Tag Archives: Traditions

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

Mother Goose

With their sweet melodies and nostalgic associations, nursery rhymes and lullabies seem innocent. But when you really listen to the lyrics, this perception might change…

A nursery rhyme is a short story written in rhymes, often set to rhythmic tunes or music and is designed for young children. The stories have been with us for decades and can be used anywhere and at any time. These rhymes are also part of many cultures and often serve as an oral record of historical and political events and can even preserve archaic forms of language. The most commonly used nursery rhymes in the English language date from the sixteenth centuries.

A learning tool

Typically, a nursery rhyme has a catchy rhyme and simple vocabulary; children quickly learn to sing along. But nursery rhymes have more to offer than entertainment. Not only do they enhance the child´s imagination, introduce the idea of storytelling, promote social skills, boost language development and help phonemic awareness, but they also lay the foundation for reading and spelling. And because they build vocabulary and engagement slowly as a result of their repetitive and funny lyrics, they allow us to memorize basic structures and patterns in the English language, so kids can easily follow the now familiar words, as their parents or teachers slowly read to them.


nursery_shrinkCollections

Nursery rhymes are often collections, such as Mother Goose, which originated in France and is still a popular collection of nursery rhymes. Translations were also published in England and the United States, each with minor revisions, but they have remained true to their rhyming tales. Even though some of these collections use very old rhymes, which might be confusing to some children because of the language of Mother Goose, it provides an interesting insight into how people once spoke.

Hidden meanings

Nursery rhymes can also provide a quick history lesson and therefore connect us to the past and in some cases a nursery rhyme might have dealt with controversial topics and served as a mode of political expression or social commentary with hidden messages. If you dig a little deeper, they reveal shockingly sinister back stories. Gruesome tales of violence, scandal, medieval taxes, religious persecution, unlike our disneyfied modern perceptions; these aren’t exactly the topics that you expect as parent or teacher in poems meant for the nursery. Now, let’s look at some nursery rhymes and get their possible original meaning. Here are some backstories that may have inspired some popular nursery rhymes:

BaaBaaBaa, Baa Black Sheep

Baa, baa black sheep is about the resentment towards the medieval wool tax imposed by King Edward I in England during the thirteenth Century. Under this imposition, a third of the cost of a sack of wool went to King Edward I, another third went to the Church, and the last third went to the farmer. As a result, nothing was left for the poor shepherd boy who lived down the lane.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty

Humpty Dumpty depicts the fall of Colchester; it was believed to be a large cannon which was used during the English Civil War (1642 – 1649). At the time Colchester was under siege during the English Civil War and was a town with a castle and several churches protected by the city wall. A soldier named Jack Thompson had to take charge of a cannon nicknamed “Humpty Dumpty” on the walls. A shot from a Parliamentary cannon damaged the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty, which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, “all the King’s men” attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. But because of size and the weight of the cannon, they were unable to lift it back up onto the wall. Or it was shattered after the fall so “All the King´s horses and all the King´s men couldn´t put Humpty Dumpty together again!” Consequently Colchester had no choice but to surrender to Parliament.

Rock-a-bye-baby

Rockabyebaby

This song is about the Glorious Revolution, the overthrow of the last ruling Stuart king, James II. The baby in Rock-a-bye-baby was allegedly the son of King James II, but rumor has it, he was the child of another man. The king and his wife were unable to have children of their own, a baby was smuggled into their chamber in order to guarantee a Catholic heir. The ‘cradle’ represents the House of Stuart, while the ‘wind’ that rocked the cradle may be the Protestant forces from the Netherlands. Editors of the 1765 print version, Mother Goose´s Melody commented that the lyric ‘may serve as a warning to the proud and ambitious, who climb too high that they generally fall at last’.

Nursery rhymes have been memorable for generations; you will still overhear parents chanting them to their children or children reciting the quirky content. Whether the rhymes take you for a walk down memory lane, serve as time capsules, giving us insights into the past or into English words, or are just for fun, try them!

Text & Picture: Elisabeth Stützel

German grimness

Sometimes it’s a good idea not to worry so much. But even when we really shouldn’t, we kind of always do. You see we Germans are pretty good at a lot of things, or at least we hope we are. We build some rather nice cars. We play soccer as an actual team sometimes. We have the best beer. We have a really good rail network. Wait what?

Yeah, you got that. Someone actually saying the Deutsche Bahn is doing at least a more or less decent job. Half of you will probably stop reading now – but not so fast, please. The last time I took a train outside of Germany thirty-five kilometres took seven hours on a Chinese train with British train tracks. I say that, because the Chinese didn’t quite get their measurements right and the ride was incredibly bumpy. There was also a mouse (or quite possibly mice) hiding somewhere under the floor and occasionally a branch hit someone through the windowless carriages. But guess what? Everybody on that train was really happy. For a country where the GDP per capita is a good three percent that of Germany, I find that quite fantastic. On the last train I took in Germany, half the people looked unhappy – me included. After all, that 5-minute delay really was heart breaking.

