Olli’s Saturday School – German cookery

Hey, no worries, I’m not going to make you learn how to make Sauerkraut. Not in the least because I don’t know how. :-D

Instead I’ll let you tag along with my impromptu lunch today and maybe teach you a few kitchen and food-related terms.

Here we have:
Schinkenwürfel – diced ham
– apparently you guys call them button mushroom. The generic term for mushroom (and all kinds of fungi) is Pilz
Paprika –
bell pepper

Now what to do with that? I poured some Olivenöl in a Pfanne. some olive oil into a pan, turned up the heat, threw the ham in there, added the diced Champignons after a bit and topped it off with a cut up Tomate.

Since I don’t cook every day I stopped keeping fresh Zwiebeln (onions) or Knoblauch (garlic) around unless I plan for something specific. To be honest, gefriergetrocknet ( freeze-dried)  or powdered works as well. I added both to the pan, sprinkled generously with Salz and Pfeffer1, some freeze-dried provencal herbs and started preheating the oven. Or den Ofen vorheizen.

Kräuter = herbs
Gewürze = spices

Time to deal with the Paprika.

In a spur-of-the moment decision I cut up a ball of Mozzarella (same word in German) into small pieces, leaving a few larger slices.

The small pieces I filled into the ham/mushroom/tomato mix. The Füllung (stuffing) for gefüllte Paprika!

I put the larger slices of Mozzarella cheese on top, put the peppers into an Auflaufform or casserole dish to bake it for about 20 minutes at 200°C or roughly 390 Fahrenheit.

Guten Appetit!

Literally “good appetite”. A way of saying “enjoy your meal”.

  1. you can probably guess what these words mean []

Pretty pictures printed on stuff!

Photography has been a serious-ish hobby for me since late 2013. I transitioned from a rather good digital compact camera to DSLR in 2005 and upgraded twice since then.

In all these years I became more experienced and crafty, obviously. And at some point people occasionally started telling me I should do it for money. Sell prints. Hire myself out to take pictures.

I’ve always been reluctant to do photography for anything else but fun, lest it turn into work, or a chore. It’s a pastime. Something I do in my vacation, when visiting friends or walking and hiking around the area if the weather is suitable or at home when I have an idea that sounds fun.

Recently someone didn’t just say I should try to sell pictures, but actually said “I would pay for a print of that pictures” about a specific one.

So I did a little research and after one less-than-optimal venture I found redbubble.

And I liked it, so I made an account, put up a few pictures to start with and let it simmer for a bit.

Here’s a direct link to my portfolio where you can click on the pictures and if you like them actually order a print, a card, a phone cover or other stuff.

I also made a valentines card and redbubble noticed it and tweeted at me! How cool is that?

So here’s the deal: If you want a print, grab it. If you want one but can’t afford it, I’ll be happy to do whatever I can about the price. Not a whole lot, but I’m not doing it for the money anyway.

I will also share seasonal discount codes whenever they come along. And, of course, if you know of any picture that I have taken, find one on my flickr account and want it printed on something available at redbubble, let me know.

Just one thing: Pictures taken on private property, inside museums, zoos, that sort of stuff is out. Not allowed to use that commercially. But if you want a print of those, I’ll find another way.



Olli’s Saturday School – Mahlzeit

As most languages probably do, German has an abundance of greetings to use in person, for various occasions, social structures or even the region you’re in, and it might go very badly if they are used in the wrong set up.

Good ones to use in pretty much any situation are the standard ones relating to the time of the day. Apply different tones if necessary.

You know, grumpy on Monday morning, cheerful on Friday afternoon, sombre at funerals, etc…

Guten Morgen! – Good Morning!
Guten Abend! – Good evening!

You may have noticed that I didn’t put an expression for Good afternoon! here.
That one IS a little tough because we don’t really have one. We have Guten Tag!
That translates to Good day! and is usually used in the afternoon. In Bavaria it is actually frowned upon by the more traditionally minded people.
Also, if said in a dismissive tone both Guten Abend and Guten Tag can be the conversational equivalent of hanging up the phone on someone. A very sarcastic “Have a nice day!”.

