Germany wins the cup, George R.R. Martin goes Swiss and the last bastion of masculinity falls

First of all, Germany won the 2014 World Cup tonight, making it Germany’s fourth win after 1954, 1974 and 1990.

I watched the match with my Mom (my Dad has caught a cold and went to bed after the regular matchtime was over), a bit annoyed that the match went into overtime, especially since I still had two pages of a very boring and complicated contract to translate (The customer needs it urgently – of course they do). However, the result was more than worth it and the match itself was very good as well, though not as stunning as the semi-finale against Brazil.

One thing that marred the event was that a man was stabbed to death during a fan gathering to watch the match in a cinema here in Bremen.

Switzerland may have gotten kicked out of the World Cup in the round of the last sixteen, by Argentina of all teams (don’t worry, neighbours, you have been avenged), and Swiss authors were given a hard time by the Bachmann Prize jury this year, but Switzerland has one reason to celebrate, namely that George R.R. Martin has graced our multilingual neighbour country with his presence, since he is guest of honour at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival.

Now the German language cultural scene likes to pretend that Game of Thrones doesn’t exist, because it’s “just” fantasy and doesn’t have anything to say about the way we live, unlike those other US quality TV shows The Sopranos or Breaking Bad (because the lives of mafia clans in New Jersey or a cancer-struck highschool teacher turned drug kingpin in New Mexico has so much to do with the life of the average German). Honestly, I’ve seen/read interviews with Turkish German actress Sibel Kekilli, who plays Shae, which seemed to consider her role in the German crime drama Tatort the pinnacle of her career and didn’t mention Game of Thrones at all. While you just know that if Ms. Kekilli had been casted to play a terrorist on Homeland or a drug dealer’s mistress on Breaking Bad, the German language cultural press would be all over it.

However, when George R.R. Martin is the guest of honour at a renown SFF film festival, at least our Swiss friends no longer have any excuse to ignore him. And so the Swiss public TV channel SRF offers this profile of the man and the series, while the Zurich based paper Der Tagesanzeiger has interviewed Martin. Der Tagesanzeiger has run background articles and reviews about Game of Thrones, both the TV show and the books, before. Apparently, the deputy head of the culture department is a fan.

Finally, one of the last bastions of masculinity here in Bremen has finally fallen: For the so-called Schaffermahlzeit, a black tie gala dinner for Bremen’s sea captains, merchants and political guests held annually since 1545, has announced that they will finally allow women to take part in the official dinner. Because up to now, female guests – mostly wives and daughters of sea captains or merchants – had to eat in a separate room from the male guests, though they were allowed to take part in the ball afterwards, probably because a ball involving only men would have been a bit strange. An old classmate of mine actually attended the women’s dinner at the Schaffermahlzeit once, accompanying her Dad, and quite enjoyed the experience.

Now there have been female guests at the main Schaffermahlzeit before. A female sea captain has been a regular guest since 2004 (by now, there are two female captains) and Angela Merkel was the first female guest of honour in 2007. But those ladies were exceptions, while the wives and daughters were still stuck in their separate room. But apparently not any longer. Hey, it only took 470 years.

If you’re wondering about the actual meal, it’s chicken soup, followed by stockfish with mustard sauce and potatoes, kale with Pinkel sausage and smoked meat, roast veal with celeriac salad, apples and plums and Riga style turbot with anchovies, sausage, fruit and cheese, most of which sounds rather weird even if you’re from North Germany. There’s also wine and a special sailor’s beer. Oh yes, and smoking is not just allowed but expected, though you have to use a claypipe.

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6 Responses to Germany wins the cup, George R.R. Martin goes Swiss and the last bastion of masculinity falls

  1. Daniela says:

    The meal doesn’t sound too bad if you ask me, aside maybe from the 6th course. Also the combination of them all together is maybe a bit odd. Otherwise a lot of that is relatively traditional für North-Rhine Westfalia.

    I love fish with mustard sauce :-), though I’ve never had it with stockfish. We normally use coalfish or something similar.

    And kale is not really something I would want to eat during the summer. That’s a typical winter-dish for me. My mom loves it with pinkle while I prefer smoked pork chops (Kassler). Before invention of the freezer it wouldn’t even have been available during summer-months.

