Monday, July 22, 2013

Words that end in "L"

In the Austrian variation of the German language, the way in which one creates a diminutive form is to add an "L" to the end of the word. Think Hänsel and Gretel, for example. Hänsel is "little Hans" and Gretel is "little Margarete." How cute, you're thinking to yourself right now. During my stay in Austria this summer, I encountered many "L"-words that left a lasting impression on my mind.

Question for my loyal readers (all five of you): Which of the following "L" words would you most like to try?
Please post your responses in the comment section below.

KrautfleckerL = little flecks of noodle with cabbage
This dish I had on my last evening in Vienna in a suburb called Nussdorf. It was part of a larger buffet that we ate outside at a Heurige. This version was served with bacon, as well. It's on the upper right-hand corner of my plate. I'm definitely going to recreate this one at home and offer it on list of possible dishes that my students can make for their Austrian cuisine project.

Krautfleckerl mit Speck in Nussdorf, 2013
BrettL(jause) = rustic spread served on a little board between mealtimes
Now this diminutive form is used quite ironically, since this spread that we were offered was anything but little. One evening in Graz, the group was treated to a true Steirisches Buffet. Graz is located in the Austrian state of Steiermark. All of the offerings on the buffet were specialties of the Steiermark, from the Käferbohnensalat (beetle bean salad, don't worry, no beetles included!) to the Kürbiskernölaufstrich (pumpkin seed oil spread) to the cured meats and mountain cheeses. I was barely able to stop myself from eating myself into a Violet Beauregarde stupor.

Steirisches Buffet in Graz, 2013

EierschwammerLgulasch mit ServiettenknödeL = chanterelle mushroom goulash with "napkin" dumplings
The Ottoburg restaurant in Innsbruck is located in one of the oldest buildings in Innsbruck. It dates back to 1180 to be exact. Their cuisine is an elegant blend of the traditional and the 21st century. I ordered this lunch special and was not disappointed. Knödel is the Austrian word for dumpling and derives its meaning from the idea of a "little knot." The "napkin" dumpling that I ate at the Ottoburg was actually slices from a larger loaf-shaped dumpling. Eierschwammerl is the name for the mushroom and actually describes what the mushroom looks like "little egg-colored sponges."

Serviettenknödel in Innsbruck, 2013
Eierschwammerl at the farmer's market in Salzburg, 2013
At the Schlossberg restaurant in Graz, I had a SemmelknödeL (bread dumpling), which looks more like what you would picture as a dumpling, self-contained little universes of starchy flavor.

Pork tenderloin with Semmelknödel in Graz, 2013
The MarillenknödeL that we made during our cooking lesson in Graz are little round knots of dough filled with whole apricots. I must say, I'm pretty proud of how they turned out. Additionally, the other two foods on this plate include Mohnnudeln (poppy seed noodles) and PowidltascherL (little plum pockets).

The fruits of our labor cooking with Lukas in Graz, 2013
Lukas Mayerhofer, master pastry chef
Student question #5: What kind of food do they {Austrians} eat?
Well, students, let's start with the foods that end in "L" and then go from there: 
SpinatstrudeL, MozartkugeL, RotkohL, ErdapfeL, SchnitzeL, NockerL, SchmankerL...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

etwas Süßes (something sweet)

Student question #4: Can you "cake" in Austria?

There is something visceral about connecting to people through food. I have found that my students consistently have a sincere interest in experiencing the cuisine of the culture that they are learning about. Students beg for it. Colleagues angle for it. Parents anxiously wait for it. "When are we going to have a food day?" they scream!

I used to feel put off by this question, because I felt that the students were just using food as an excuse to have a day free from grammar, reading, writing, and listening, you know, THINKING! However, upon reflection, I think that my students do want to experience the culture that they are learning about in a tangible, authentic way, and food is an easy vehicle for that. It does not require us to buy expensive, unreliable airline tickets or to pack suitcases with too many pairs of socks and not enough toothpaste. All we need is a recipe, a little money for a trip to the grocery, and the courage to put it all together into a dish that we can share with others. 

Spending 18 days in Austria gave me the opportunity to select and taste many different dishes than I had had before in Germany. Austrian food during the summer months is a celebration of seasonal fruits. Apricots, cherries, plums, blueberries, lemons, and apples all were stars of the show. So, to answer my students' question from above: Yes, you can kuchen in Austria, and you can strudel, and you can parfait, and you can eis, and you can scheiterhaufen, and you can mousse, and you can knödel, and that's just the beginning.

