Tag Archives: Germany

Is the Easter Bunny French?

The origins of the Easter Bunny – that long-eared rabbit who generously leaves candy in the baskets of good boys and girls and hides brilliantly colored eggs for them to find – can be traced to Alsace, a region that is now located in France but which was for many years part of Germany.

The first written mention of the Easter Bunny came in a book by Germany’s Georg Franck von Frankenau called De Ovis Paschalibus (About Easter Eggs).

The Easter Bunny came to America in the 1700s when German immigrants came to Pennsylvania and brought with them the legend of the Osterhase, an egg-laying hare. Children made nests for the rabbit to lay colored eggs.

Eventually, the Osterhase, or Easter Bunny, began to deliver chocolate, jelly beans, and other candy and gifts.

To thank the Easter Bunny, children left out carrots to help him keep his energy up!

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International Food for Your All-American Cookout

Pavlova

Pavlova photo courtesy of http://www.kiwibaking.com

American Independence Day – also known as the Fourth of July – is one of the biggest barbecue holidays of the year.

This year, you can freshen up your party menu by incorporating cuisines from around the world. Not only will it give your guests some new flavors to enjoy but it will also permit everyone to celebrate one of the greatest things about our country: that we welcome all people here from around the world.

1. German Potato Salad

More than 17% of Americans report themselves as having some German ancestry, which is the largest self-reported ancestral group. Odds are, if you’re hosting a barbecue for the 4th of July, at least some of your guests are German-Americans. Here’s a Food Network recipe for German Potato Salad to help you celebrate.

2. Tandoori Chicken

Try something new on the grill with this recipe for Tandoori Chicken. You can adjust the seasonings to make it more – or less – spicy without sacrificing the amazing flavor.

3. Korean Barbecue

There’s nothing like barbecued spare ribs on the 4th of July, so tuck your napkin into your collar and get ready to get messy with this Korean Barbecue recipe from Epicurious.com. As of the 2000 Census, there are more than one million Korean-Americans in the United States.

4. Mexican Salad with Avocado Dressing

Fresh and delicious, this salad would go beautifully with whatever else you’re serving at your celebration. It’s also a great way to honor Mexican-Americans, whose numbers have increased 58% between the 1990 and 2000 Census.

5. Austalia/New Zealand’s Pavlova

Not only is this a beautiful-looking dessert, it’s also light after a heavy meal of barbecued foods. It uses fresh strawberries, but if you want to re-create the American flag, go ahead and dot in some blueberries to give the dish our traditional red, white, and blue look.

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Hear the World

kids listening to musicLike most people, I love listening to lots of different kinds of music.

From Edith Piaf to Bob Marley to Loretta Lynn to Ali Farka Toure, I’m interested in many different voices.

I’ve succeeded in getting my son hooked (a little). He enjoys French children’s music; in fact, it’s his favorite CD to listen to in the car.

And we both enjoy a CD of African lullabies that I bought him when he was a baby. 

I’m always looking for new ways to broaden our collection and a relative recently gave us Putumayo’s  Picnic Playground with fun children’s songs from around the world.

The Putumayo World Music company and their Putumayo Kids collection is a great resource for CD’s from different countries and regions of the world. According to their website, their goal is to “introduce children to other cultures through fun, upbeat world music.” As a result, they’ve been acknowledged by the Parents’ Choice Awards and the National Parenting Publications Association. 

But you don’t have to buy a CD in order to get your child to listen to different music from around the world. YouTube has many songs from other cultures that are fun for kids. As always with YouTube, you have to monitor it carefully to ensure your child doesn’t accidentally see something inappropriate.

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Make a Prediction

In 2011, consider adopting the German practice of predicting the future on New Year’s Eve.

Germans used to try to predict the future by dropping molten lead into cold water and “reading” the results.

Instead, why not anticipate the good things you hope will happen in 2011 by writing a news story or a letter to a loved one dated one year from now.

Ask everyone in the family what they think will happen – for themselves and other family members – and write up the results.

In the future, you can save these letters and re-read them on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all you hoped would be.

Happy New Year!

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Cookies 25: Lebkuchen

I hope Santa Claus was kind to you and that you spend a wonderful day with family and friends.

It’s been a lot of fun learning about different cookies from around the world and surfing the many, many, MANY websites devoted to Christmas cookies and international foods. I’ve definitely discovered a few new favorites and I hope you have, too.

And I also hope that through these 25 days of cookies you had an opportunity to learn about the other people and cultures who share our same goals: peace on earth, goodwill towards all, and maybe, just maybe, a sweet treat to share with loved ones.

Since my family is (partly) from Germany, I’m glad to share this final recipe – Lebkuchen – from there.

This Lebkuchen recipe is from MarthaStewart.com.

Lebkuchen

Ingredients

Makes 17

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup blanched whole almonds (about 1 3/4 ounces), toasted, plus more untoasted for decorating
  • 1/3 cup blanched hazelnuts (1 1/2 ounces), toasted
  • 1/3 cup diced candied orange peel
  • 1/3 cup diced candied lemon peel
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3 ounces almond paste, crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Pulse almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor until very finely chopped. Add candied peels and dates, and pulse until finely chopped. Add almond paste, and pulse to combine. Add jam, and pulse. Add eggs and brown sugar, and pulse. Add flour mixture, and pulse. Transfer dough to an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop ( 1/4 cup), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart. Place 3 almonds close together on top of each cookie. Bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  3. Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and milk, and brush over cooled cookies. Let stand until set. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Lebkuchen – Martha Stewart Recipes

 

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Cookies 23: Speculass

Speculass cookies, which are from the Netherlands, resemble the Springerle cookies from Germany we made way back on Cookie Day 4.