    • Cora says:

      Kale is also a typical winter food here and supposedly best when it’s gotten some frost at least once. But since the Schaffermahlzeit is usually held towards the end of winter, before the captains go off to sea, it’s no problem. I’m not the world’s biggest Kohl and Pinkel fan, probably because I had it once too often as a kid, since my parents grow their own kale. Luckily there are lots of other things you can do with kale.

      Stockfish, i.e. salted cod or haddock, is actually quite uncommon these days, because we have better preservation methods now. I’m not even sure where you would buy it, though the traditional fish dealers in Bremerhaven likely have it. And the accompaniments to the Rigaer Butt are just plain weird.

      Besides, the guests are not always North German or even German. For example, the head of Arcelor-Mittal was guest of honour a few years ago and probably more than a bit confused at what he was asked to eat.

      • Daniela says:

        I love Kohl, at least occasionally. I made it a lot last winter after I figured out that it’s actually rather easy to make and low in calories. I’ve never tried making anything else with kale even though I’ve seen a lot of Americans using it for salad and in smoothies. Once we have fresh kale available (aka sometime this winter) I might try some salad recipes. Or the smoothie one that mixed kale with green apples.

        Well, I can understand the urge to go with traditional food for something with such an old tradition like the Schaffermahlzeit. Guests should probably count themselves lucky that they aren’t served “real” medieval dishes ;-).

        When I have guests, especially international guests, I’m always tempted to take them somewhere where they serve traditional Baden dishes. If they come during spring I usually take them to a “Besenwirtschaft”. Luckily Southern German cooking tends to be a bit tamer than Northern. And most people end loving “Flammkuchen” whether it’s the traditional one with onions and bacon or more modern versions with all kinds of vegtables or sweet with apples and cinnamon. Onioncake though seems to meet with very mixed reactions. Just like Federweißer.

        And I have one US-client who totally fell in love with Maultaschen while he was in Stuttgart and had to try out every version available :-D.

        • Cora says:

          I sometimes make mediterranean style kale with white beans, tomatoes and artichokes, which is quite tasty. I’ve also had kale salad.

          With international guests, I usually go to restaurants which offer a mix of traditional North German and more international dishes, so no one will be scared off by Kohl und Pinkel or Labskaus, which a friend of my parents once served a bunch of East Asian businessmen. They politely picked at the Labskaus and then devoured the after dinner potato chips and Studentenfutter.

          We just had some American relatives over for coffee, so I got Butterkuchen and Kranzkuchen and Schweineohren from the local bakery. They really loved the Schweineohren.

          Flammkuchen is really great BTW. The restaurant where we have the monthly translators’ meet-up always offer a Flammkuchen of the week, usually a modern version. I often end up eating it. So does a Chinese colleague.

  2. Mark says:

    I’m a Kohl and Pinkel fan, but only since I moved away from the Bremen area and only since I get to eat it only once or twice a year. When I first visited Scotland a couple of years ago I was very afraid of what I possibly get to eat there. Haggis? Oh, my god, disgusting! But then I realized that Scottish food is very much like North German food. I practically grew up on Haggis-style food.

    Survived Rotterdam, btw. They finally finished rebuilding Centraal Station. It has been a mess for half a decade, but the finished result looks kind of cool. A little bid sad that the Netherlands didn’t make it to the finals. I was there 4 years ago when the Netherlands played Spain in the finals (and Germany lost in the semi finals) and I watched it with thousands of Dutch people at the North Sea Jazz Festival (poor Stevie Wonder played after that lost game). Now it was the other way around.

    And thanks for the link of that stabbing. Didn’t hear about it. Sad and frightening thing.

    • Cora says:

      When I first had haggis, I was surprised how much like pinkel it was. And of course, labscouse is as popular in Liverpool as in North Germany.

      I think they’ve been rebuilding Centraal Station in Rotterdam for more than a decade now, at any rate I also remember it as a mess. Though the first time I was there, it still looked pure 1950s and all the Weena highrises didn’t exist yet.

      Regarding the stabbing, apparently the lights went out during the overtime (there was a massive thunderstorm over Bremen at that time), two guys got into a fight and one was stabbed. And we just had another fatal stabbing, apparently drug relatedm, yesterday. Very frighening and sad.

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