Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cookie Culture Clash

Life as an ex-patriot can be unsettling because culture clash arrives in the most unforeseen and unexpected places and times, as it did yesterday. Yesterday was Cookie Day. Cookie Day in not a special holiday anywhere but in my kitchen, where it is held with a certain spiritual reverence. Cookie Day is the one day of the year that I go crazy cooking - well baking cookies anyway.

Cookies are the perfect Christmas present for those individuals that you a) do not know what to get or b) do not want to spend much money on. Because I am an American in Germany, my cookies have a special flair, as I make traditional "American Style" cookies. I bake chocolate chip, sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin and one of my old favorites, peanut butter cookies.

Last year cookie day got off to a rocky start. First, I am not domestic enough to have a really good cookbook, and because I usually use my mother's, I was left with no recipes. That is when I discovered the beauty that is This website has saved me not only on cookie day, but also on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and before many dinner parties. After downloading my recipes, I was confronted with another problem - metric vs standard measurements. I only have one large standard measuring cup. How was I supposed to measure out 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar? has an answer for that too! The conversion chart was a life saver. However, once I measured out 150 grams of brown sugar, I had my doubts. 150 grams looks like a hell of a lot more brown sugar than 3/4 of a cup, but I went with it anyway.

The glitch in this whole process though is the damn brown sugar - which you cannot get in Germany! Sure, you can get brown sugar, which is more like raw, brown colored granulated sugar. But it does not have the consistency or the flavor of the sugar from home. You know what else you cannot get in Germany? Vanilla. No kidding. Sure, they have an "almond vanilla" extract, but its not the same. Also a no go in Germany - butter flavored Crisco, actually Crisco period. After several failed shopping trips I realized that Cookie Day (as well as Thanksgiving) will have to be supported by the monthly care packages from my mother. There is a line of "American" food, but I find it odd what Germans consider American: peanut butter, marshmallows, marshmallow fluff (yuck! Who eats that stuff past the age of ten), kidney beans, cranberries, barbecue sauce and salsa (both of which taste like ketchup). Certainly Americans make unfair generalizations about German cuisine which are simply not true. For instance, my north German in-laws hate sauerkraut. But, now I notice, Germans are guilty of the same thing.

After the hassle of making the cookies, and more than a few fowl words later, I was done. I proudly presented my bounty to the German (my husband). My husband loved the oatmeal (minus the raisins, he has some deep psychological grudge against raisins, me I do not mind them). "Try the peanut butter. I loved them when I was a kid." The German took one bite, turned up his nose and spit it out. "That's disgusting!" I was crushed. Tears began to swell. I felt like all of the time I had spent cooking was for nothing and my German had just rejected my entire cultural upbringing. It took him hours to calm me down.

This year, I was prepared to face the same cookie culture clash. I prepared my peanut butter cookies again. Damn it, I will make the German like them. Once again, I presented a platter to my husband. To my amazement, he ate a peanut butter cookie without comment. I do not think that he likes them, but he did accept them, just like he accepts all of my American cultural eccentricities. I was touched and remembered just how much I love him.

I just goes to show you that although you can lead a horse to water and cannot force him to drink, you can force him to eat a peanut butter cookie.


Carrie Colter said...

Wow! I guess you haven't gotten to grits, cornbread and pork products in damn near everything resembling a vegitable yet?!?!?!?

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire,
Great! I know exactly what you mean. I had a similar experience yesterday. Matthias decided he would make a chicken. I immediately thought about the stove top my mom had sent me a few weeks ago. I turned to Matthias and said " great idea! Can you make the stuffing to go with it?"
As I returned home with my mouth watering Matthias had everything well almost everything, ready. He served dinner, chicken, rotkohl (red cabbage) and boiled potatoes. My mouth dropped. Where was the stuffing???? I looked at Matthias and asked " Baby did you make stuffing?" "No, i think it's kinda disgusting when the stove top is stuffed inside the chicken" was his reply.

justmysize said...

no brown sugar OR vanilla? I'm moving to germany this summer and all I thought to check for so far was peanut butter...looks like I'll need to do some more extensive research.