Freshly lit candles burned and glowed on the Christmas tree, providing a cozy, warm contrast to the somber December grayness outside. As if on clue, the church bells started ringing, just as we sat down for our Christmas meal: Roasted duck, braised raisins with gravy, potatoes, red cabbage, and hearty red wine. A beautiful meal, another rich, German feast of meat and potatoes. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating German food, any food for that matter, and my mother in law is a wonderful cook. But really, I don’t think my poor body can consume much more meat and potatoes without going burst. Oh broccoli, oh kale, oh mesclun – or anything green and fibrous- where are thou?
If I were a farmer, doing physical labor in the fields from sunrise to sunset, the meat and potatoes diet would probably be appropriate. But given our sedentary lives nowadays, and especially given our inactivity during the holidays spent indoors with family, when the only physical labor we exert is moving from the couch to the dining table, a diet of meat and potatoes seems somehow too…heavy. How has the ubiquitous warning to include more colorful vegetables and fruits in a healthy dietary regime missed arriving on the organic shores of Germany? Did they not get the memo?
As soon as our plates were cleared and our stomachs were on the verge of bursting, the requisite coffee and cake was served. If you are German, have lived in Germany or been to Germany, you know that coffee and cake in the afternoon is the favorite national pastime, sport, or vocation. If you do not partake, you are looked at as if you are from a galaxy far far away. We had enjoyed various types of Christmas Stollen with our coffee over the past several days, but today my mother in law opened a fresh box of the famous Baumkuchen from Salzwedel. Yum! Although I was stuffed and had plenty of food reserve to last me years, I just couldn’t say no to Baumkuchen. Nobody could. Is it possible to say no to any food offered, especially during the holidays? I didn’t think so.
My observation of the marathon eating feast during this holiday season makes me think that Germany’s Christmas (Weihnachten) is comparable to the U.S.’s Thanksgiving. When we were younger we used to stuff ourselves each Thanksgiving with dry turkey and lumpy gravy, Stovetop stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pecan pies, assortment of fruits, chocolates, brownies, etc. Because I can’t remember what we ate for Christmas, I am assuming the focus was not on food. However, the mere thought of Thanksgiving provokes a Tryptophan flashback that makes me feel sleepy and groan with pain. Now, I have another holiday, Weihnachten in Deutschland, which will provoke the same bloated and comatose sensation in the future. Thank goodness Weihnachten comes only once a year. Somebody, PLEASE take the Baumkuchen, Stollen, marzipan pralines, chocolates, and mandarins away from my reach; I can’t seem to stop myself…Oops, gotta go; next meal is calling.