truly ancient dish! The oldest popcorn known to date was found in South America approximately 5,000 years ago. Native Americans not only ate it but also used it do decorate ceremonial embellishments, clothes and necklaces. As colonists arrived in the New World, they became fond of Native American food. Not only was popcorn enjoyed as a snack, but it was also eaten with milk and sugar like a breakfast cereal. The story of popcorn´s rise to prominence continued with vendors selling the snack near crowds, especially outside theaters, circuses and fairs in the 18th century. This gave birth to popcorn being sold as a classic movie snack later. During the Great Depression, the corn kernels gained even more popularity since it was the only snack many people were still able to afford.

Salty or sweet? – it is not that easy

Enjoying a bag of popcorn isn´t limited to just a few countries anymore. I´m a popcorn addict who got the chance to travel the world during the past few years. On my journey I experienced that each country enjoys its popcorn in very different ways, which honestly surprised me.

Let´s have a look at three places that stand out when it comes to the enjoyment of my beloved snack.

USA

Apparently, the Americans have really weird popcorn-eating habits. They mainly like to eat it salty, which is fine by me. But why do they drizzle butter on top making it all soggy? It is also very common to add cheddar cheese which makes them even more greasy. Mostly Americans either enjoy their popcorn at the movies or as a late-night snack at home cooked in the microwave. However, popcorn has been reinvented over the past few years in the US. If it´s dry popped in hot air without oils, fats, salt or sugar it´s actually low in calories, high in fiber and contains many nutritious antioxidants.

Singapore

This country´s love for the fluffy snack is exceptional – you can get any type anywhere at any time. Popcorn usually is part of the standard Singaporean diet and a common snack at work or served before dinner. The Malaysian brand Eureka is the most popular popcorn brand in South East Asia and sells common flavors like sea salt and caramel as well as fancy flavors like seaweed, curry or white coffee.

Australia

Unlike in Germany where flavor options are usually limited to sweet or salty, Australia has a huge selection of popcorn in movie theatres. The abundant flavor choices include French Vanilla, salty caramel or white raspberry. I found my first and foremost, all-time favorite flavor called Rocky Road Popcorn in Melbourne. The Popped kernels were mixed with salted cashews and melted Hershey´s chocolate. In the end they put mini marshmallows on top, which made them the unhealthiest but best popcorn I have ever had in my life.

To all the popcorn addicts: Popcorn is a delicious snack that came from America but is enjoyed all over the world in different ways. Whichever way you like it most, if you´re a real popcorn lover, you should open your heart to new adventures and tastes and just keep popping along.

author: Hannah Reichle

Enchilada during the Corona Crisis – An Interview with an employee

Coronavirus has hit us all very hard. It started with a couple of cases in China and, suddenly, the whole world was on lockdown. Among other things, restaurants had to close their doors overnight. I wanted to know what has changed for the staff of restaurants and bars, so, I went downtown to talk to an employee of the Enchilada. Her name is Lisa and she has been working as a waitress there for one and a half years now. Due to the loosening of regulations for social distancing, we were able to have a face-to-face interview in the restaurant.

For those of you who don´t know the Enchilada, here’s a quick briefing: The Enchilada is a Mexican restaurant and bar in Augsburg’s city centre. It’s a member of the Enchilada Franchise Group, just like the Ratskeller, Dean & Davids, Aposto, and many more.

What did a usual day of work look like before Corona? How many people were here? How many employees? 

That depends on the day. On business days, there were only up to three waiters, one or two bartenders, and three people in the kitchen. The weekends were a whole different situation: we have seven different areas in the restaurant itself and ideally, there is a waiter for every area. On top of that, there were five or six bartenders. Even in the kitchen, we added an extra dishwasher. So, is a lot happening here on weekends.

Ok, thank you for that insight. Let´s talk about the present. A lot has changed, obviously. Which precautionary measures did you take, especially in the beginning?

Everything happened so fast. I was working on Saturday and by Tuesday we had to shut down completely. None of us could attend to work for four weeks. Our boss managed all the orders via Boxbote together with just one cook. After a while, he decided to join Lieferando, and customers could book their meals over the phone and fetch them later. From that moment forward we had one additional waiter in here – two on the weekends – and three people in the kitchen. We’ve also changed our business hours: normally, they would be from 6 pm until 1 am, but now we work in two shifts. One from 11 am until 2 pm and another one from 5 pm until 10 pm.