Don’t worry though, in most situations a cheeful Guten Tag! when starting a conversation or entering a shop will not get you beaten up.

When adressing a stranger in the street or a shop attendant sorting shelves because you need directions, you might not want to use one of these but start with Entschuldigung or Entschuldigen Sie bitte which translates to Pardon/Excuse me in that context.

Now in the southish regions of Germany, south of the Main river, which for that reason is also called the Weisswurstäquator1, the proper greeting is Servus, from the latin word for servant. It originated as something like I am at your service but is really just a friendly greeting or goodbye. Going further south this will often change to Grüß Gott!
This literally translates to Give god my regards! which has led to the popular elevator joke reply “Sorry, I’m not going up that high” or the reply in any situation: “Will do, if I meet him.”
Same here: It doesn’t really mean anything anymore, it originated from Grüß dich Gott!, which is kind of a blessing. It’s also used by a lot of Atheists, except maybe the petty ones.

Grüß dich! = Greet you can be used pretty universally, the further south you go, the more contracted it may get. In Switzerland it becomes one word: Gruezi!
That often will be contracted to ‘zi!

A Bavarian good-bye is fierti which is short for fiert di Gott or Führt dich Gott in high German.
That translates to may god lead you, but usually it is said with as much religious intent as the average English bless you when someone sneezes.

Another special adress is high up in the north, beyond the wa…wait, wrong word.
In Northern Germany (and, interestingly enough, in Luxembourg and parts of Switzerland, too) the standard greeting for any time of the day can be a variation of Moin!

Moin is a variation of the German word Morgen (meaning Morgen in this context, but also tomorrow).

The usage varies. In some regions it is Moin! in others Moin moin! and then again in some places the one going first is supposed to say Moin! to which the appropriate reply will be Moin moin!
Some make a difference depending if it is used as a greeting or a farewell.

Moin moin
will be understood in most parts of Germany, mostly without your conversation partner batting an eye. Well. Maybe not in Bavaria.

A colloquial greeting that is used when friends or coworkers pass each other around noon is Mahlzeit! Some people use it all day round, some people are immensely annoyed by that or by the use of the word as a greeting at all.

It is usually not the start of a conversation but more an acknowledgement. Yes, I saw you, I’m polite, you’re here, I noticed you, hi there.

The word Mahlzeit literally translates to mealtime and is also a German word for a meal. So it’s could be translated to “happy lunchbreak”.

The word mahlen being the word for to grind has led to the humorous reply Mahl dir deine Zeit doch selbst.
Go grind your own time.

A very popular use at the workplace is this: A coworker – preferably one who is chronically late – comes in shortly after they’re supposed to be. When they cheerfully go Guten Morgen a well-placed Mahlzeit! lets them know that you are well aware of them being late.

Wait, all that’s to complicated? Fine. Around friends and coworkers just say Hi!
Works in German as well as in English. If that’s not formal enough, a cheerful Hallo! will do.
You can also observe people saying Und? ( And?) to each other, which actually would prompt them to tell you how they are or what they are doing. It’s the German equivalent to ‘sup?

Or, as the people in my home village say: Öp!
And nobody knows what the hell that originally meant.

  1. white sausage equator []

We are the Borg

There comes a time when we hear a certain call
When the ‘verse must come together as one
There are races trying
And its time to send the cubes to Earth

The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, will soon make a change
We are all a part of a great Borg family
And the truth, you know,
Borg is all we need

We are the Borg, we are the Collective
We are the drones who make a brighter day
So lets assimilate
We will add all of your
Bio and techie
Distinctiveness to ours.
Adapt or die!

You have no choice, your culture will adapt
And you will service the Borg forever!
We will assimilate you, become one with us.
All resistance is futile in the end!

When you’re facing is, there is no hope at all
Buit if you do believe you can escape our grasp, wel wel wel well
Please do realize resistance is futile
So let’s stand together as one


Olli’s Saturday School – German fast food

Yes, of course, us Germans do have a handful of fastfood chains. Wait. Actually I’m not sure if we do.

