Kurbis Pie

Strangely, Thanksgiving always reminds me of Germany due to our quest to try to celebrate it when we lived there for a bit.  From the vault--a look at our pre-children lives.  Seems a lot longer than five years ago!


There's apparently a German custom that, on your birthday, you're supposed to bring cake and cookies and champagne for your office colleagues rather than have them treat you. Sort of like grade school, with alcohol. In that spirit, we decided that Greg should have a little champagne reception at his office in honor of Thanksgiving (well, really it was to provide a distraction so he could leave early to go to dinner). In the great tradition of our Pilgrim foremothers, I decided to bake cranberry orange muffins. Okay, not exactly traditional fare - but easier and more portable than turkey and stuffing. Besides, I figured the Germans wouldn't care. Greg, however, insisted on pumpkin pie for his office on Thursday.

After searching long and hard and high and low and becoming just a little weary of this wonderful holiday before it even started, I found cranberries, muffin tins, and what the guy told me was a kurbis. (There should be a little sideways colon over the "u", but I'm thankfully back to an American keyboard, so use your imagination). Kurbis means pumpkin, in case you're not up on your foreign fruit vocab. I mean, it should have meant pumpkin. It really looked like a squash to me, but my phrase book is surprisingly deficient on gourd varietals so I was in no position to argue.

I couldn't find a pie tin, but found a torte pan that seemed like it might do the trick. Well, my first-ever from scratch pie crust worked, but only because the kurbis did turn out to be a stringy squash that baked up bright, neon orange instead of rich pumpkin-y brown. It actually tasted okay (not like a pumpkin, but not bad), but even let-them-eat-muffins-me couldn't let the Germans have such misconceptions about American cuisine. Ya gotta represent, y' know? I decided to write off the squash torte and focus on the muffins.

Later that night, Greg arrived home, bearing 4 cans of canned kurbis. Apparently the grocery store next to his office rivals Sam's Club in size, and they had the elusive fruits - canned, no less. There was much rejoicing. Then, I looked at the can. Kurbis und honig (honey) und some other word I didn't know. Hmmm. A disgusting combination, but it beats a squash. Then, we tasted the contents of the can. Turns out that the mystery word was "vinegar." We were the proud owners of 4 cans of pumpkin pickled in honey vinegar.

I don't know what eating this would do to a person, let alone an entire society, but the German diet may explain a small degree of the discontent that made Germany's last 100 years what they were. Needless to say, Greg's colleagues went without pie and now probably believe that we sit around and watch that crazy NFL football and eat muffins all day. So sue me. Pie drama aside, both of our Thanksgiving celebrations were merry and bright.

In other news, my German lessons at the Goethe Institute started today. Even though I repeatedly told them (in English, of course) that I couldn't speak German and was an absolute beginner, they were very German and insisted on giving me the placement test. Diplomatic relations were re-established when they decided I didn't have to take the test after all. Staring blankly at the test for a few minutes, then asking where to sign my name proved much more effective than any discussion. Hmm. I'll be back in school every morning for 4 weeks. I'm a little bit leery because I haven't studied since law school (well, let's be honest, since before law school), but am looking forward to the days when I might be able to leave the house without my dictionary. That thing gets heavy after a while.

In sum: our boxes arrived at last; we do have some friends and are regulars on the weekly curry night circuit; Greg is working hard, but still no weekends; and let me know if you need some pickled pumpkin to put in the stockings of the not-so-good this year. We've still got 3 cans.

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