Desserts from my 18 days in Austria, 2013
Pictured from left to right:
row 1
  • selection of Kuchen at the terrace café at the top of the Hafelekar summit
  • Scheiterhaufen mit Vanillesauce at Café Diglas in Vienna
  • Eis put together in the shape of a flower from the Amorino Café in Graz
  • Schokoladenmousse at lunch at the seminar house in Innsbruck
  • selection of Strudel at the terrace café at the top of the Hafelekar summit
  • the Schlossberg restaurant's take on a Schwarzwälderkirschparfait
  • a Nussschnecke from the Marché market at the airport
  • Strauben from our "Steirisches Buffet" in Graz at the convent house
row 2
  •  Mohnnudeln, Marillenknödel, and Powidltscherl that we made ourselves at our cooking demo
  • selection of Torten at the Stiftskeller at the monastery in Admont
  • Heidelbeerenkuchen at the seminar house in Innsbruck
  • Kirschmarmorkuchen at the Stiftskeller in Admont
  • Zitronenmousse at the seminar house in Innsbruck
  • Eis (Kirsch & Stracciatella) from the famous Zanoni & Zanoni Café in Vienna
  • an entire tray full of Scheiterhaufen at Café Diglas in Vienna
  • Apfelstrudel at Café Sperl in Vienna

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Today was a first for me. I rode a cable car up an Alpine mountain and then hiked the rest of the way to the top of the Hakelekar summit.  It was chilly up top, lots of wind but sunny. The view was absolutely amazing. From 7,658 feet you can pretty much see the entire Innsbruck valley, and then from the other side of the peak, the mountains just roll on and on and on into the horizon. Miniscule yellow and purple flowers were peeking up from the grassy areas, and a few patches of snow here and there were holding on even in July. As a final impression, so that one can create a complete mental picture, there were many traces of mountain goats all over the place, if you catch my drift.

For someone who has generally lived in flat places her whole life, being in the midst of such astounding mountains every direction you look is a pretty cool thing. The air was so bright and shiny...ok, maybe I'm slightly oxygen deprived, which would explain the rambling, but was a thrilling experience, bottom line.

I'm grateful that I have had a chance to spend some time in the Austrian Alps. Our surroundings play such an important role in who we are and who we become. The mountains seem to beckon to you, they seem to promise something new. I think I can hear Mother Abbess singing to me off in the distance, "Climb every mountain,/Ford every stream,/Follow every rainbow,/'Till you find your dream."


Friday, July 12, 2013

Melodies floating in the summer air

Thursday evening I attended a concert in the former royal courtyard of the Hofburg in Innsbruck. Performing was the German Air Force band from Münster. I would estimate the crowd at about 500 strong with many standing around the edges.

At first I was reluctant to attend, because memories from my school years of playing the dreaded Sousa marches started to surface. However, faced with the other option of simply returning to our lodging and doing nothing, I chose to stay in the city after dinner and hear the band. After all, it was free to the public, so no harm, no foul.

Shame on me! The band was absolutely fantastic! The director was vivacious and spoke in between pieces with short anedotes about the music selections. The players were focused and played at a high level of proficiency. I particularly paid attention to the clarinet section, being a reformed clarinetist myself, and was especially impressed by their ability to "cross the bridge" and to hit those notes that dangle far above the music lines. The band even performed a piece written by Mendelssohn just for clarinets. It was superb. 

The program consisted of several traditional pieces including Beethoven, Grétry, Weber, and Fabry. The part of the whole program that impressed me the most, however, was the piece called Bacchanale by Rolf Rudin, a German composer, who was also in attendence at the concert with us. I was completely blown away by its modern perspective and elegance. In this case, art inspires life! Listening to this contemporary piece in the middle of so many classics renewed my interest in this musical genre. It might be time for me to slow down on the Justin Timberlake and revisit some Mahler or Brahms. Oh, JT...

Or does life inspire art? I spent Thursday morning listening to a presentation called "Muscial Journeys through Austria" put on by instructor from the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. The focus of his talk was to look at how travel inspired many Austrian composers and lyricists. One example of this can been seen in Mozart's biography. One of his most famous and popular pieces is the Ave verum corpus for choir, orchestra, and organ. He wrote this piece while visiting his wife during the summer at a spa resort outside of Vienna. It was written quickly almost like an idea doodled on a cocktail napkin at a beach restaurant. 