How was the mood among the employees, especially when you weren´t going to work? Did you know how it would all turn out?

Right at the beginning when we couldn´t do anything – not even leave the house – we met on Zoom. As nobody knew how the whole situation would develop, we were a bit worried. I can´t speak for my colleagues but I was really concerned after a while, especially after the situation got a little bit out of hand and the media reports went crazy. But now I work on a regular basis – although it´s not as frequent as it used to be – and I am grateful for that. Because we met on Zoom, nobody was really intimidated by the whole situation.

So, your boss didn´t have to fire anyone? They´re all still here?

Yes, he didn´t have to. We made it through fully staffed.

That´s very good. Well, Lisa, I heard that the Enchilada gives away vouchers for customers who fetch their food all by themselves. Is that correct?

Exactly.

Are there any other offers?

We’ve created some packages for Lieferando. Those are whole menus the costumers can order. On Boxbote we put up three different cocktail packages. On top of that, we started a prize game and put a ticket in every bag. Right at the beginning, we had some complimentary gifts, but they were gone pretty fast.

Regarding the cocktails: I can´t quite figure out how it works. Aren´t cocktails supposed to be iced? Doesn´t that ice melt until it reaches the customer?

That works well. Lieferando’s and Boxbote’s radius for delivery isn´t that big. Especially for longer distances, Lieferando goes by car. And we only finish creating the cocktails when the food is ready, and the delivery man is in the restaurant.

There were no complaints about melted Margaritas?

Not that I would know of. As I said, we finish them last and from there on everything should happen very fast.

Ok, we´re about to come towards the end of this interview. Slowly but steadily restaurants get to open again. What precautions are going to be made? Will there be a bouncer? Do you know anything about that?

I know a little bit. For a long time, our boss just wanted to wait because there were new restrictions every second day. But now we know more. We had a bouncer on the weekends even before Corona. On top of that, we have to check IDs because – from what it looks like – only two households are allowed to meet. But as the number of people at one table is limited to four, we need to check if they´re really just from two different households. As I said, there will be a bouncer on weekends. If there are people sitting at the tables outside, they don´t need to wear masks. But as soon as they get up, go to the toilet or even just go inside the restaurant, they have to put them on. Plus, there always has to be enough distance between costumers at different tables. All employees must slip on their masks just like in any other business right now.

Does the mask bother you?

It’s not the end of the world, but it is exhausting. The employees in the kitchen have a hard time understanding the point of it all. And I think even our costumers will have trouble picking up what we said. But, like I said, it isn’t tragic. As long as I can work, I am happy.

Ok. So, now to my last question: What did you learn for the future? Do you may keep any of your innovations for the long term?

We will definitely stay on Lieferando for a while. Plus, we will have different business hours. We used to open at 6 pm. Now we will be accessible for you at 11 am so people who work in the area can have their lunch break here. Until 8 pm we will grant access to the outdoor area. Afterward, we will stay in the restaurant for two more hours to take care of the orders from Lieferando and Boxbote.

Lovely. We’ve now reached the end of our interview. Thank you very much, Lisa. I wish you all the best.

Thank you.

I talked to Lisa off record for a while after the interview and she told me that she really looks forward to meeting some costumers again at the restaurant and interact with them. The outdoor area of the restaurant is very inviting and – although it is in the city centre – very quiet. So, you should definitely check it out. 

The interview took place at the end of May, so some of the information may be outdated by the time you’re reading this article.

author: Celine Bohner

Fifty Shades of Greens

Fighting Food Waste

Walking through a supermarket, you may notice the many shelves stocked with freshly baked bread, exotic fruits and barely one-day-old vegetables. Everything is organic – everything is green – everything is sustainable, at least that’s what the ads promise. What´s hidden from the customers’ eyes are the completely overstuffed bins, containing huge amounts of still edible food. Since we were children, we’ve been told that wasting food is wrong. So how is it possible that food waste is still an issue today?

Here’s the problem

Even today, 800 million people – one in nine – are starving or suffering from malnutrition. Each of them could be fed with less than a quarter of the food that’s wasted in the western world each year. Globally, it takes a space larger than China just to produce the amount of food that is never eaten. And full tables come at a high price: over the last few decades, our food supply system has been globalized, which has driven up the prices of food in developing countries. A quarter of all fresh water consumption is used to grow our food. No to mention issues like deforestation, the extinction of rare species and the forced movement of indigenous people. It’s quite easy to think of food waste as someone else’s problem, but truth be told, more than half of the food waste takes place in our private homes.