So lean back, relax and maybe try not to worry for the next one and a half minutes it will take you to read this.

First, there’s our school system. Every three years, the “Programme for International Student Assessment” (PISA) does just that and assesses our school system somewhere, somehow. In the end, everyone is disappointed and nothing changes. I’m sure there’s a PISA inspector somewhere that hopes that Chinese students acing all their exams are incredibly happy and that all those poor lost souls playing football and having fun are really unhappy that they didn’t come top of the world in the test.

Besides, there’s the weather. It’s either too hot or too cold and when it’s just right, you’re far away on holiday and its either too damp, humid or sunny there.

Apart from that, those of you who are not privately insured will surely have sat in a waiting room before. And yes, our system is quite silly. But no, don’t tell that to anyone in the United States who just got a medical bill for fifty thousand dollars. He’ll probably wish the snake had been more poisonous.

Another thing is statistics like the unemployment rate, which is a mere 3.8% and yet if you ask any German for their first impression, they’d likely say it’s way too high. Tell that to the Kenyans, where not even half the people are employed. And yes, that might be a rather lousy comparison, but our next-door neighbour France’s rate is closer to ten percent. Ask them, and they’ll say it’s not too bad. And they’re not wrong. Compared to Kenya’s, it really isn’t.

Looking at someone’s face in a posh restaurant in Germany when they have to wait longer than the five and a half minutes, they expect their apéritif to take makes you think people in Africa die of anger – and not starvation.

So yeah, maybe next time think about how happy others would be if their situation was only as bad as yours. And then just relax – it really can’t be that bad.

It’s all the same, isn’t it?

That’s at least what I thought. But it turned out that there are quite a lot of differences even in the most basic Christmas traditions. I was lucky to be able to spend last year’s Christmas with my friends and their families in California and I was really surprised about my American Christmas experience.

Christmas season begins…

My_American_Christmas__Elisa_Kirchmeier._4To begin with, Christmas doesn’t start with an advent season. Good luck finding an advent wreath or even an advent calendar. Christmas time begins when Thanksgiving is over and after you’ve survived Black Friday horror. It seems like everything has switched to an “all Christmas format”. Radio and TV channels, shops which turn into little Christmas heavens overnight, simply everything. It’s impossible to pass a house which isn’t fully illuminated by lights, hundreds of reindeer figures, snowmen or Santa Clauses. Everything stands under the motto: the more the better, the brighter the better. It even becomes a thing or a nightly leisure activity to drive around, to go Christmas light sightseeing and to admire all the decorated houses. In the middle of December I got invited to an “ugly Christmas sweater” party. Ugly Christmas Sweater Party? Imagine a bad taste party, but you must wear the ugliest Christmas sweater you can possibly find. And by ugly I mean really ugly, like an illuminated, talking Santa on your boobs.

The tree

My_American_Christmas__Elisa_Kirchmeier.__3As Christmas came closer, we wanted to put up the Christmas tree. We turned on some Christmas music and lit the fire. But when I asked my friends when we would finally drive to buy a Christmas tree, they just answered: “yeah, we already have one in our garage.” I don’t know what I found more shocking. The fact that it was plastic or that it was white.

Christmas day itself

The 24th is generally a normal day. Like everywhere else in the world, everybody is trying desperately to find presents last minute. But instead of exchanging presents and having a three-course menu for dinner on Christmas Eve, I was proven wrong. You only get one present, which is usually a stocking (filled with little knick-knacks) handed out every year to hang under the chimney and a light meal.

25th: Since I missed the German Christmas dinner (back home) on December 24th – I was expecting a huge Christmas brunch the next day. But I was wrong – again. The whole house wakes up early in the morning only to rush into the living room to see what Santa Claus has left underneath the “Christmas tree”. And – since it’s America – he has left a lot. I´d never seen so many presents – even the dogs got wrapped presents. I guess the hanging sock was just an ambitious understatement because they couldn’t have possibly fit one single present in that sock. My_American_Christmas__Elisa_KirchmeierBy one o’clock they were still unwrapping their presents and the only food we’d so far was one cinnamon roll two to five egg nogs, the delicious American version of egg liquor. My hopes for the big brunch were shrinking more and more. After the present handover, the cooking started. I was already starved by now and the egg nog wasn’t helping either. And then, finally the best part about Christmas started. The food. I was certain that after the amount of stuffed turkey, mashed potato and gravy and afterwards plum pudding, ginger bread and pumpkin pie I ate, I would never eat again.

Because like everything in the US, Christmas dinners are massive.

