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Wednesday, June 27


Ideally, I’d like to be working in the food industry here but with the evening hours and weekend commitment, we aren’t willing to sacrifice our personal time for work.  So the next best thing is an office job in an English speaking environment where I can utilize my Human Resources educational background.

So I applied for a position at Adidas in March.

Having met the previous Human Resources (HR) manager, I was surprised to get a call from the new HR Manager.  The previous manager went back to United States after a 4 year stint in Germany. She had rave reviews about me and suggested to the new manager to contact me for the position I’d applied for.  At the end of the phone conversation, the new manager invited me to come in for a meeting. 

I arrived at the meeting few minutes late (NEVER EVER ARRIVE LATE!) because I was lost.  Adidas is in Herzogenaurach, 90 minutes by public transportation from Nürnberg, and it’s got more Adidas campuses than streets so it’s very easy for someone like me (no sense of direction) to get lost.  Although this is no excuse to be late.  The HR manager was very kind and understood; she told me she wouldn’t hold that against me.  After the brief informal chatter she delved into interview questions making this an actual interview, rather than a meeting.

I have an HR background so I tried to answer the questions with ease.  Questions like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “What was your biggest attribute in your last job?” are redundant, I am the first to admit, but are important to see where the candidate sees his or her strengths and weaknesses lie.  This also allows the interviewer to understand if the candidate is a match for the position and will fit with the team. 

She assured me that Adidas would help obtain my employment permit. After an hour long conversation I was certain this was a sealed deal.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a sealed deal.  She emailed me few weeks after our meeting and due to reorganization within the department and budgetary issues she couldn’t extend an offer.  However she will keep me in mind for a future position.  She wrote she was extremely impressed with me and would contact me once things settled down and there was an opening she felt I’d fit.  

This was some time ago and although I don’t expect to hear from her now, I hope to get a call in the future.  It would be great for my mental well-being to be employed again and to have a routine.

Saturday, June 23

Istanbul & Turkey

Istanbul holds a very special place in our heart.  It’s a city we left pleased by its kind people, hospitality and world renown food.

It has 17 million, approximately, people and every nook and cranny is filled to the brim with people, buildings, architecture and/or animals.  While reading about Istanbul and Turkey few weeks before our departure, I was fascinated by the culture and the city’s ingrained relationship to Islam.  I learned that Turkey’s population is over 95% Muslim.  What!?!? I bet you didn’t know that either.  Women wear headscarves but are not required to.  Since it has a large population of Muslims and many mosques, there are prayer calls.  And the rest we learned as we discovered the city on our own. 

Upon arriving we noticed Istanbul is overpopulated; this is not a good or a bad thing, just an observation.  When we left the airport to take the local streetcar to our hotel, we were smashed inside the streetcar with others trying to reach their destination.

The transportation in Istanbul is carefully constructed.  We were in the city for 5 days and never felt like we needed to have a car to get around.   (Though with so many people, I don’t know how one has a car.) They have streetcars, trains and ferries.  The ferries connect both Asian and European sides of the city.  For instance, we went to a Hamam (Turkish bath) on the Asian side that the locals frequent and it was a 45 minute train, ferry and bus ride to Üsküdar without difficulty.  The streetcars and trains were always crowded but the ferries were not.

95%+ Muslims means most women wear headscarves and are covered up.  Neither of us have traveled to a predominant Muslim country so we were surprised to see the amount of women in their headscarves and some completely covered up.  This, my friends, means 2 Indians that could pass for Muslims because of our skin and hair color get stared at everywhere we went.  Although initially uncomfortable, we quickly adjusted to the stares.  We understood; I am a brown-skinned woman and not covered up, he is also brown skinned and sporting a beard (a common practice in Islam) with a woman that isn’t covered up. 

Something that brought us back to our childhood was the Adhān, Islamic call to prayer.  A man sings/speaks specific words which are then projected through the minarets’ loudspeakers to the city.  Growing up in a western state in India and having been around many Muslims, we both remembered our childhood days when mosques in parts of the city had prayer calls.  For Europeans and Americans these can be an annoyance but we didn’t mind.

One reason Istanbul and Turkey left an impression was because the people of Turkey are nicest, friendliest people we’ve met in this part of the world.  When we were lost on the first day a young couple in their early 20s that didn’t speak any English tried their best to help us get to where we needed to go.  The staff was very attentive and helpful at many restaurants, especially because they saw that we couldn’t understand the menu.  At one of our lunch spots, the server told us their pide comes with only ground beef and therefore not an option for us to order.  Many may think this should be the case but we both felt this server went out of his way to explain each ingredient on the pide.

Istanbul is divided by strait of Bosphorus or Istanbul Strait in two parts: European and Asian side.  Our hotel was on the European side in Beyoğlu.  It’s a neighborhood that’s centrally located and close to tourist attractions including Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Sophia Hagia and many mosques.  It is close to Galata Tower and connected to the tourist destinations by Galata Bridge.  Most importantly Beyoğlu has superb restaurants for the locals and tourists.  Unfortunately I can’t speak so highly of our hotel, but I do appreciate the recommendation from a German/Turkish friend.   I highly recommend staying in Beyoğlu. 

The obvious difference between European and Asian sides are the number of tourists and locals in each.  Asian side, while it still has its share of people, is mostly filled with locals.   We saw many women, men and children modestly dressed whereas on the European side, I saw more modern fashion trends on women, men as well as children.