It has also been calculated that Mozart spent a third of his life in a coach while traveling from one location to another. Watching the world pass by from a window, constantly meeting new people, eating all kinds of new foods, sleeping in strange hotels, hearing foreign languages in your ears has to have an effect on a person's work and way of thinking. I can close my eyes and imagine that I am experiencing the same thing myself. I constantly carry around a green notebook, so that I can jot down ideas for classroom activities that pop into my head while listening to seminar presenters, sitting in cafes tasting new dishes, or gazing out from the veranda of the hotel at the mountains as they change their faces every hour putting on clouds and then taking them off as they shimmer in the summer sunshine.

Or maybe art does inspire life? Our Mozarteum instructor played a piece from an Austrian musician named Hubert von Goisern circa 2003. It was a little bit country, a little bit folk music, while all at the same time Austrian in language. I could use that in the classroom for sure! Or maybe that avant-garde poem by Gerhard Rühm that we also heard? That would absolutely work in German 1!  I hope that I can keep up with all of my scribbles when I get home.

Here in the summery mountains of Austria, the melodies and creative ideas fly around so much, that one must take great care, so as not to stumble or squash a single one. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When in Austria

Student question #3: What slang do they use in Austria?/different dialects? What English words do they use?

I feel like I am learning a very different kind of German in Austria than I ever suspected that I would have. Without having spent much time in Austria before this seminar, I would have said, "Oh, sure, they have some different words and expressions in Austria, but it probably isn't that different from German spoken in Germany, aka Hochdeutsch.  Well, the teacher has become again the student. There are MANY words and expressions that are unique to Austria even to specific states and regions in Austria, as well. There are several dialects in Austria, which would probably take a lifetime to master. Here is just a Schmankerl of the ones that I have learned thus far:
  • Das ist ja leiwand!  This means, "That's awesome!"
  • Das ist aber schiach! This means, "That is really ugly." This word I picked up from an older gentleman at the Wendlmarkt in Vienna, whom we were attempting to interview for our group project. The person in our group was chatting him up and asked him what he wanted most out of life. He answered, "Wealth." Our person said, "Well, how do you plan to achieve that?" His answer, "Well, I could marry a rich woman, but they are all schiach." Um, yeah, good luck with that plan, dude.
  • [Insert request here], aber Jennifer! Now this one is strictly for Viennese residents who were young during the '80s.  Here's the story: in the 80s Jennifer RUSH had a hit song called "The Power of Love". The word RUSH sounds like the German word RASCH which means fast (schnell). Presumedly, the song became a part of their pop culture, since everyone knew the song and the singer. So for example, you're grabbing some lunch at a Wuerstlstand and you're in a hurry, so you tell the guy selling you the food, "an Frankfurter, aber Jennifer!" It's funny how sometimes English words creep into the German-speaking world and are used in ways that English-speakers would never use them. 
  • Dirndl. So, finally, my dream of owning some traditional Austrian clothing has been achieved. I found a shop in Graz that doesn't charge an arm and a leg for a Dirndl AND they were having their summer sales. Double bonus! What's noteworthy is that the word for that kitschy dress we're all familiar with also doubles in Austria to mean "girl." I don't think that it is used negatively like when we say, "skirt" to mean a female.  I wonder could you say, "Hey, Lukas, check out that Dirndl in the Dirndl!" 
I'm truly immersed right now in so many words. I am so glad and grateful for it! Baba for now! 

        Sunday, July 7, 2013

        Jo, jo!

        Since Friday afternoon, I have been in Graz, which is a middle-sized city located in the Steiermark. Steiermark is a state in Austria. To get a feeling of what the Steiermark is all about and at the same time completely not about, please watch the following video. It's the top one. You won't be disappointed!

        Friday, July 5, 2013

        A day in the life

        Thursday afternoon I broke the rules and went for a walk on the Mariahilferstrasse, when I could have been experiencing a culturally or historically significant point-of-interest.  The Mariahilferstrasse is dedicated completely to shopping and eating and doing nothing much in particular. My Jiminy Cricket kept squeaking, "But what about the Art History Museum? Or Danube island? Or the House of Music? You're in Vienna, you shouldn't skip out on these amazing opportunities!!!"

        "Oh, shush!" I said, as I ordered myself some lunch at a Wuerstl Stand.