The stuff you will usually see is Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, the occasional KFC and that’s about it. There’s probably a few German chain restaurants that might qualify but I can’t really think about any.

Classic German fast food would be a trailer on a city/county/village fair (or Kirmes) or on the parking lot of a large supermarket, in commercial areas. Doesn’t have to be a trailer though, sometimes they’re actual small restaurants.

A word for either of those is Imbissbude.
Imbiss = snack
Bude = shack

The same way a small Turkish food place would be called a Dönerbude. (Döner = doner kebab, served in a pita bread )

A lot of them are also called Frittenbude, Fritten being colloquial for Pommes Frites, the French term that we use for potato chips or fries, depending on where you hail from.

Typical German fast food doesn’t actually have to be cooked quickly, sometimes the stuff has been prepared for a while and is just lounging around on or slowly turning over a grill.

You alread learned about Fritten or Pommes, as we call it. Usually served with ketchup or mayonnaise (or salad cream). You can order them rot-weiss, too.
Red-white, meaning with both.
In certain parts of Germany that is also called Pommes Schranke
A Schranke is this:

Aside from fries, typical German fast food would be Brathähnchen (a roast chicken, whole or half), Spießbratenbrötchen (a slice of spit roast in a bun), Bratwust (red or white sausage, usually grilled) or the ever-present and all-around loved Currywurst.
The latter has always been sort of a cult-ish German experience, and there’s almost war-like competition between where it originated and in what region of Germany you get the best ones.
Currywurst basically is a Bratwurst, served with Ketchup or curry sauce and generously sprinkled with curry powder.

They are available from mildly spice right up until “you have to sign a waiver and show your ID before they sell you one” hot.

While Bratwurst is usually served in a bun, with mustard on the side or on the sausage itself, Currywurst is usually sliced and served with a Brötchen (a German breakfast roll) or fries on the side.

Look at that beauty:

Examples for the popularity of Currywurst in Germany:
– one of our former chancellors declared it his favorite food and the mess halls in our Governmental buildings had to serve it
– one of the German most popular musicians, Hermann Grönemeyer made a song about it that could in time become OUR version of American Pie.1
-there are actually Currywurst-Festivals in Germany. Yes, a Currywurst-themed City-fair! Check this out: http://www.neuwied.de/currywurst.html
So…are you hungry yet? No? Okay, here’s how a typical, rather busy German Wurstbude might look like around lunchtime. Complete with rote Bratwurst, weisse Bratwurst, Frikadelle, Currywurst and Brötchen.

  1. I hope it doesn’t, I don’t like the singer and the song lyrics actually go ‘I’ll go get me a Currywurst” []

All about low brass

I’ve been playing an instrument for 21 years now. The tuba. That leaves some room for ridicule, but then every musician makes jokes about the other instruments or sections.

What’s the difference between a brass orchestra and a bull?
The bull has the horns at the front and the asshole at the back.

There’s a fair amount of music puns going around in my twitter feed occasionally and innuendo does play a large role in that as well. You might have noticed. Or maybe not. Anyway, most of the following parody was concieved during and just before playing a sort of caroling concert at my home village just before Christmas. So there’s that. The original, pretty obviously, is Megan Trainor’s “All about that bass”. You may have heard it.

Because you know
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass, no trumpet
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass, no woodwind
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass, no drumset
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass

Yeah, it’s pretty deep, I play no dog whistle
But I can blow it, blow it
And you are gonna hear
’cause I got that volume that all the ears fear
And all the right valves in all the right places

I see the saxophone with all the fake shine
We know that brass ain’t real
C’mon admit it now
If you got real metal, just blow it loud
’cause every inch of it is shiny
From the mouthpiece to the bell

Yeah, my conducter told me to please play it quiet
I said I like a little more metal to sound out right
You know I don’t play no firewood squeaky ass clarinet
So if that’s what you wanna hear please get out of my way

Because you know
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass, no trumpet
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass, no woodwind
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass, no drumset
I’m all about low brass
’bout low brass

