Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin
Saturday, 31 August 2013
As most of you will know, I'm really interested in nutrition.
When I see so many obese children here in Germany - sitting in the underground, drinking lots of Coke, one kid occupying two seats, I think: "Poor, poor kids!"
These children are often scolded by other children pitiless, they refuse to play with them, shun them. Obese children are victims of their upbringing. Often parents, who don't "Have" enough time for them, give them money instead - I watched little schoolchildren coming from school, which in Germany often ends about 1 a.m, going to McDonald's or buying sweets at the kiosk. Sadly, the meals in full-time schools are often cheap, but nutritionally cheap too.
Would it help to bring back into school the class for basic cooking and household knowledge, that long time ago was abolished? Give a net, teach to fish, make children independent, give them a choice? Of course those classes must be for girls AND boys. Showing a football-hero cooking, a singer sitting with her children at a table and eat - pipe dreams?
A few years ago Jamie Oliver attempted at a school to teach children how to eat in a healthy way (and there were rumours that mothers and aunties stood at the fence of that school and gave the 'poor children' chocolate bars...).
I think it is a very, very good thing to teach and try to enable a change.
Give role models. Not (though well-intentioned) laws as the Green Party in Germany tried to advance, suggesting that everybody in Germany MUST have a vegetarian day once a week. Telling people what and when to eat is no good: in a democracy you can teach, try to convince - but then people have the right to make their own adult choice, as long as they do not hurt the health of others. Laws that make sugar expensive, or forbid trans-fats (the cheap fats in so many 'convenient' food) might work. But look at the attempt of NY's mayor to forbid the huge Coke-bottles. I heard that even Michelle Obama had to change her fight against the food industry to the (also convincing) 'Let's Move Campaign''. I really admire her attempt to change nutritional habits, but do also believe that the food industry has great influence (look at the following post - I don't know which political direction Marion Nestle belongs to, but her arguments sounds convincing: http://www.foodpolitics.com/2011/12/lets-move-campaign-gives-up-on-healthy-diets-for-kids/)
Jamie Oliver talked of 'people staring at a huge TV screen, eating out of styrofoam-boxes". He accused poor people to spend their money on 'entertainment' instead of spending it for valuable nutrition.
In London I had the impression that supermarkets offer a lot more convenience food - and in huger portions - than in Germany. I loved the picture of hundred of Londoners sitting on a sunny day on the steps of St. Paul's, eating out of little card boxes. Because I have nothing against meals out of card-boxes, it can be fun, like a picnic: it depends on what is in the box.
Or on the plate: in the little restaurants in Berlin or London where people order 'Business lunch', I fear that the three decorative lettuce leaves often only hide that these dinners might be not much more valuable in nutrition as styrofoam boxes and lunch-bags.
That's why I added the Punch-and-Judy-photo (which I took in Russel Square): it is so easy to hit a certain group, while another group is 'sinning' only on a higher level...
The suggestion of home-made food - or 'Naturally Fast Food', as LEON called it rightly - is good! Takes often not more than half an hour. (OK - you have to shop).
But I fear it is often sheer laziness (or exhaustion): people - rich or poor - love to look at cook-shows in TV, but it is more comfortable not to cook. Not to clean-up afterwards. Or have to do the dishes.
Jamie Oliver said that it is not more expensive to feed your family with fresh home prepared food. Buying at the farmer's market instead of huge units in the supermarket - and then throwing away half of it, because it rotted.
I'll tell you about my field research "Farmer's market versus Supermarket" in the next post. Looking forward to the face of the farmer when I ask for '10 mange-touts' - or 'grab them', as Oliver said.
See you! (Hopefully)
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Have a look (yes, we managed to keep the same address as before):
But that is almost all we kept.
Thank you so much, Michael Felix Kijac, for the lot of work and ideas you put into it.
There is more content now, but it is easier to read:
a short teaser, and then, if you want to know more, you can cklick and see (and if you wish: download) a detailed Pdf.
And here comes my plea:
a professional translator always translates only from the foreign language into his own.
Here (as in my blogs) I translated from German into English - and am fully aware that you will find a lot of faults: grammar, vocabulary, idioms...
I would be very, very pleased (yes, really!) when you give me a hint where I have gone wrong. When Michael returns from his journey to Belgrade he will fill in all your corrections.
Of course I don't expect you to read all those long texts - but if by chance (chance? hahaha) you notice a big blunder, I will be very thankful for your advice.
Thank you so much!
Sunday, 25 August 2013
I hope that you have missed me a bit!
