Christmas Markets

Marzipan from the marketGermany is famous for its Christmas Markets. It is not very clear to me how touristic they are:  many similar occasions are totally tourist oriented in Italy. Not that this is always a bad thing – tourism brings money and contanct with people from other places, and it is often a great opportunity to save traditions that are just too clumsy or overpriced for the locals.

At the end of November little stalls started to appear in the pedestrian zone in the town center. Each little town in the area, including mine, has its own, Christmas Market and I was quite looking forward to try a few. I asked around to a few friends and Aachen Christmas Market was one of the best apparently, so that is where I started from. Aachen is a very nice little town, full of buzz and people, very close to the border with … basically, the heart of Europe, and indeed it was the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, as the beautiful Chapelle demonstrates. The market was quite crowded even if it was only the beginning of the season, the vast mayority being German people or anyway somehow local (Holland, France and Belgium are so close).  So if tourist they are, it is a kind of local tourism, more like peasants going to a fair than a huge organized tour from the other side of the world. Many stalls obviously sell food, so  I had the chance to try a couple of things  I did not know yet. Most stalls sell Christmas decorations of one type or the other, and you can find something to suit any taste. Then there are hundreds of stalls of sweet things. Each patisserie has a market stall with printen, marzipan, chocolate, gingerbread. One of them had a very interesting cake on display – it was a long log shaped cake cooked on a huge skewer, a bit like a kebab, but horizontal. Periodically the cake was dipped in batter, and coated with it, and then it went back to cooking. So you ended up with a layered cake with a very light consistency and a delicate but intriguing flavour. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures and I don’t remeber the name of the cake.. We’ll all have to go back to Aachen, I’m afraid, and since we go there, why not taking a bath?

Others things I got are a delicious marzipan and some top class nougat.

So, what about other Christmas Markets? As much as I hate compulsive shopping for Christmas, for the moment I quite like them: winter days are really short and cold here, and there are not many opportunities to enjoy a breath of fresh air. You really do enjoy all the bright light in these lands of perennial darkness. In my little home town (it does seem weird to call it home, bot that’s it apparently) the market is quite large considered the number of people living here, and the number of food stalls is even larger in proportion. The town itself does not have half or Aachen charms. However food is quite varied and quite nice on average. There are many stalls selling crepes and waffles, nutella being a top seller anywhere, together with my personal favourite, whipped cream and sour cherries. For savoury food fans, I really hope you are not a vegetarian: the big thing are stalls selling huge fat wurst, pig steaks, and hamburgers. They are roasted on a huge barbecue attached to the ceiling, swinging gently over a charcoal fire. The chef can raise or lower the meat grate according to the fire intensity. The meat is served with little crusty white brotchen, far too small for the meat quantity, and a choice of mustard (senf) or ketchup.

Other typical foods are Reisekuchen, potato fritters served with sour cream or apple sauce or other sweet or savoury sauces. They are nice… for the first half of one, and an average portion includes three. They are quite greasy, but funny. The healthy option is probabily to go for the fried battered fish with bread, or if you really want to go healty, there is a choice of little brotchen with raw or smoked fishes. Other stalls sell jacket potatoes with fresh cheese; bratkartoffel, potatoes browned with a lot of additives, plus some animal fat I’d bet, in huge iron cast pans; and mushrooms with onions, cooked in the same way. These are quite nice with crusty bread and a garlicky sour cream sauce. My personal favourite is a stall making flammkuchen, a speciality from Alsace, and perceived here to be  a French thing – at least the merchandising is heavily French, and they sell wine as well. Of course this might be technically right, flammkuchen do originate from France, but I saw so many more flammkuchen sellers here than in France…

Another thing I have found here are poffertjes, I think they come from Holland, and they are small rounds of crepe like batter cooked in an iron cast form. Slightly undercooked in the inside, I prefer traditional crepe, but maybe they were not cooked properly.

Other stalls display ethnic food (chinese noodles, arabic green tea with mint in it, and also hot dogs and chips, uk style). Not much luck for Italian street food here .. The poffertjes cook was actually an Italian guy!

So to raise our honour, I post here my first recipe ever in German. My German is quite limited to say the least and I needed a recipe with few complicated moves. Note that the grammar this recipe has been corrected  by my lovely teacher (I did not ask her if she tried it though). By the way, this recipe will be full of spelling errors as I don’t have any special German letter on my keyboard. So here it goes…

Spaghetti alla carbonara (for German people!)

ZUTATEN: fuer 4 Personen

500 gr Spaghetti

4 Eier

200 gr Pancetta (Speck)

100 gr reiben Parmesankaese

Salz

Pfeffer

1) Giessen Sie fuenf Liter Wasser in einen Topf.

2) Erhetzen Sie das Wasser

3) Tun Sie Salz in das Wasser

4) Kochen Sie die Spaghetti acht Minuten

5) Schlagen Sie die Eier in einer Schuessel

6) Wuerzen Sie die Eier mit Salz und Pfeffer

7) Schneiden Sie den Speck in Wuerfel

8) Braten Sie die Speckwuerfel in einer Pfanne

9) Tun sie die Speckwuerfel in die Eier

10) Vermischen sie den Parmesankaese mit den Eiern und Speckwuerfeln.

11) Giessen Sie die Spaghetti ab.

12) Vermischen Sie die Spaghetti mit den Eier

13) Wuerzen Sie das Ganze mit mehr Pfeffer

14) Buon appetito!

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