Sunday, November 13, 2011

Berlin: City Changes, Curry Wurst Stays the Same.

This has been the longest hiatus our blog has ever taken, sorry about the delay, but I have been on the road and not a little bit lazy about updates. Don’t worry – we’ll be making an effort to be more regular in the upcoming months. What can I say – I started this blog in 2006 while in Istanbul as a sort of personal web site to share photos and food with my close friends and over the years it seems to have taken on a life of its own. The latest escapade was a trip to Germany – to Berlin and Westphalia. Berlin, however, was the highlight – good friends, good food, good music. I used to play a lot in Berlin during the 1990s, staying in the then run down and alternative/funky eastern nabe of Prenzlauerberg in what used to be East Berlin. I haven’t been back in over a decade, and my, it has changed. For one thing, Prenzlauerberg has become an attractive upscale neighborhood that caters to young families. We met up with my old buddy Paul Hockenos and checked out the Saturday market.While I don’t have a strong affiliation towards German cuisine, when they do it well they do it well German style: extremely well. German bread, for example, is fantastic, which it should be since that is pretty much what Germans eat at night: abendbrot.Slices of bread with cream cheeses and cold cuts. Perfect for sitting in front of the TV set with. If you like that sort of thing. Not exactly the kind of thing you fly across oceans in anticipation of. Luckily, they have a lot of amazing cold cuts.And cheese. Especially if you wander into the giant department store across the way from the Alexander Platz metro station. And after all, this is Berlin, and you can get some of Europe’s most affordable (read cheap) ethnic eats as long as ethnic means Turkish or that strange German adaption of Asian food called “Wok.” Wok seems to be the name of every pan-Asian corner joint run by either and serving both Vietnamese and Thai food. For some reason, Berlin has no real “Chinatown” neighborhood or active Chinese restaurant scene (which is probably best explained by ex Berlin resident Ed Ward as being because China doesn’t have a sex tourism industry) but you find uninspiring southeast asian “Wok” places on every street corner.But when in Germany, you want the wurst. Germany does a damn good street sausage, and you are never more than five minutes from a hot bratwurst. There are these guys who walk around with a hot grill contraption strapped to their backs selling wurst for Euro 1.20 at tram stops and in the park. And then there is the Berlin curry wurst, invented in 1948 by Herta Heuwer from ingredients she had cadged from occupying Allied soldiers: ketchup, curry powder, and bratwurst. It sounds wrong, I know, but it works. Yes, try this at home: grill a bratwurst, cut it in slices, squirt some ketchup over it, and dust with commercial curry powder (yes, you can choose the spicy stuff.) Eat with a roll.Fumie tolerated my adventures in curry wurst with an ill disguised patience – she wanted to get to the next supposedly Thai wok joint along the way. Luckily, I was in Berlin to work on a yet unannounceable music project involving Dan Kahn, Psoy Karolenko, Jake Shulmen-Ment, and the spectral presence of Michael Alpert.This meant I got to get down to the Kreuzberg/Neukolln district where the studio was located. Visiting these districts is a lot like visiting an upper class neighborhood in Istanbul. Over 30% of the population is foreign born – mostly Turkish – and that meant that I could go shopping in Turkish supermarkets, browsing in Turkish music shops, and lunching on excellent and cheap Turkish kofte, kebabs and burek.