Friday, January 21, 2011

Making a Good Impression

A couple of months after Junior Bear was born, I was sent away for training.  During my absence, his mother's mom and aunt came over to Germany for a couple of weeks.  They helped her out with the baby and saw some of the sights in southern Germany.

After I got back, I had a few days off, so we decided to take a train to the Black Forest.  So we all trundled down to the Bahnhof in Augsburg to catch a fast train.  Our fast train led to a semi-fast train, then a slow train, then a train one step up from the kind with two men working a lever to move it along.  Think "The Little Engine That Could" with a crying infant.  I'm pretty sure we rode on an example of each and every kind of train the German train system had to offer that evening.

We got into the little village my ex had decided to visit at about 2 AM.  The bed and breakfast she had reservations at was about a block from the train station, so we walked down.  Imagine a tall man pushing a baby carriage and wearing a humongous backpack, a short woman carrying a diaper bag, and two middle-aged women pulling along their own luggage.   Looking back, we must have looked like refugees looking for a place to flop.

The owner of the B& B had stayed up waiting for us, and made sure we were settled in before going to bed herself.  We got through the night OK, but Junior was over stimulated and cranky, which meant we didn't get a lot of sleep. Since the inn was someone's home, it's a safe assumption that a lot of other people didn't either.

Next morning, after feeding the baby, we went downstairs for a good German breakfast of cheese, bread, pastries, sausage, and tea.  The females, none of whom spoke much German or know a lot about German cuisine, didn't understand that this was a pretty good spread, and wasted much time talking about the food instead of eating it.  I tucked in like it was my last meal.   I'd lived on chow hall food and MRE's for a month.  This was manna from heaven.

The rest of the day was spent pushing the baby around while the ex and the in-laws searched for the cuckoo clocks of their dreams.  I had a good time taking care of Junior.  His mom had been a single parent most of the time I was gone, so no grudge there.  Lunch was at a little restaurant in the tourist area, so the food was good, but not huge.

After acquiring their cuckoo clocks and getting their pictures taken in front of every ornate house we saw, we retired to a restaurant across from our little inn for dinner.  Since our other two meals were on the small side, and we'd trekked up and down the square looking at ornate carved thingamabobs all day, we were all starving.   Junior, having been carted all over heck and back that day and been given a good warm bottle for dinner, was already asleep in the pram, so the adults were able to enjoy our dinner without interruption.

The restaurant was serving neuwein, which is a weakly alcoholic, very sweet wine that goes down like good soda pop.  My lightweight self drank almost an entire caraffe by myself as we had an appetizer and drinks before ordering.  By the time the waitress came around to get our dinner orders, I was feeling pretty warm and happy.  Not drunk, but definitely very relaxed and social.

We looked over the menu, with me providing translation service to the two ladies and my ex-wife.  They all settled on pretty basic German cuisine like schnitzel or chicken dishes, but I wanted something new.  I saw something called "Reh Ragu".  I couldn't remember what a "Reh" was, but deduced that the dish was pieces of "Reh" served in a spiced tomato sauce over spaetzle.  After the women had ordered their dinners, I asked about the "Reh Ragu".  The waitress had limited English, but explained in German that it was a game animal that lived in the forest.  I started down the list of animals I knew from high school German.

"Hase (hare)?"
"Kaninchen (bunny)?"
"Schwein (pig)?"
"Hirsch (deer)?"
"Nein, kleiner, wie Bambi!" (No, smaller, like Bambi!"

Reh, apparently, is one of the names for what we call roe deer.  These diminutive herbivores do indeed live in the Black Forest, and I remembered one of my sergeants talk about hunting them like they were rabbits.  Since I was a little tipsy, and wanted something new, I nodded emphatically and ordered Bambi in a red sauce over noodles.

Turning around, I met six very wide, very shocked eyes.  Apparently, even though they didn't speak much German, they had heard me order Bambi.  I picked up my glass of wine and made a toast to being adventurous.

Conversation continued until our meals came out.   At the sight of a large plate of homemade noodles with a wonderful meaty sauce on them, my dinner companions avoided my glance and concentrated on their own dinner.  I ate with gusto, practically licking the plate clean while I drank neuwein like the antidote was in it.  It was one of the best meals I have ever had.

To this day, I always say that I made the best impression I could have ever made on my ex's family by having the guts to order  a plate of Bambi in front of them.  To this day, my ex-mother-in-law, who I still regard as a wonderful and gracious woman, talks about the night I ate Bambi.


MrG's said...

I got used to German food during my time in Deutchland, I havn't found a decent German restaurant her in the ATL area.

DaddyBear said...

If you ever get up to Nashville, there used to be a really good German restaurant next to I-24 near the Titan's stadium. Best schnitzel south of the Mason Dixon Line!

Shannon said...

That was an awesome story! I 'had' a German friend who intially would make regional dishes for us when she invited us to dinner at her place ~ that lasted for the first few visits...then it was all prepackaged stuff from Costco. I would have ordered Bambi too.

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