Something about a drizzly day in Heidelberg and this dish just go together beautifully. It’s been a wet autumn for this region, which has put a damper on normal cheerful autumn activities like sitting in Biergartens wearing light jackets drinking in the company of friends under crisp yellow, orange, and red canopies. This is what I’ve been told autumn here is normally like, and it’s what I had pictured before coming to Germany. Walking in the rain is not always so idyllic, but it does make the cobblestones glisten, the stone cathedral reverberating in chorus all the more inviting, the cafés all the cozier, and Nürnberger Rostbratwürste (pictured above) so deeply satisfying. It was the only thing I ate so far today, and out of reverence I almost don’t want to eat anything else. Not pictured here (because the image would be too strong for some viewers) are the mashed potatoes that also formed the bed for these juicy, sizzling sausages. The rain may come as a disappointment for many Heidelbergers, but for me it’s only served to heighten my senses.
I’ve been feeling very home-sick lately, maybe because of all of the election news and because the holidays are coming up soon. Everyone in the United States is going through similar things: Halloween, election, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah…knowing that I’m missing out is frustrating and lonely. This morning I reached an all-time low since I’ve been here and decided I needed to do something differently. So I went to Starbucks and ordered a grande chai tea latte. Then I went to the Hair Shop and looked at shampoos, and I found the brand that I use at home. Something about these two events made me feel better. Something about ordering the drink I like at a known establishment with comforting aromas instead of drinking coffee at the school cafeteria and something about finding the shampoo I like instead of using some harsh shampoo of an unknown brand from the Drogerie Markt was comforting. Was it just the consumerism that did it? Some would argue that purchasing anything provides a temporary high. I’d like to think not. For instance, the other day when I spent 7 Euros on a “döner teller”, a giant platter of meat, lettuce, and french fries, because the guy at the döner kebab place refused to make me a “döner” without bread (Me: “But I’m allergic to wheat. Can you just put it on a plate?” Guy: “We don’t have that”), there was no high. And when the stern worker at the Photo Shop told me that printing wallet-sized photos was not possible unless I wanted to pay 1 Euro each to make passport photos, it was not an upper. I think that today’s satisfaction had more to do with consumer choice. Consumer choice is empowering; lack of it makes one feel doomed to accept whatever is in supply. Hmm….doom is a good description of what I’ve felt lately. Consumer choice is (I know anti-consumerists are cringing) a form of self-care, because let’s face it, some products are better or better-suited to one’s needs than others. I’m a brunette, but using John Frieda’s Brilliant Brunette leaves my hair far from brilliant. My hair is screaming for a gentler, moisturizing shampoo. And now that I found one, compared it to the other shampoo, compared the costs, and made a decision; I feel like I’ve done myself a favor. It’s like going to the butcher and the baker and the farmers’ market to hand-pick each of your foods instead of buying them at the local grocery chain. The effort it takes to make the right choice fosters a sense of self-respect and self-love. Why is this important for me now? Because I feel limited, limited to cafeteria food and a few restaurants that use spices, limited to the few people I know here, limited to my room on these cold, dark, rainy evenings. But having a choice in what I buy for myself–even if it’s just whole milk in my chai tea latte–makes me feel not so limited and a little closer to home.