I’m bringing tuba back
Go ahead and tell them squeaky flutists that
Now I’m here playing. I know you think you’re rad
But I’m here to show you
Every inch of it is metal from the mouthpiece to the bell

Yeah they did tell me an orchestra needs all kinds
They say without the other instruments it won’t sound right
You know I won’t play no wanna-be flugelhorn trumpet part
So if that’s what you wanna hear please get out of my way

Because you know
I’m all about low brass


Olli’s Saturday School – cell phones are handy

The original German word for cell phone is Mobiltelefon.1

Jeez, you say. What a mouthful. Typically German.
Well, good news. Nobody really uses that word.

And no, we don’t even have a longer and weirder compound noun for it.

When referring to their mobiles, Germans usually use the word Handy. The word became common in 1992 but nobody actually knows why or how. There are several theories about that, all wildly contradicting each other. Fact is, for a while several associations concerned with the purity of the German language tried to at least change the spelling to Händi without much success.

There is one joke about the origin of the work from the famous Swabian dialect.
When a cell phone was introduced to a Swabian for the first time, he reportedly asked:
Hän di koi Kabel?  –
Haben die kein Kabel? – don’t those have a cable?

The word got into dictionaries and has become part of a few compound nouns that everyone loves so much:
Handyladen – cell phone shop
Handysocke – cell phone sock
Handymast – cell phone signal tower
Handynummer – cell phone number
Handytasche – cell phone case
Handycover – swappable cover for your phone
Handyvertrag – cell plan
Kartenhandy – prepaid cell phone
Diensthandy – service phone – work phone
Handyfoto – a picture taken with a cell phone camera
Fotohandy – a cellphone capable of taking pictures

Other words for cell phone:
Funktelefon (Funk = wireless signal, radio)
Telefonzelle –
actual translation: phone booth
Ok, the last one is actually probably a play on the word cell phone and mostly used for old, bricky phones like the old Nokia ones that were supposedly large enough that you could actually go inside them. Just like a phone booth.

The arrival of smartphones did not change much. A lot of people still call their smartphone Handy. Otherwise we just use the word smartphone.
We didn’t invent a new word for selfie although I’d kinda find it cute how in some plaeces the word Selbsti appeared. Shame it didn’t become popular.
Selfie – self portrait – Selbstportrait – Selbsti
I like saying Selbsti. It sounds adorable.

Things people do with their phones:
texting – sending messages via SMS  – simsen
a text (the message) – SMS
sending messages via whatsapp – whatsappen
sending messages via facebook – facebooken (god, I hate that one. Also goes for “using facebook)

A final one before I leave you to your devices2: If you ever lose your charger, the German word for that is Ladegerät. (charging device)
Or Handy-Ladegerät. Or occasionally Handy-Lader. Or Lade-Adapter
You could probably even ask for a Handy-Dingsbums (cell phone thingamajig) and wave your hand vaguely about.

  1. I guess I don’t have the translate the components that make up this one []
  2. see what I did there? []

New Year’s Eve

As promised/announced/threatened I will tell you about my New Year’s Eve celebration. And then some.

This year the premise was pretty much the same as last year. It has been for a while now. Things had changed, though.

We’ve been celebrating with friends, dinner party with surprise courses, as each participating couple or single was to provide a part of the meal.

As usual we’d divvied up the courses so we wouldn’t have 3 mains and 3 desserts.

Changes this year:
We celebrated in a new location as one of us had moved into a spacious appartment with his girlfriend.
There was also a 6 months old, well behaved and cheerful toddler with us who only turned cranky just before dessert, so one couple had to leave.
The evening also had the announcement of one of the other couples’ engagement two months ago.

Yes. This means we’re all growing up. Help! And with a new girlfriend being introduced into our ragtag band of adventurous food friends, it also means I am the last single in our group.1

And as every year we would realize that’d we got quite good at the whole cooking deal.

Without further ado, I give you….

The menu!

The bar was set quite high with this delicious chestnut soup poured over radicchio salad that had a single fried scallop floating in it and was decorated and made even tastier with a swirl of balsamic.