This speculass recipe is from Martha Stewart and it looks difficult and amazing. But then again, isn’t that what we’ve come to expect from Martha?

Speculass

Ingredients

Makes about 32 cookies

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for surface

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, white pepper, and cloves in a large bowl.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in half the flour mixture. Beat in water, then remaining flour mixture. Shape into 3 disks. Pat each to a 1-inch thickness, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Dust surface and springerle mold lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Roll out dough to a 1/4- to 3/8-inch thickness (deeper molds will need thicker dough). Cut a piece of dough about the size of the mold. Press mold firmly into dough, flip over, and gently roll over dough with a rolling pin. Flip over, and press onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a knife, trim excess dough. Gently coax dough out of mold with fingertips and onto a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing cookies 1 inch apart, and placing same-size cookies on same sheet. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Speculaas Cookies – Martha Stewart Recipes

 

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Get Your Tricks, Tips for Fun Halloween

Did you know that Halloween originated as a Celtic holiday? Or that people in Germany hide their knives on Halloween night because they believe that it’s the one night of the year when ghosts return to earth? Do you know why Halloween’s traditional colors are black (for the darkness of the night) and orange (for the bonfires that are traditionally lit throughout Europe)?

With just weeks to go, Halloween madness has struck – and not just children! Halloween has become a multi-million dollar industry and is enjoying increasing popularity among adults. Too mature for trick-or-treating, grown-ups are hosting Halloween parties that offer a new take on traditional autumn foods – and giving them a ghostly twist or two!

For some ideas on what to serve at your Halloween party, check out the new e-book from www.CookingClarified.com. “Tricks and Treats: Recipes & Tips for a Delicious Halloween” is available as a free download. Just provide an email address and get lots of ideas (and even more history about Halloween past and present).

My favorite recipe is probably the Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, although the tips on caramel sauce were a close second.

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Die Neuen Cupcakes, Thanks to McDonald’s

I confess that Europe’s controversial foray into the world of cupcakes was not on my radar until I read this New York Times article, “In Germany, A Taste of New York, Via McDonald’s.”

It appears that McDonald’s has introduced cupcakes to Germany via four very pretty (but not so tasty) versions that are supposed to exemplify four areas of New York City (Chelsea, SoHo, Central Park, East Village, below, left to right).

The tie-in is intended to echo the cupcake references from “Sex and the City,” and NYC’s cupcake craze which is best exemplified by the Magnolia Bakery’s popularity. Their cupcakes range from $2.75 to $3.25 (makes that $4 box of Girl Scout cookies look like a bargain).

But the crazy thing to me is that I never even considered that Europeans didn’t eat cupcakes. Knowing the global dominance of doughnuts, I guess I just assumed that every culture that produced cakes would also jump to the logical conclusion of making that cake smaller, more adorable, and therefore invisible to calories.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only that, apparently Europeans – who have only “known” cupcakes for a few years now – are already fed up with them!

Salon.com explored the phenomenon in this article, “Europe’s Cupcake Backlash Begins.” Apparently, the problem with cupcakes is their:

“. . . culture of frivolousness, artificial domesticity and fetishistic cuteness.”

Compounding the problem? Cupcakes are so small, no one has to share them, leading to a general selfishness.

Let me just interject here that as one of four children and the mother of a six-year old, I have DEFINITELY had to share a cupcake or two in my time. In fact, I have had to share a grape before. So I doubt that cupcakes’ size are the problem.

According to Laura Atkinson, who wrote, “Enough With the Cupcakes, Already,” for the Sunday Times of London, cupcakes are really just “the gourmet equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb.”

That is writing you have got to love.

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Tackling Tough Topics

On November 9 and 10, 1938, Kristallnacht, or the “night of broken glass” tore through Jewish communities in Germany and Austria.  It is viewed by many historians as the beginning of the Holocaust.

imagesAs parents, how do we begin to educate our children about tough topics like the Holocaust?  When is it appropriate to talk to children about other man-made tragedies such as slavery, oppression, and genocide?  How does your cultural background inform when and how you discuss these issues with your child?

These are questions that I am struggling with in raising my child.  There are some things I would prefer he hear from me, at a time and in a way that I can control.  At the same time, I’m not a child development expert.  Like doctors, I feel compelled to “first, do no harm.”

Are these issues that you are facing as parents?  If so, how are you handling them?

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Filed under Europe, Learn

Party Like it’s Oktoberfest!

310x206_c_wiesn.4Believe it or not, Munich’s famed Oktoberfest starts on September 19 and runs through October 4.  Oktoberfest started in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

In later years, the festival was moved to September to take advantage of better weather conditions but the name Oktoberfest remained.  It’s the same logic that permits the New York Giants, the New York Jets, and the New York Nets to play their home games in New Jersey but use their neighbor’s name.  I’m just sayin’.

Personally, I loved Munich when I visited in 1996; everyone looked like my Great-Uncle Joe, right down to the hat with the feather in the brim and the beer stein!  It sounds a lot like a typical American fair or carnival but with better beverages and a more laissez-faire attitude.

If you can’t make it to Oktoberfest this year, fear not.  Here are the dates for the next few years:

2010: September 18 – October 3

2011: September 17 – October 3

2012: September 22 – October 7

Or you can celebrate the 199th anniversary of Ludwig and Therese with a mini Oktoberfest of your own.  Instead of beer, pour some apple juice for the kids and serve them a meal of  pretzels and sausages.  Play some traditional German polka music and serve dinner outside under a tent just like the Germans do.  Finally, there are even some Oktoberfest games kids can play.

Dancing is a must in order to really celebrate Oktoberfest, but feel free to skip “The Chicken Dance.”  It was actually written by a Swiss accordion player!

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