Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dining in Deutschland

Unlike in the U.S. where dining out is commonplace, Germans tend to cook a lot more at home and reserve restaurants for special occasions. As Thomas explained, dining out is considered more of a celebration than just a means to acquire of food. This explains why people linger a lot longer after eating and then request the check when they’re ready, unlike in the U.S. where waiters often rush over the bill before you’ve taken your second bite.

Maybe the fact that grocery shopping tends to be less expensive in Germany plays a role. For example, when we were in the U.S., Thomas suffered from sticker shock nearly every time we visited our local grocery store’s produce section.

And on a side note, Germans tend to use more local and seasonal fruit and vegetables when cooking. This explains why that bunch of grapes I plopped onto the scale at the veggie market checkout cost nearly €5 (about $6.75). Even the clerk was so shocked, he triple checked the price, looked at the sign, and then said (in German) something like Oh, these cost this much because they come from South Africa. He then gave me a questioning look as if to ask, Do you still want them? I never felt so guilty for indulging in fruit.

But back to the restaurant scene. Munich is a richly diverse city with tons of dining options those of us who love eating but are, say, slightly challenged in the home-cooking field. But lately I’ve been feeling a little homesick for some of my favorite foods from the States, like fried catfish, hushpuppies, dirty rice and shrimp étouffée.

So as they say, when in Rome, cook Cajun food. Or something like that.

Two grocery stores and one fruit and veggie market later, I had all of the ingredients to make my very own shrimp étouffée.

Yes, that's a cocktail shaker in the background. I needed a little liquid courage before embarking on this daunting culinary challenge...
It took about three hours (and a lot of math to convert cooking measurements...converting grams of butter into tablespoons is a two-step, cross-your-fingers process) but I finally got my étouffée. Plus, since I had to make my own Creole seasoning, I quadrupled my previously skeletal spice collection.

Here’s the final result: 

spicy shrimp étouffée with extra hot sauce
And the best part? It actually tasted good! Maybe there’s something to this cooking thing...