Text & Picture: Elisa Kirchmeier

Sätt ljuset in i världen

Idag är det den 13 December, det är Luciadagen. På Luciadagen firar man en av de största religösa högtiderna i Sverige, även om firandet i modern tid inte är så starkt förknippat med religion längre. Då firar man att de kortaste dagarna på året är över, man hälsar de längre och ljusare dagarna välkomna. Man kan säga att Luciadagen är vinters motsvarighet till den bättre kände midsommaren. I det följande ska vi förklara festens historia och traditioner.

Luciadagens historia

Kanske undrar du varför man firar det kortaste dagen just den 13 December, eftersom du förmodligen vet att årets kortaste dag egentligen är den 21 December. Men det är lätt att förklara, om vi påminner oss om vilken kalenderräkning man hade när Luciafiradet började: Europa hade den julianska kalenderräkningen, och enligt den så inföll Luciadagen samma dag som vintersolståndet.

Sankta Lucia, alltså den heliga Lucia, är ett helgon i den romersk-katolska kyrkan och har sitt ursprung i Sicilien. Lucia dog på 300-talet och är skyddshelgonet till Syrakusa. Namnet Lucia kommer från latin (lux) och betyder ljus. Idag vet man inte precis hur luciafirandet utvecklades, men de första historiska bevisen på luciafester går tillbaka till medeltiden. Folk firade fester för att ringa i jultiden. På 1700-talet fanns det första rapporter om vita kläder som människaor hade på sig i samband med luciafirandet. Lite senare, på 1800-talet, spred sig denna sed från Västsverige, Dalsland, Bohuslän, Västergötland och Värmland, över hela landet.

Luciafirandet idag

Kerze1_Idag är Lucia inte någon särskilt religös högtid längre, utan snarare en fest för familjer och barn. De viktigaste symbolerna är vita kläder som barnen har på sig, samt ljus som bär i sina händer och på huvudet. Vanligtvis börjar Luciadagen tidigt på morgonen, hemma hos familjer, och forstätter i skolor, på dagis, universitetet och arbetsplatser. Hemma är det den äldsta dottern i familjen som är Lucia. Hon är klädd i en vit klänning med rött sidenband runt midjan och bär en krona med levande ljus på huvudet. Alla andra tjeierna följer henne som ”tärnor”. Tärnorna bär också vita kläder, men de har glitter i håret och runt midjan. I sina händer håller de var sitt levande ljus. Poijkerna får naturligtvis också delta i Luciatåget: De föreställer så kallade ”stjärngossa”, ”pepparkaksgubbar” eller ”tomtar”.

Men varför bär alla människor ljus på denna dag, kan man undra. Nu behöver vi komma ihåg att solen i stora delar av Sverige aldrig går upp mitt i vintern, så folk vill lysa upp mörkret och bringa ljus till hela landet och till världen.

Svenskarna är söta

Firar man någon högtid i Sverige, så får man inte glömma sötsaker, så klart: Som överallt i hela världen finns det speciella maträtter till speciella fester och högtider. På Luciadagen brukar man baka ”lussekatter”, en vetebulle med jäst som är gulfärgad av saffran. Med lite fantasi kan man se att den klassiska lussebullen ser ut som en katt.

lussekatter_ Kopie2Namnet ”lussekatt” består av två delar: Lusse är en alternativ benämning på Lucia. Andra delen, „katt”, hänvisar till katten, alltså djuret. Tidigare kallade man bullarna för djävulskatter, darför att i Tyskland var det djävulen som serverade dem. Och, som ni alla förmodligen vet, var katter förr i tiden djävulens hjälpare.

Nu ska vi avsluta vår lilla berättelse om en av Sveriges stora fester och, i typiskt svensk tradition, fika med våra lussekatter.

Ha det så bra! Vi önskar er alla God Jul och Gott Nytt År!

Text: Angie Czygann & Tobias Lorenz
Proofreading: Sarah Weitkamp
Pictures: M & A Czygann

Is our future written in the stars?

It’s impossible not to see the fear on the woman’s face. Her eyes are wide open and tears are trickling down her cheeks. But why? With a bit of a weird feeling, I look around the place. I’m at a colourful market where hundreds of busy people bustle among the booths. However, in a dark corner, separated from the crowd stands the small booth, the desperate woman has just left. The entrance to the booth is covered with cloths and a whiff of smoke fills the air nearby. An antiquated sign reads the offer: A look into the future.

fortune_picture1__Bit of history

For centuries, this kind of knowledge has been a valuable commodity, which provides those who claim to have it with enormous powers. The most famous of the so-called seers is without doubt Nostradamus. Born in 1503, he not only predicted the fate of the French king Louis XVI and the reign of terror under Adolf Hitler – above that, some of his convinced supporters assert that Nostradamus also forecast the recent election of Donald Trump. But as remarkably accurate some of Nostradamus’ prophecies are, many historic predictions allow numerous interpretative approaches, presenting a perfect target for different groups of people.