Next up, it’s not rocket salad. Wait, it is. Not rocket science, though.
The salad contained pine nuts, dried tomato, mozarella cheese and as if that wasn’t enough we also head bread, homemade pesto, tomato cream, salmon rolls and olives.

The next course turned out to be a fun one.

Fried parsnip and scallop. Oh so deliciously prepared. Wait, what? Scallops again? Yup. As I’ve mentioned before: surprise courses.
We just make sure someone takes charge of the main course and dessert, the rest will give vague descriptions like “soup”, “salad” or “just a small inbetween course”.
The real fun: if I hadn’t snatched the dessert, someone who hadn’t made scallops would’ve done that. And I would’ve made bacon-wrapped scallops. :D

I’m still drooling just looking at that picture.

Time for the main course, though. It turned out to be Ethiopian. No, we’re not cannibals, nobody fried up north east Africans. Ethiopian style food. Including the pancake-like “cutlery”.

After all that food, some of us needed a drink. Miniature Caipirinha anyone?

After that it was of course time for the dessert. My dish, this year. Originally I just planned to make roasted pears in butterscotch coconut sauce, but when my mom served homemade Spekulatius ice cream, I just had to add that.

The food of the gods.

So, what did you do for New Year’s Eve?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!


  1. volunteers? []

Olli’s Saturday School – Happy New Year

After learning Christmas I guess it’s time to teach you guys how Germans experience the transition into a new year.

It usually starts some time in December, when you realize that you’ll be talking to people for the last time this year.
Yes, some of us1 do the “See you next year!”-Thing.
A common German way of saying that would be: Bis nächstes Jahr!
The traditional thing is: Einen guten Rutsch (ins neue Jahr)! which literally translates to (Have) a good slide (into the new year)!

There are several possible origins for this expressions, the truth is probably lost in time. Just roll with it and reply the same thing or just say Danke, gleichfalls! (Thanks, likewise!)

When Silvester comes around (New Year’s Eve is known as Silvester in Germany since it’s apparently also St. Silvester’s Day) there are several ways people celebrate.

Some go to large-scale parties or gatherings in big towns, comparable to the Times Square ball drop or Hogmanay in Edinburgh, some don’t do anything, some celebrate in one way or the other with family and friends. Eating out is a thing but if you plan to do that, make a reservation as early as you can, usually everything that is open, even in the smallest villages, will be fully booked.

As with Christmas, one tradition is watching seasonal episodes of classic German comedy tv shows before or after dinner.

This one is a long standing German tradition despite the content having nothing to do with Silvester or Neujahr (New Year’s Day):

When not eating out, two things typical for Silvester in Germany would be Fondue (usually just the oil one, not cheese) or Raclette. My personal guess is that became a tradition because it often takes very long and thus makes it easy to pass the time until Mitternacht (midnight) and you usually simply don’t have the time to do that.

Just before midnight the party usually heads outside to either watch communally staged Feuerwerk (fireworks) light their own or watch the neighbors shoot colorful rockets into the sky.

Raketen, Kracher, Böller, Leuchtfontänen, Wunderkerzen, if it’s noisy and or colourful, Germans will light it. Unfortunately some will do that the whole evening or even week, because idiots.

In fact, unless you have a special permit, you can only buy class II fireworks2 on the last three working days of the year and it’s only allowed to light them on those two days.

Apart from fireworks another tradition is opening a bottle of Champagner or Sekt (champagne and non-special-french sparkly wine) and clink glasses, hug and maybe kiss at midnight.
From now on people wish eachother a Gutes neues Jahr (good new year) or Prost Neujahr (Cheers to New Year’s Day) for a couple of days or weeks whenever they meet and hope nobody asks them about any resolutions, because yes…that is pretty much the same here as everywhere else.
The German term for a new year’s resolution is ein guter Vorsatz, Vorsatz interestingly also being the word for premeditation.


Gutes neues Jahr!

  1. I don’t exclude myself from that []
  2. the typical stuff []