Why yes, I do have hunger! Hunger for an XL American burger! At a diner that apparently hired Chef Boyardee to do all the cooking. I will be eating here as soon as possible.
One of the first challenges of moving to a foreign country is figuring out the food. Where do you get it? Why are all the cuts of meat completely different from the last place you lived? Why do you have to weigh all your fruits and veggies and bag everything yourself? Not to mention the sheer mass of vocabulary needed to navigate the market or grocery store aisles. In France there were at least 5 different kinds of cream, so even if you knew the word crème you were still screwed.
Here things are in German, so I am pretty much screwed all the time, especially if there’s no picture on the label to help clue me in. Shopping is a big fun mystery game, and when everything gets opened back home I’m never quite sure if I’m going to be a winner (gourmet sweet mustard!) or a loser (sugar with added gelatin. Wah waaaaahhh).
But with each trip I’m learning. Husband, on the other hand, still has a ways to go when it comes to food vocabulary. That’s perhaps why I heard the Babe making distress calls the other night while Husband was dutifully trying to feed her some yogurt that she usually loves.
“Does she want her own spoon?” I called from the kitchen.
“Maybe? I don’t know what’s wrong!”
“Huh, what flavor is it?”
“Uh, sauerrahm. I don’t think she likes it.”
That’s right when I came around the corner to see the poor Babe gagging and pawing at her tongue while Husband sat helpless with a spoon full of white stuff. White stuff that was not, despite the deceiving dairy qualities and similar packaging, yogurt, but SOUR CREAM.
Husband had been spoon feeding our child straight sour cream for at least 5 minutes. And being the true champ that she is, my girl actually took down the first few bites without complaint, all the while looking at Husband like “this tastes like shit, but I’ll do it for you dad.” At least it was organic?
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sauerrahm (zower ruhm): sour cream
As in, “The Babe probably has a few more sauerrahm dinners in store while mom’s at the hospital and dad’s in charge of meals.”
This is by far the best part of my new neighborhood: stellar mint chocolate chip ice cream just a short walk or even shorter tram ride away. Two scoops plus a plain cone for the Babe, all for 2 euro. I don’t know whether I’m more excited about the price, the taste, or the fact that it’s still warm enough to sit outside and eat ice cream in the first place.
Eis Salon de Rocco – 1180 Wien
We’ve been in Vienna for nearly 2 months now, and you’re probably wondering where all the exciting posts about what to see and what to eat are. Well, I’m sad to report that there hasn’t been much time for exploring the city, other than the excellent public parks and playgrounds, thanks to a certain one-year-old who doesn’t seem to enjoy staring at Gustav Klimt paintings or sitting quietly at old cafes or even walking for hours around old palaces. Go figure.
I haven’t had much to write about here, other than brief snippets of Vienna life so far. But yesterday I got my mojo back. I had 4 whole hours of Babe-free time to do whatever I wanted. And although the urge to curl up in bed and eat health cookies was strong, I fought hard and made myself waddle downtown.
I spent a huge chunk of time on one little street called Wollzeille, between Stephansplatz and the Stubentor metro. There I found an adorable candy shop, complete with an old lady making little marzipan animals and figures in the window.
And then I stopped in Herzilein-Wien, an amazing children’s boutique that sells hand stitched and embroidered clothes in all kinds of bright colors. If you ever come to visit, it’s the perfect place to pick up a gift for a little person back home.
Tired from waddling an entire 2 blocks, I then decided to rest my fatness at Café Diglas, where I could soak up the crisp fall sunshine and indulge in my very first chunk of apfel strudel.
I have to be really honest here: I’m not sure how I feel about apfel strudel. Having never tried it before, I was excited to partake in this particular Austrian tradition. But the apples were kinda stringy, and I wasn’t digging the boozy flavored raisins, and it was cold. Don’t get me wrong – I ate the entire thing. But I yearned for more pastry in my pastry to apple ratio and wondered if I just had a less than stellar specimen or if this was all apfel strudel was cracked up to be. I vow to find out for you and report back, even if it takes months of strudel testing. And if it doesn’t work out, there were plenty of other fabulous looking desserts being shared at tables around me, so my sweet tooth certainly won’t go hungry.
