Lost in translation – Not

We had lots of craziness involved with construction for the last two weeks as new floors and molding went into the whole house.  The tired  (pink) carpet with no pad beneath it, the bold (pink) entry tile and shrunken (pink) linoleum were unceremoniously ripped out in clouds of dust and debris to make way for the new laminate floors we chose to replace them.  The three guys that were doing the work had limited English and my multi-lingual skills were too rusty to allow coherent non-English sentences.  But this reminded me of our visit to Eichbaum in Mannheim, Germany when we shared a table with a long time resident of Mannheim that hadn’t spoken English in the many years since his wife passed away.

The Mannheim Water Tower
The Mannheim Water Tower on a gloomy November day; it finally stopped raining enough to stop and take a picture.

We were a few days shy of leaving Germany and in need of dinner after a cold, rainy November day touring Heidelberg Castle.  Eichbaum came up as a restaurant so we made our way there around 5 PM.  There were basic pub foods to choose from which made the decision fairly quick.  The flight of beers on tap made their way to us promptly, but the food took some time to emerge despite it being a slow night.  So, when our new friend asked to sit by us while he drank his beer we didn’t mind.  Our server gave him a glare when he sat down; we might have taken that as a sign, but no.  We managed to eat between questions due to the time it took to comprehend what he was asking.  When he whistled for another beer the server berated him for his rudeness; in his defense, his glass was empty for quite a while and she didn’t come by to check.  She glared at the back of his head another time or two.  It was clear that he loved the time he spent in America many years ago as much as he loved his deceased wife and was super lonely.  His little apartment a few blocks away meant he was a regular customer from way back when.  Like an old uncle that doesn’t know when to leave, the server chided him and tolerated him.  We had a good time chatting while we ate and drank, we certainly won’t forget him as that evening was a lot longer than we anticipated.

The beers were good, but not exciting; no need to translate taste thank heavens.  As one of the oldest breweries in the Baden-Wurttemberg region we were impressed with the huge, modern facility we arrived at.  Now knowing how large they are and how far they distribute, makes sense.  Apparently it was a popular college student haunt when the University of Maryland University College (1995-2005 in Mannheim) had a campus there.

The experience was humbling, we didn’t speak German well enough to communicate with this man, but we could understand his German enough to answer in English which was apparently ok.  The vast majority of Germans speak impeccable English; we should be better prepared to participate in the world we travel in.  Of course, back at home, we were poorly equipped to converse with non- to minimal-English speaking people.  They did great work and we are so happy to be moved back into our home.

Have a safe Memorial Day, keep those that defend us (past and present) and all that they give up for us in mind this weekend.  For my family, friends and for those that I don’t know personally that still are and have served, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Marzipan Apple, my current love

As we enjoyed the last few days of our Germany adventure in November we stayed in Mannheim, at the Mercure Hotel. It was a great choice for dinner that first night we arrived, too.  I ordered roast duck, with the traditional accompaniment of potatoes but no red cabbage, instead there was a marzipan apple. I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir, can’t recall which German label, to pair with it.  As this was probably the eighth dinner of duck, I quit taking photos of my meals.  Alas, I wish I would have taken that one for posterity as it has been one for the memory books.

Dinner was fabulous, wine paired well and tasted great.  But I was hooked on the marzipan apple at first bite.  The server conveyed my request for the recipe to the kitchen and I had it (in beautiful German hand writing) before we were halfway through our meal.

Ingredients for Marzipan Apples.
From the Mercure Hotel in Mannheim, Germany, the recipe for Marzipan Apples. It was paired with roast duck for dinner.

Back home I translated the few German words I wasn’t sure about (good thing since what I thought was a large measure is really a small one) and prepared to make them to go with our Christmas dinner of pork loin.  I was sure I had everything I needed once I picked up the marzipan and the orange. But it took a little doing to find the raisins, exactly the amount I needed, I just knew I had.  When I did ‘find’ them they resembled petrified berries (school didn’t give me much time to bake) all the better as they were more concentrated! A week before Christmas I mixed all of the ingredients, except the marzipan, and put it in the fridge in hopes the pebbly raisins would soften and contribute to the sauce. It was a successful risk, and oh, so yummy tasting already.

A Marzipan Apple can accompany a meal or stand alone as dessert.
Use a couple of spoons to remove the apple from the pan to serve. The soft, almost sauced apple and the filling are so flavorful.

Although the recipe indicated only ten minutes cooking time it didn’t get as soft as my first experience in that time, so I played with it until I got it right. Yup, I have eaten a lot of marzipan apples just to bring you this incredible recipe. Which, by the way, when I looked to see what was commonly out there that might be similar didn’t find THIS recipe.  Most have a sweet sauce on top that didn’t enthuse me at all.  My choice is a tart apple, like a Granny Smith, to balance the citrus and nut sweetness. A sweeter apple would be fine, but not too sweet (in my opinion) as the filling would be over powered.  Of course, the existing public recipes add a sweet sauce, so maybe I am just not fond of the super sweet.  If you give it a try with a sweet apple, let me know how it goes. OK?

Marzipan Apple

1 orange, zest and juice

1 vanilla pod, slice and scrape seeds (you can use a teaspoon of real vanilla extract to replace)

1/4 cup, shy (30 grams) chopped raisins (can use other dried fruit chopped small – i.e. cranberries, cherries, or other berries)

2 tablespoons Rum

1 pinch cinnamon

200 gram package Marzipan (top shelf in the baking isle of the grocery store)

10 apples, my choice are Granny Smith

Mix together the orange through the cinnamon and let sit for an hour, up to a week.

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees when ready to bake your apples.  Knead in the marzipan for a wet paste consistency.

Slice apples in half either direction, scoop out the core and score around the edges of the apple, including the skin, to allow it to settle into the muffin cup as it cooks.  Not slicing it is fine, but it helps when eating the finished apple too.  Reduce heat to 225 F degrees as you put the apples into the oven for one hour.  Beginning with a hot oven and cooking at a low temp seems to give the best texture to the apples.  (With softer apples, you will have to watch as the apples will cook faster.) Serve warm.  This worked very well with the Pinot Noir I had with my dinner, but would have done quite well with an off-dry Riesling as well.

I would think, for you ice cream fans, a vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt would be well paired.  Consider it a gluten free apple pie if you don’t do gluten? I have kept the filling in the fridge for up to a month with no problem.  It just seems to get better with time actually.  So surprise your honey on Valentine’s Day with this healthy dessert splurge and store the rest of the filling for another time.

Fuit, nuts, and spices, some of my favorite foods, it isn’t a surprise I am smitten with this recipe.  It goes with us to dinner with friends, family gatherings and I make it for myself when I am home alone rather than cook a full meal as both halves are filling.  As Spring gets going I will probably give up my habit until next Autumn when we have fresh local apples again. Hope you enjoy it as much as me! Cheers!

Woven heart decoration; Happy Valentine's Day.
Love to everyone, Happy Valentine’s Day!