What’ s happening in our neighborhood?

Germans approximately throw away 45 million tons of food per year, around 55kg per person. The government has discussed various strategies to cut this down. The goal is to reduce this huge number by 50 % over the next ten years. National awareness campaigns are launched to highlight the level of food waste, as well as setting legal guidelines for supermarkets and restaurants, which are responsible for around 40 million tons in total. Consumers are supposed to be aware of the real importance of the best-before-date, which is misinterpreted by some as a tutorial on how to stay alive. One of the most important parts of the plan is directed at the food industry and regards packaging the food in much smaller, suitable quantities. In addition, experts recommend a traffic-light-style system, which could illustrate precisely whether food is still edible.

What could be done about it?

And then, there are legal issues: at the moment, possible food-providers have to be afraid of legal proceedings, in case their donations cause food poisoning or other diseases. There is also the problem of transportation. Supermarkets have to pay someone to transport their food to organizations like the Tafel, that ensure that surplus food from retail trade is collected and passed on to those in need. While Germany hasn’t worked out all the legal details yet, others have already taken action. France, for example, has banned supermarket waste, unsold food is to be donated to food banks or charities. In Denmark, supermarkets have to release information on how much of their produce goes to waste. Over 150 food companies in the UK have committed to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, implementing the Target – Measure – Act strategy, which provides businesses with steps they can take to reduce waste in their own supply chain. Germany still has a lot to do.

author: Dietmar Zombori

Turkish food made easy

Have you ever eaten Turkish food and wondered how you can make those dishes with little effort and no time? You have? Well, worry less and read on, because I’m here to tell you how to prepare the most common Turkish-inspired dish with easy-to-find ingredients for, namely, börek. The main ingredients are feta cheese, dry parsley, puff pastry, eggs and sesame seeds, and that’s about it!

As you can see, I haven’t given you any information about how much you need of each ingredient. That’s because my mother used to say “watch and learn – I don’t do measurements! You need to learn that for yourself!” Harsh, right? But it actually helps, because once you figure out just the right amount or what you like best after some maybe disastrous first attempts, it’ll taste just perfect!

Let the cooking adventures begin!

Now, let’s start! This most classic Turkish dish, which is basically a type of dumpling, comes in all kinds of variations. Normally, you need to get up early in the morning to prepare the dough and leave it to rise for several hours until it’s ready to use. But we’re lazy students with no time and energy to do that, so we’re just going to take simple puff pastry, also known as Blätterteig.

Secondly, take your cheese and knead it in your palms to make it all mushy and mix it in with some dry parsley. This mixture is probably the most common one to fill your dumplings with, but you can also take mashed potatoes, minced and seasoned meat or even spinach, but that would take far too long to prepare and no student has time for that!

It’s coming together…

Now it’s time to cut your puff pastry into square shapes. Then, you take your cheese and parsley mixture and put about one spoonful on each square. Fold the square in half, covering the cheese and squeeze the edges together, so that it looks like a small cheese-filled dough bag. Now, maybe heat up your oven to about 200°, or maybe don’t, to each his own. I don’t think that’s necessary unless you’re baking cookies or something. Anyway, now you beat some eggs, put sesame seeds in it and mix it all together. This is what you coat your dumplings with, so that they don’t end up too dry on the top. And that’s about it! Just shove your tray in the oven and bake everything for a good 10 to 20 minutes, and keep on checking on them. As soon as they turn golden brown, they’re done! It takes absolutely no time to prepare once you get the hang of it, and it’s a nice alternative to eating noodles with pesto every day!

Bon appétit and good luck! Just don’t burn your kitchen down, maybe…

Text & Pictures: Filiz Özer

Russian food will make you go mmmmm…

Russian food doesn’t exactly top the popularity charts in Germany, which is a shame, really, because this huge country has a lot more to offer besides vodka and caviar.

Russian cuisine

Russian food is thought to be crazy, very varied and rich in calories. But is that true? It certainly is. Russians love food and are not afraid of trying new crazy things, which gives you more reason to discover Russian culture on your own while you’re traveling. You may have heard something about Russian traditional foods like ‘borsch’ but have had little opportunity to try them. People who visit Russia are often surprised at the flavors of Russian cuisine. They will make you search for the recipes when you return home!

