Thursday, October 22, 2009
Day 19: Biked all the way to France
Today was not so exciting. I seem to finally have learned (or at least grasped the concept in relation to my grandfather) the virtues of humility and patience. Shut out what I don’t like, try again if I didn’t like what I heard the first time. I think the calming effects of mint tea are what I have to thank. Over lunch I even got my grandfather to explain the story of Erlkönig (the Fairy King) by Goethe, and his rowing parody of it. We laughed and had a good time! My grandmother then told me family stories about relatives I never heard of, which I really wish I could remember now, but alas, I don’t. Apparently I’m part Polish though, which I never knew. I knew I had some Prussian blood in me, but never bothered to find out where Prussia used to be on the map. She went on to talk about how the Polish HATE Germany since the war. She talked about an old family graveyard where the locals all turned the headstones upside-down. It was interesting, because I think my grandmother just finds the war an unpleasant topic and prefers to not think about it, and feels better when assigning other groups negative characteristics in relation to the war.
My grandfather and I biked from Saarbrücken to Saareguemine, Germany to France. Saareguemine is pretty much Saarbrücken a few miles away, except the signs are all in French. My grandfather kept talking about how this whole area is very mixed between French and German, but given the insistence on the theme, I was happy to note differences between France and Germany:
- a higher percentage of women clad in all-black
- France smelled better and more lemony. I don’t know why.
- the pastries were more French.
Speaking of pastries, my goal was to have a pastry in France. My grandfather was all set to make a big loop up a fork of the Saar into Germany to take the train home, but there would be no open Salon de Thé on the way in France, and it was getting late and the thought of pastries was making me hungry. All I had planned on was biking to Saareguemine, eating some pastry, and tool around with my grandfather wherever he wanted to go, and then bike back home. I got a slice of what I’d describe as a stuffed almond shortcake, and my grandfather got a slice of cheesy apricot tart. They were both delicious, and I’m starting to wonder what lies between the covers of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume II: Baking.
After my grandfather wound down from his lecture to me about unrealistic time goals, I tried to squeeze some more dirt out on my Mom. It wasn’t very lucrative. First he thought I was asking him about how we’re similar, which wasn’t my goal, then he described her as very active and curious, always willing to get up and explore. ‘Hmm… okay, she’s pretty much that way now… I want DIRT.” Then he summarized the family moves and her schooling history, which wasn’t at all what I was looking for and already knew. I tried asking him what sort of things she got into trouble for, and he didn’t even know what the phrase, “get into trouble” meant, which is quite hard to describe without using the word, “trouble,” so he told me that my mom went to school and had friends and boyfriends.
He then wound up my attempt to find amusing stories of my mom as a youngster by telling me this: she and I came to visit him in Chile when I was about four, after my mom and dad had gotten divorced and before my mom had met my step dad. She told her father that her biggest requirement in a husband was that he’d be a good father to me. Gee, now I feel guilty and ungrateful. All I wanted were more peed-pants stories, especially ones that involved my mom!
Dinner was, as usual, brot, schinken, and käse. We started, however, with a semolina porridge, which I guess everyone else had eaten all the time, but it was my first time. It was really quite delicious! It tasted super creamy and cheesy, but was just semolina boiled with a lot of water, a little milk added once it thickened, and salt. I think I’m going to have to make it for I’m-feeling-sick food or when I just don’t have anything to eat (except semolina).