I have a full fledged addiction brewing here in Vienna, and it involves these chocolate covered biscuits that fortunately/unfortunately came in a 3 box pack. I cannot. Stop. Eating them. And like a true addict, I find excuses throughout the day for why I need just one more. Like, Cletus needs the extra calories! Or, You earned it, walking up the hill from the grocery store! Or my favorite, They’re WHOLE GRAIN! That makes it practically a health cookie!
Welcome, friends, to the wonderful world of weisswurst! It is possibly the best breakfast food this side of the Atlantic (aside from pain au raisins, of course). These weird looking sausages seem to be pretty popular here in Vienna, but we were first introduced to them in Munich, where they are served with weissbier, sweet mustard, and fresh baked pretzels as part of a traditional Bavarian breakfast.
As a Jimmy Dean traditionalist myself, I was a admittedly a bit wary of eating slippery white tubes stuffed with veal and parsley first thing in the morning. They look a bit grayish and sad when they come out of the simmering pot, and not necessarily something you want to dive into after a long night of Bavarian beer drinking. But most disconcerting is that instead of eating them with a knife and fork or wedged between a bagel and fried egg, purists insist that you’re supposed to pick them up and suck the meat out of the casing.
When our German hosts enthusiastically encouraged us to try it, I balked. It sounded like a pretty awesome trick to play on the dumb Americans, and I had a sneaking suspicion the next “Bavarian tradition” would involve running naked down the street with a Hitler mustache painted under my nose. So I daintily cut into my sausage and peeled the lemon and herb scented innards from the skin, washing it all back with a big swig of beer. Husband wasn’t so skeptical, however, and he successfully sucked on several sausages that morning, much to everyone’s amusement.
(That may have been one of the more disturbing sentences I’ve ever written. I’m sorry.)
Understandably, that image has haunted me for a while now, and I never quite got over the feeling that we’d been had, no matter how delicious those sausages were. But it turns out that sucking weisswurst is actually a real thing. Wikipedia says so. And so does our good friend Justin, who suggested I expand your vocabulary to include the fabulous verb zuzeln.
That’s pronounced tsu-tslen (as far as I can tell). It means “to suck.” It also means “to lisp” according to the German dictionary, which has nothing to do with weisswurst but is kind of funny. I would use it in a sentence, but I’m about 0% sure of the conjugation. All you need to know is that if you find yourself below the Weisswurstaquator, in the area of southeast Germany (and I guess Austria?) where weisswurst is popular, don’t be alarmed if someone suggests you zuzeln a white sausage.
Unless they’re not wearing pants. Then they probably mean something else.
Bad-um ching! Just couldn’t help myself with that one. Happy Friday!
Say that with a “v” and you’ve got the best drink in town covered. I’m not just saying that because I’m pregnant and can’t drink anything else. The tap water here is exceptionally delicious, and tastes like there’s literally Evian flowing through the pipes at all times. Which makes sense, because supposedly the city water supply comes all the way from the Alps. Now if I could find the public tap for weissbier I’d be all set…
No vocab today. Instead I will share this piece I wrote after a particularly long day with The Babe. It was meant to be purely cathartic, and now it helps to go back and read it when I’m teetering close to the edge of insanity. Maybe some of you out there could use it, too. Enjoy!
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Sometimes, My Baby Is An Asshole (And Other Things A Mother Shouldn’t Say)
I should probably start out by establishing that I love my child. It’s a deep, primeval kind of love, the kind that makes me inconceivably happy to see her giggling face at 5am and instinctively prepared to throw myself in front of a train for her if need be. She and her scrumptious dimpled thighs have brought many joys into my life. She is a gift that I’m thankful for every day.
But sometimes, she’s an asshole.