The very useful word sturmovshchina I found in the hilarious book: "The Horologicon. A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language" by Mark Forsyth. And it describes perfectly what I was doing - you just have to look at my last blog post...:
"It is the practice of working frantically just before a deadline, having not done anything for the last month. (...) Shturmovshchina originated in the Soviet Union. Factories would be given targets and quotas and other such rot by the state, but they often weren't given any raw materials. So they would sit with their feet up and their tools down until the necessaries arrived, and it was only when the deadline was knocking at the door that they would panic, grab whatever was to hand, and do (...)" the job.
Yes, suddenly I was very busy - translating texts for my new website - a lot of work which I could have started earlier...
But it was worth it!
In the photo above you see graphic designer Michael Felix Kijac - http://kolorit-design.de/ - who is my friend since almost seven years, from the time when Hans and I lived in Hamburg till now. Here we are standing in the Baroque garden of the Charlottenburger Schloss (in early spring) - enjoying ourselves as ever.
(You can imagine how much I like him when you consider that I choose to publish this slightly unbecoming photo of me because he preferred it to the second one we took on that occasion. Well - looks are not everything - hahaha).
He is really brilliant, as you will see when - soon! soon! - my new website is ready.
I think it looks terrific - can't wait to show it to you.
Thursday, 8 August 2013
Friday, 2 August 2013
At this time of the year my garden looks decidedly Wilhelmine.
It is the high evening primroses, Oenothera drummondi, that creates this romantic impression, and she greets me in abundance every morning with her huge, soft sulphur- yellow-coloured flowers.
Some people amaze me: when I tell them about these mornings they say: “Well – Evening Primrose - is'nt that the weed which always grows on the embankments of the railway?”
Yes, there they grow too, as lilac does, or the butterfly bush in England.
I see only qualities: it is absolutely modest, not prone to pests, and produces seeds like mad. Every evening it gives you filmic live-shows in slow-motion, flowers eternally till deep into autumn, and can be extracted easily where it isn't wanted, because everyone can spot their beautiful leaf-rose, and get the root out with one tug.
And: it is absolutely beautiful!
Moonlight in my garden, and the living candles of the evening primrose flower softly in the night, shedding their own shimmering cool moonlight around them.
At half past ten in the evening I sit on my bench and dream upon my garden. Two bats flutter through the air in strange mystifying circles, the world is quiet. The garden still glows in the light of the full moon, gleams with white lilies whose scent is even stronger as in daytime, and hundreds of tender yellow evening primrose flowers cast their spell on me. A Midsummer Dream.
Saturday, 27 July 2013
I am almost well again, though still a bit
I love the heat wave we have at the moment - today Berlin simmers in 34°C, tomorrow they predict 38°C. I can enjoy it because I don't have to leave the house (though I do).
I slept for almost two days in fever, and then had to rest a while in bed, and thus had lots of time to look at my long white curtains of white Swiss muslin swaying in the soft breeze; the vine on the balcony behind them printing hushed grey patterns onto them - beautiful! And while I looked long and dreamily I found out the secret of the long, long summers I spent as a child.
It was the bulk of time we had - time in which we hadn't much to do. Not much distraction, not much choice, time was very uniform, and so it stretched.
In the book "Endangered Pleasures" Barbara Holland starts her essay "Spending the Summer" with:
'I am the resident curator in a small but eloquent museum of the way people used to spend the summer up until, to pick a rough date, 1981.' (...) 'Exhibits include parts of a croquet set, a first-edition Scrabble, the hook in the porch ceiling that used to hold a swing, half-a-dozen decks of cards and a sack of poker chips, three badminton rackets, (...), the complete work of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Schulz, (...) a tin box of dried-up watercolours (...)
People, even friends and relations who once spent large chunks of their summer here, gaze around in awe. "We must have been bored to death, they say. "I can't believe we stayed here for weeks and weeks. I'd go crazy here in three days."
Nowadays, Holland says, most people make weekend-trips, not long holidays. But:
"Weekending degrades the whole concept of summer. Weekends we can take in any season, summer needs time. (...)
Slow the pulse. Summer is cumulative and needs to pile up, attain a certain mass, at which point the days stop being days and melt together to become a place, a self-contained, motionless country wholly set apart from time and containing within its boundaries all summers past and future. "
She gives quite a few good reasons for the change - and I agree with her analysis that society demands that "now our small available free time should be spent in the most strenuous possible activity (...) We're not sloshing aimlessly around in the swimming pool just because it's cool and pleasant; we're swimming laps, counting as we turn."
I don't, these days. Don't watch TV, don't party, read a bit, take a nap, look at my veiled windows, listen to the birds, water my plants.