On British Food in Germany

This post is a little less personal than the last but no less important, as it is a subject close to my heart.

Why is it so hard to find proper vinegar in Berlin?!

I’m not talking that balsamic stuff that is only good for salads and dipping bread in. I don’t want your pickling vinegar, Germany! Isn’t it bad enough you try to pickle every vegetable in sight?  No, I mean the acidic, possibly ascorbic brown liquid that transforms the humble chip into a thing of beauty. That elevates the fish finger sandwich to godliness. That stings your nose and burns your throat. I’ve trawled the supermarkets for months, but to quote Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

But it’s not just vinegar. I’ve compiled a list of my most-missed foods from home that have had me hankering for the likes of Asda and Tesco.

HP Sauce

On the subject of condiments, why is it I’m able to find five different types of Heinz’s tomato ketchup, but no HP Sauce? The only place I have seen it was KaDeWe (the Berlin equivalent of Harrods) and whilst I love HP Sauce, there is no way I can justify a fiver on 200 millilitres. I’ve seen the other HP sauces, the ones we don’t talk about- the ‘BBQ’ and ‘Fruity’ bastard cousins, so it’s not a case of Germany not realising what they’re missing out on. I’m beginning to suspect they’re mocking me.

Cider

For a country that loves its alcohol, Germany really doesn’t do cider. It’s considered a miracle when you find a place that serves it, which means you’ll inevitably be paying four euros for the pleasure. It was 5.50 for a pint of Magners in one restaurant I went to. The other rare chances for appley goodness come in the form of the French cidre that is sometimes on offer (which is an entirely different beast to good ol’ cider) or ‘OBC’ which is Original Berliner Cider- not unpleasant stuff, but it’s expensive. And it’s no Rekordlig.

Cheddar Cheese

Want cheddar cheese? Forget about it. Unless you’re willing to pay four euros for 200 grams of Cathedral City…which I have done a number of times, leading me to feel like some sort of cheddar junkie who will pay any price to get a fix.

Potato Waffles

I tried to eat some McCain’s Potato Croquettes here. They were absolutely foul. I miss the potato waffle more than I ever thought possible. It’s true what Joni Mitchell said. You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.

Quorn

As a vegetarian of seven years (before my reversion back to omnivore at the beginning of 2014) I love quorn. I think quorn is a miraculous invention. Germany, on the other hand…doesn’t really ‘get’ vegetarian food. There are sometimes sad looking faux-sausages or meatballs in the fridges of supermarkets, but they’re never as appetizing as Quorn. Or Linda McCartney’s frozen foods for that matter. Instead everyone eats tofu, which when prepared right is great, but when it goes wrong (which happens a lot) it’s like eating a damp sponge.

Cadbury’s Creme Eggs

Enough said. It’s not Easter without them.

 

I know, I know- you move to a foreign country, you have to embrace its unique culture and charm, including the cuisine. The problem is, and I hate to admit it…German food isn’t all that appealing. It’s hard to find it in Berlin for a start, and even when you go to a German restaurant, the only things they can really offer you are unappetizing-looking sausages or slabs of breaded meat the size of your face (the famous schnitzel) with fried potatoes of some sort and sauerkraut on the side. So half-hearted their attempts are at keeping German cuisine alive, I had baked camembert in one restaurant. To be fair, it was delicious. But that’s not the point. Of course I can’t tar all of Germany with the same brush and I’m sure in other regions there are delicious delicacies to be sampled, but in Berlin it’s just not happening. Luckily the wealth of other cuisines available mean it’s hard to really dwell on the subject; it’s almost impossible to go hungry in Berlin.

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Fear and Loathing in West Berlin

“I think I’m getting the fear.”

Here’s the thing:

I’m twenty-one years old, of relatively sound mind (most days), not entirely beyond reproach, though I’ve made my fair share of stupid decisions. I’m not exactly warm and fuzzy. I’ve been told I make people nervous. Until recently I didn’t really ‘do’ hugs and honestly I still don’t really know how they work. I’m flighty, I’m insecure, painfully shy in the presence of strangers, emotionally distant, neurotic beyond it being comparable to any charming Woody Allen heroine. I am an expert on animal facts but human nature evades me. I’m constantly afraid of being a burden or annoying people to the extent I’m terrified of instigating plans out of fear of rejection. I’ve been on one date in my entire life and it ended with the boy sending me an angry Facebook tyrade because he thought I was rude. I’ve never had a boyfriend, period. Not even in that cutesy way little kids have them. I was a chubby schoolgirl with crooked teeth, go figure. I never know how to talk to people so I keep quiet or I’m far too loud and everyone thinks I’m either a bitch or I’m a complete psychopath. People have said “pull yourself together” more times than I can count but I still don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, like it’s so easy to just change twenty-one years of self-inflicted loathing in one Eat Pray Love moment.

And then I’m lazy. I procrastinate. I turn down invitations because I’m afraid people will regret inviting me and then they stop inviting me because I turn them down and I feel upset I’ve not been invited and then I’m alone and think that I’m better off but then I’m lonely and it’s all my fault. People stop telling me things because I don’t open up to them (unless it’s 3am and I’ve had a little too much to drink and I’m crying on a barstool clutching a wilting cigarette in shaking hands). I fall in love daily with boys who show me the slightest kindness which might be a result of deep-seated daddy issues or might just be who I am. Not that it matters because I never put my heart on the line anyway because I’m scared of rejection, embarrassment, of losing friends, of the remote possibility they might like me too. Because why would they? Why would anyone? And years down the line when they have a girlfriend and I’m sat in a foreign country alone inevitably staring at my computer screen I’ll think about the relationship we never had. Even if there was slightest interest I wouldn’t know because I’m suspicious of the slightest kindness and I’m strongly of the opinion that flirting is a secret language I was never taught to understand or speak.

I worry about what to say every moment of every day until it gets to the stage when I’m lying awake at three in the morning replaying conversations with everything I should have said instead. I fill silence with inane questions, inane babble, fishing up facts from the back of my mind that no one really wants to hear, so there’s polite smiles, awkward laughter, awkward silences. I’m worried all those jokes about me being a crazy cat lady might actually be true and I don’t want to be a joke. I’ve always been a joke. I’m worried no matter what I do I won’t be happy.I’m nostalgic for a past life I never had. I hate that I never know how to react when someone is upset, especially someone I care about,  I hate that I have deep-seated trust issues, I hate that I’m paranoid, I hate that I’m afraid to say what I think. I don’t know why my friends want to be my friends and it disconcerts me because I like knowing things. I’m suspicious of the slightest nicety. I take things and people for granted. I live inside my head. I don’t know a thing about loss which only serves to make me terrified to experience it because I feel like the world will fall away and I’ll fall away with it, just collapse into nothingness.

I am, at best, damaged goods, a silly girl with a blog and more words than she knows what do to with, uncomfortable in her own skin, fully aware of how insignificant she is in the grand scheme of things but hopelessly human and bound to spill her guts as self-indulgent as it seems because writing is cathartic and writing is the only way out. I don’t have all the answers, in fact I don’t think I have any of them at all. And on a daily basis I tell myself it’s okay at twenty-one to be a mess, it’s okay to eat cheesecake for breakfast, to drink before noon, to think that everything can be solved with a shopping spree, to chain smoke and pretend your problems don’t exist. It’s not mature. I’m not mature. I sleep next to a stuffed toy of Mike from Monsters Inc. I don’t know a whole lot about maturity.

But this is me.

And this is a testament to every damn stupid little idiosyncrasy that makes me who I am, whether I like it or not.