Typical dinner food

russianfood

For Russian people dinner tends to be a big, social thing for the whole family. Indeed, it may be the only time of the day that the entire family gathers together and so people wait for everyone in the household to get home before eating. A traditional meal in Russia is made up of three dishes. The first is a meat soup with vegetables and grains, called ‘solyanka’ or ‘schi’; second is fish or meat with a garnish like rice, potatoes, pasta, buckwheat or stewed cabbage, and the third is a beverage like compot, ‘kissel’ or juice. Sometimes, instead of a meat dish, a heavy red-colored soup like “borsch” is eaten. This kind of soup is usually served with sour cream and is made with beetroot. Another option for the meat course is ‘pelmeni’ or ‘wareniki’ – something like dumplings made of ground beef or mashed potato inside a dough parcel. Bread is a staple and for example my grandma will not sit down at the dinner table if a pile of sliced bread isn’t present. Tea, mostly black tea, is served for dessert and vodka usually accompanies the meal.

Three foods every Russian grew up with

  1. Blini” with caviar and sour cream:

My mom ate a lot of things like frogs’ legs, snails or innards that horrified me as a child, but I took to caviar right away. “Blini” are thin, crepe-like pancakes made out of unleavened dough usually topped with savory toppings such as caviar and sour cream. Yum!

  1. Herring in a fur coat (“Pod schuboj”):

Imagine a cake layered with salted herring, cooked vegetables, potatoes, pickles and a coat of grated beets and mayo. It sounds gross but it looks like a little pink masterpiece and tastes fantastic!

  1. Olivye salad:

It’ll probably freak non-Russians out a little, but really, it’s just potato salad with veggies like carrots and peas, mayo, and bologna. Looks foul – tastes incredible.

Give it a try!

Author & Picture: Nicole Valuev

About sushi, anime and technology

Honestly, how much do you really know about Japan? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? According to the media and hearsay, we get a lot of information about what Japanese people do and how the country works and we’re pretty sure Japan is a crazy country, right?
Anata ni himitsu o oshiemashô (Let me tell you a secret):

Anime and manga are kid’s stuff!?

building-kleinerCan you remember playing Yu Gi Oh! or watching Pokemon, Naruto or Biene Maya after school? Known as the Japanese interpretation of comics and their animated version, anime and manga become famous in the 70s in Germany. Despite massive criticism of the violence by some people, it seems manga and anime are made for kids. However, only some anime are just for kids because there are topics and stories for all ages. While Biene Maya and Pokemon try to teach kids friendship, loyalty and honesty, others are meant for grownups and tell us something about our sometimes harsh and cruel world. They‘re very important methods for teaching values.

 

Itadakimas – Japan’s dangerous food

Besides sushi and ramen, Japanese people like food-table1-kleinerto eat dangerous things like fugo (pufferfish) and awabi (ear shells).If you go to Japan, you won’t find many restaurants serving this kind of food. Only a few selected cooks with a special qualification are allowed to serve these dishes. Apart from this, the most famous dishes are donburi, rice with a variety of toppings and karê-raisu (curry with rice).
An interesting fact about their food: they don’t put many spices into it and prefer light food, and is serve it very hot! As we’re used to western food, Japanese food might taste a bit strange, at first, but it gets better as you get used to it. And thanks to the 7/11 stores at every corner, you never go hungry, as you’re able to buy freshfood.

Japan as a high-tech country

When it comes to technology, Japan is second to none. Imagine one skyscraper next to the other with big screens on most of them, combined with the singing (!) traffic lights and masses of people wandering around – this is a typical day in Tôkyô or Ôsaka. Apart from singing toilets, a typical Japanese household isn’t full of technology. And because there’s a housing shortage in the cities, the Japanese people have to save space. They’re fans of minimalism and some don’t even own a TV. But as fancy as Japan is, not every big city is just filled with technology. Hiroshima, for example, is comparable with Augsburg in this sense, and if you take a closer look, you can see how high-tech mixes with tradition in many big cities. And if you go further into the rural areas, you’ll realise that these places aren’t affected as much by technology.

city-above-kleinerSo, clichés sometimes have a core of truth, but in order to tell the differences between the truth and generalisations, it might be a good idea to travel to different places. Every single country is uniquein its own way – datte bayo!

Author & Pictures: Sabrina Korti