I mean that in the nicest way possible. And I think it’s actually a testament to her well-developed, spirited personality that I can actually say that she’s being an asshole, as opposed to just being a baby. Because babies are essentially just cute drooling blobs of human matter. Assholes have to use their brains.
Which is why my child waits until we’re packed on the bus with at least 3 stern-looking elderly ladies to start screaming about some phantom need and thrashing in her stroller like she’s on her way to an exorcism. It’s why she then decides to punish me for trying to leave the house in the first place by hiding all the tupperware in various drawers like a tiny little hoarder, refusing to give up one single plastic lid.
It’s also why she often looks me in dead in the eyes, picks up a handful of food, and flings it on the ground. She does this with an air of both disdain and defiance, like I’m forcing her to eat road kill or break a politically-charged hunger strike. Except it’s usually some food that she’s eaten happily a million times before, so there’s no justifiable reason for her to shun it. Other than she’s being an asshole.
Now most of you are probably thinking, “wait, aren’t babies assholes all the time?” And I can’t blame you. They do wake you up at all hours of the night to eat and often spontaneously puke on you and are wont to crap their pants right as you’re trying to get out the door to make an appointment you’re already 20 minutes late for. But that’s just typical baby behavior, and you can’t blame them for not having control over their bodily functions when their bodily functions aren’t even fully developed yet.
Acting like an asshole requires a bit more premeditation. For example, if your baby accidentally knocks over a glass of water as she’s unsteadily making her way around the coffee table, that’s just her being a baby and you being a dumb parent for leaving your drink unattended. But if she snatches the cup, crawls away like the cops are in hot pursuit, looks over her shoulder to make sure you’re watching and then dumps the contents gleefully all over the floor? She’s being an asshole.
Or say your baby leans in to give you a big, open-mouthed slobbery kiss, and proceeds to drool milk solids down your cheek and onto your one nice blouse. It’s annoying, but she doesn’t understand the mechanics of her own swallow reflexes yet. Ruined blouses kind of come with the territory. But if she leans in to give you a kiss, then diverts her mouth to your shoulder and takes a bite out of your arm, all because you picked her up out of the bathtub where she was happily playing with an old razor? She is clearly being an A-HOLE.
It’s a bit of a grey area when your child pulls up on your chair, slaps the jiggly part of your inner thigh, laughs hysterically and then gives you a zerbert. She could be mocking your inability to get back into pre-pregnancy shape, but she could also just be really amused by the tremendous fart noise one can make on jiggly, post-baby skin. Plus it is kind of funny. So we’ll let that one slide.
The point is, my baby can be a total asshole. And so can yours, I’m sure. But much like surly bartenders and most cats, babies bring a unique kind of joy into our lives along with the pain. We love them despite their mean streaks, because their wily displays of defiance show us how smart they are, often in ways we can laugh about later. And really, wouldn’t you rather have a smart (ass) baby than a boring one?
Besides, I’m confident that my child will outgrow this kind of behavior by the time she’s a teenager. By then she’ll be much more compliant and will be truly grateful for all the hard work I’ve put into ensuring her wellbeing. God, if I could only fast-forward to the day she turns 16!
This morning I had 4 hours all to myself, without The Babe tugging at my pant leg to read “Hokey Pokey Elmo” for the 500th time or smacking me upside the head with her sippy cup (yes, that really happened). Unfortunately, those 4 hours were spent at the lab, getting A LOT of blood drawn, peeing into cups, and drinking one big mug of glucose-spiking tea. All on an empty stomach.
Not quite the break I was looking for, but I guess the wretched gestational diabetes test had to be done for the sake of Cletus (the Fetus). So off I went this morning to a lab recommended by some of Husband’s colleagues. Now let me remind you that doing this kind of stuff in France was scary enough with the language barrier, and I spoke French. I don’t speak one single word of German. I can’t even remember half the vocab I’m promoting here.
But oddly enough I don’t have nearly as much paralyzing fear about communicating here as I did in France. So I walked right into that lab and figured out that I was supposed to take a number and wait. See! No German? No problem! Except that my number was “21.” And I can’t count past 3.