        I had what is known in Austria as a "Kaesekrainer." The interesting thing is how it's served: in a long roll that has been hollowed out to then hold the spicy mustard and cheese-filled sausage.  It's totally an Austrian thing or Slovanian (depends on who you're asking: I washed it all down with an Apfel-Spritzer. Lunch, check.

        Now off to do some shopping! Based on the recommendation of our seminar leaders, the best bookstore for Austrian films on DVD and other literary/paper needs is called Thalia. I wasn't quite sure where it was, so I asked a lady working in a very cute accessories shop to help me. At first she wasn't sure what I was asking for, because I said, "TA-li-a." After some thought she asked me if I meant, "ta-LI-a." I suppose this could happen to a French person looking for "tar-JAY" in the US. In the end, I was able to find several DVDS, a CD, a magazine, and some stamps (not the letter validating kind, but the inking of papers kind). One of the films is reportedly a cult classic, where in stereotypical Viennese are used as the characters. Should make for good film study. Take that, Jiminy.

        Speaking of authentic learning, I also brought into practice a new Austrian word, "Jause" while window-shopping. It kind of sounds like something Inspector Gadget would shout, but it means rather "a smallish snack that you would eat in the afternoon, like cake and coffee or tea." 

        In this case, my picture here illustrates a bakery that is advertising a "healthy" version of the afternoon snack time. See, Jiminy, learning in context! A real-life meaningful situation in which I can utitlize my language and culture skills. What more could I ask for? How about a gorgeous, 17th century Baroque church with a statue of Joseph Hayden in front it? Done.

        My point here is that living in a place doing normal everyday things like finding lunch, buying books, and interacting with people can be just a meaningful or even educational as visiting a museum or cultural site. Total, I spent 2 1/2 hours wandering up and down the Mariahilferstrasse, and I so glad that I didn't drag myself to yet another museum. 

        Oh, and for the record, Jiminy, I visited several museums and cultural sites while in Vienna:
        1. the Leopold Museum
        2. the Sesession
        3. the Vienna Museum
        4. St. Stephan's cathedral
        5. the Prater
        6. the Naschmarket
        7. the Karlskirche
        8. the Hofburg and gardens
        9. the Belvedere upper gallery and gardens
        10. the Roman ruins in Vienna
        11. St. Michael's church
        12. 3 other neighborhoods outside the main ring AND
        13. 3 completely different Italian ice cream stands, for comparison purposes strictly.

        Tuesday, July 2, 2013

        My love to my people

        Emperor Franz II, who following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire became Franz I, is featured in the statue seen here. He was viewed as a symbol of the multi-ethnic populace that inhabited his part of the planet. Both days that I have spent in this seminar have been focused on the diversity that exists in Austria and the idea of national vis a vis ethnic identity. So many parts of Austrian culture, which Austrias assume to be AUSTRIAN are actually not really Austrian in origin at all. Both the city tour guide from yesterday and the guest speaker that we had this morning emphasized this point repeatedly. 

        I think that this idea of a nation dominated by people who have a background of immigrants is not something new for Americans, but for Austrians, who tend to be conservative, this is a challenging thought. The question remains, "How does one qualify or characterize one's cultural identity?"

        What is Austrian?

        1. Name the most famous psychoanalyst of all time, the father of his field of study....great work! Sigmund Freund, of course. Oh, bummer, he was born in the Czech Republic, not Austria! And, he died in England! Most people would label him as a famous Austrian. How do you decide your nationality? Is it your birthplace? Is it wherever you hold citizenship? Is it dependent upon your parents' nationality? Another surprising statistic: many people are immigrating to Austria all of the time. The number contributor of immigrants? Germany, no joke.

        2. One of the things that I have truly enjoyed while staying here in Vienna are the numerous coffeehouses and cafes that are everywhere. I'm slowly learning how to make my way around the coffee menu and I am remembering to drink my obligatory glass of water following my coffee so that my delicate balance of bodily hydration is kept in check. However, coffee culture and the enjoyment of java was a gift from the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire! When does a custom, tradition, or recipe become native? How long do the Austrians have to drink coffee before they can call it their own? This is a controversial point in Austria, because the third largest immigrant group is people from Turkey. There exists a reasonable amount of xenophobia for the Turkish here. Idea: let's just have one big coffee talk and all will be well.

        So, Franz, wherever you are, please send your love to your people. What I have learned today is that the Austrian people include many ethnic backgrounds: Germans, peoples from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Roma and Sinti, and many more. Oh yeah, and 1 American girl who is hanging out here for a bit.