While some of them are already discussing Doomsday, others are more interested in extending their wealth with the diverse business of fortune telling. Of course, those fortune-telling products no longer focus on powerful prophecies. Instead, most of them are based on astrological interpretations of celestial bodies, also known as horoscopes.

Trading with the future

Nowadays horoscopes not only feature in many lifestyle magazines; they also help many people make important decisions. But how can a large and diverse audience create individual connections with the horoscopes? The answer is quite simple: by leaving enough room for interpretations. This will ensure that readers are able to identify with their horoscope and are retrospectively convinced that it came true.

Looking at an out-to-date horoscope from January 2017 confirms this assumption. It may sound a bit weird, but the horoscope seems unbelievably expressive and meaningful, while at the same time also kind of trivial. Among other things, the horoscope encourages me to let go of my own mask to earn some mysterious gifts. What could that mean? I basically spent the whole of January studying for some important exams. Could good marks be the promised reward? But what is the secret of the cryptic mask? As of yet, unanswered questions abound and there are no limits to imagination. In a nutshell, this is exactly what horoscopes are all about. It doesn’t matter if a student like me, a successful career woman or a family man reads the horoscope – the horoscope offers something for everyone.

It’s within ones power

After all, there are lots of people who draw strength and motivation from horoscopes. However, it does become problematic when people completely adjust their lives to fortune telling, thereby giving negative predictions too great a hold on them. We all have a free will and are able to shape our own future. And as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.

Text & Picture: Solveig Paulsen

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

If you’ve been to Great Britain during the first few days of November, you might have noticed fireworks going off and maybe even come across a few bonfires in the evening hours.  Like me, you might have had trouble finding out what it’s all about. People don’t always know why or what they’re celebrating. They just go and join the fun. But I usually like to know the reason for these kinds of festivities.

Westminster Bon fire2

A guy named Fawkes

It all started with a guy. To be precise: with Guy Fawkes. This fellow was “caught in the act” when guarding barrels of powder that had been placed in a cellar beneath the Parliament in order to blow up King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic King. But let’s see how the story began.

Guy Fawkes had presumably been very easily influenced by others all his life. In May 1604, he and other conspirators agreed to join in the now so-called “gunpowder conspiracy”. Fawkes then assumed the name John Johnson, as a servant of Thomas Percy, one of the conspirators. In early December 1604, he started to supervise work in a mine to prepare the gunpowder barrels. In 1605, they hired a cellar beneath Parliament. Fawkes helped to fill the room with barrels of powder and, because of his munitions experience, he was given the task of setting light to the powder. One day before his capture authorities discovered him, but let him leave because they hadn’t seen the barrels yet. But on Tuesday, 5 November, when he once again returned to the cellar, he was arrested. A Westminster magistrate had previously found the gunpowder during a meticulous search. Fawkes was tortured and finally gave away the plan as well as the names of the other conspirators. On Friday, 31 January 1606 he and three others were hanged.

Gunpowder Treason Day

firstRhymeThe very first celebration of the failed gunpowder treason took place right after Guy Fawkes was arrested. The King’s Council had allowed the public to celebrate the King’s survival with bonfires. The following year Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act (also known as “Thanksgiving Act”) in order to remember the failed attempt to murder King James I of England. What the celebrations were like during the first years can only be speculated, though we know that at least in some communities music and artillery salutes were part of the festivities. The events were mainly for local dignitaries to start with, but were extended steadily.

While at first the celebrations demonstrated an anti-Catholic sentiment – very early on, effigies of hate-figures, e.g. the pope or the devil, were burnt -, it gradually changed to large organised events, centred on bonfires and extravagant firework displays.

Guy Fawkes Day
NurseryRhyme_Today, every kid knows the name. “Remember, remember…” is a nursery rhyme every kid in Great Britain is bound to hear at some point. Still, when you ask people about the reason for bonfires and firework – more often than not the question results in puzzled looks. People do have a vague idea, of course, but nowadays people seem to be more interested in partying than knowing what makes this date special in the first place.
Partly this might be because society and circumstances change over time. There still might be the odd resentment between Catholics and Protestants, but they’re mostly well concealed in history. What’s more, the name of the day changed in the late eighteenth century, which might have helped to keep the true reason for the celebration in the dark. Even though the story is kind of known, people are lost regarding the specifics. 

Maybe we should not only celebrate festivities, but also try and remember the story behind the party. Otherwise we might lose part of our culture and customs that we wouldn’t want to. After all, even the nursery rhyme says “Remember, remember, the fifth of November…”.

Text: Angie Czygann | Pictures: Manfred Czygann