No bother. I approached the desk and asked the receptionist how the number system worked. I told her I didn’t have an appointment. She reassured me that all I had to do was listen for my number to be called. Then I leaned in closer, brandishing my little blue slip of paper with “21″ on it. “And how exactly do you say this number in German?”
She looked at me like I had six heads and then laughed. “Einundzwanzig.“
Einundzwanzig! I said danke and took a seat in the waiting area, chanting einundzwanzig einundzwanzig einundzwanzig so I could remember how it sounded. Then I got distracted by an odd magazine sitting next to me called “Shoe Manic,” which you’d think would be all about shoes but didn’t have one single piece of footwear on the cover. And then I panicked because in the 4 seconds that I wasn’t chanting “21″ in German I forgot how to say my number. Zweiundeinzig? Einzigzwanund? Einenzaftig? Wiener Schnitzel?
About that time the nice lady next to me nudged my elbow and pointed to the paper number sitting on my knee. And then I heard the nurse actually saying Frau Villson. I was up.
Thankfully the nurse spoke English once we were inside the exam room. But I had to sit there for two more hours, and get called in to have blood taken twice more, all while hopped up on an evil concoction that makes you feel like you just mainlined chocolate syrup. So please for a minute imagine me sitting there, too cracked out to even read my book, slouched over in a chair quietly chanting einundzwanzig so I wouldn’t miss my turn again.
I wish I could say that was my lowest point in Vienna, but there’s still a baby to be born here. Which pretty much guarantees that I will sink to even lower levels of idiocy. Maybe I should start studying up on my numbers? And perhaps the names of my nether region parts?
I’m going to dig up old embarrassing photos of Husband. And once we all clean up the soda that shot out of our noses after seeing that winner above, I’ll tell you why he’s banned from the community pool in our neighborhood. Surprisingly it has nothing to do with risque European swimwear.
Right across the street from our temporary digs is a lovely little swimming pool that only costs 3 euros. We walk by it on the way to the grocery store (up and down that steeeeeeep freaking hill) and it’s always full of kids and parents having a good time. The Babe loves swimming, so I’ve taken her a few times to splash around and get a few good gulps of chlorinated water.
The pool itself is tiny, and definitely designed for kids- it never gets any deeper than waist high, and there seem to be very few rules regarding rafts, toys, and splashing other people in the face. Everyone is really friendly though, and The Babe enjoys it thoroughly.
I relayed all of this information to Husband one evening, and he said he’d actually like to go check it out. Husband is most certainly a creature built for land, not sea — so the kid pool would actually be just his speed. He figured some water aerobic conditioning might help work out a nagging muscle in his back.
So off he went one evening, just before closing time. And he was knocking on our front door just 20 minutes later, a sheepish grin on his face.
Apparently no one was sitting at the pool’s front desk to take his money when he walked in, so he just sauntered over to a bench, took off his flip flops and headed toward the water. As he did so the children in the deeper end took one look at him and scattered like minnows. All the remaining patrons cleared out as soon as he stepped in.
A little self conscious yet undaunted, Husband continued wading back and forth, checking around for sharks or floating poo or whatever else it was that scared everyone away. Within a few minutes the lifeguard came running out of the ladies locker room shouting in rapid-fire German.
Husband assumed she wanted him to pay, so he pulled a couple euros out of his swim trunks. But the lifeguard shook her head and motioned for him to get out of the pool. She continued talking in urgent German. Husband shook his head to indicate that his Austrian dialect wasn’t quite up to par. She looked at him sternly and said,
“No man…no child…no swim!”
I guess men are not allowed to swim alone at the pool. So everyone thought Husband was some strange pervert trying to prey on Austrian kids at the local swimming hole. Which is 1) hilarious and 2) a very odd assumption to make at a public pool. Is there some rampant pedophile problem here that we don’t know about?
The lifeguard was understanding, but I don’t think Husband will be going swimming again. Even if he takes The Babe along as proof that he’s not a creep. In his words, “they’ll just think I rented a kid to get in!”