Speaking of overpopulation, we were surprised to see the number of cats everywhere we went.  There were stray street cats throughout the city.  I am not sure why the city or the country isn’t taking care of this problem but we noticed it could be a result of locals leaving (cat) food on street corners.  More than once we saw a bowl of cat food by the train station or in an alley.

I get scared with stray animals, anywhere, so I was skittish when cats hung around our table while we were dining.  To make things worse, I was annoyed when the husband fed a stray cat.  This may have something to do with growing up in India and seeing stray animals roam the streets freely and mentally fearing they would bite.

Because of my fascination with Islam we visited few mosques and couple palaces; palaces that were once inhabitated by Sultans.  More on that soon. 

Monday, June 18


Every country has its own quirks, given that we’ve learned what makes Germany unique.   In USA, shoes and clothing are required to get service.  In India, overtaking a car on a single lane highway is normal, sometimes even encouraged, at the risk of your life and safety.
In Germany, grocery baggers do not exist.  I am referring to the people that bag groceries after purchase.  Here, when we go to a grocery store for basic supplies, i.e. laundry detergent or toothpaste, we have to pay and bag the stuff as quickly as possible.  That doesn’t sound too complicated but it is.  When the cashier is done scanning all the items I have to make sure I have the right amount to pay and ensure all my stuff makes it into my bag before the next person’s groceries are scanned.   Germans hate waiting so if counting coins for the correct change takes extra time people roll their eyes.  Thankfully, stores designate an area by the exit for customers to have ample space and time to organize their purchases.  But by that point I am so annoyed from being pushed out of the line I leave without arranging my things.  In this case it is accurate, Germans are very too efficient. 

And talking on the phone while checking out is frowned upon.  Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson.

Though we applaud stores charging for plastic (.15 cents) and paper (.10 cents) bags; it compels customers to bring their own.  With so much wastage in the world, saving on plastic and paper is prudent.  (Many customers, I’d estimate 75%, still buy bags; I haven’t figured out why yet.)

To put some of the ingredients  butter I’d bought to good use I made these brownies.  They’re rich and very chocolatey so if you’re not a fan, use semisweet chocolate. 

Adapted from Joy of Baking

5 ounces or 150 grams dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup or 113 grams unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons or 15 grams cocoa powder
1 cup or 200 grams granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup or 95 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 125 grams walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F or 180 degrees C and place the rack in the center of the oven.

Butter an 8 x 8 inch square pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar. Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour, salt and walnuts.

Pour into the buttered pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a little batter and a few moist clumps clinging to it. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 16 or 9 large (if you’re feeling indulgent) brownies

Wednesday, June 13

It’s Spargel Season

Spargel is Asparagus in German.  They also have the Grüner (Green) Spargel but the white is cherished of the two.  Starting mid April the farmers market and grocery stores are brimming with asparagus.  Many local restaurants even feature Spargel on their menu to attract customers.  The season starts in April and lasts until a religious day in June.  Don’t ask which one or why.  All I know is on that day, last of it is sold to Germans who stuff their mouths with the white gold and then it disappears.  This also explains why Grüner Spargel isn’t very common here.  After 2 whole months of nothing but white asparagus, the season ends and Germans’ love affair with the vegetable is restrained until the next Spring. 

With all the hype about Spargel, I used it in basic preparation.  Sometimes Mayonnaise as a sauce is the best way to enjoy the vegetable.  Take Potatoes for instance.  Or Broccoli.  Or Cauliflower.  Really the options are endless.  As long as you don’t do it every week.  The jarred stuff is no match for fresh veggies.  Don’  I am talking homemade mayonnaise drizzled over asparagus.   

Asparagus with Mayonnaise

Serves 2 as a side

500 grams white asparagus
1 cup water
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon butter


1 garlic clove, optional
1 egg, farm fresh (bring to room temperature)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
3/4- 1 cup Oil (non flavored  i.e. vegetable, canola, sunflower is best.  Olive oil makes it bitter)
salt and freshly ground white pepper

In a 10 inch skillet, bring water to boil on high heat.  (Use a wide and deep enough skillet that allows the asparagus to lay flat in a single layer.) 

While water comes to boil, snap off the ends of each asparagus.  Hold the end with thumb and index finger of right hand and place thumb and index finger of left hand about half way up or in the middle of asparagus and bend.  Do this with each piece.

Peel the asparagus with a vegetable peeler.  White asparagus (and thick green ones also) are fibrous and stringy so if not peeled, it is tough.   Once peeled, rinse the asparagus and then add to the boiling water.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover the skillet and cook for 10 minutes.  If the asparagus is thicker, cook longer and shorter time if thinner. 

Here’s a revelation for me and maybe for you as well.  MAYONNAISE CAN BE MADE IN 60 SECONDS. 

Take a moment to absorb that because it took me 2 days to comprehend this was possible.  In the tall, narrow cup (most often known as smoothie cup) of the blender, add garlic clove and blend for 10- 20 seconds.  Add all the other ingredients to the cup, place the immersion blender all the way at the bottom, press start and the emulsion will happen.  As the liquid thickens, move the blender slowly up to the top and blend.  In 40- 60 seconds mayonnaise will be ready.  Do not over blend. 

Great-tasting, best thing that’s happened since sliced bread mayonnaise is ready.  Speaking of which, it’s spectacular on sliced bread. 

When asparagus is done, drain the water, reduce heat to medium and add butter to the pan.  Let the asparagus brown for 2 minutes. 

Place cooked asparagus on a plate, sprinkle salt and white pepper and spoon homemade mayonnaise over the top.  Finish with chopped chives or any fresh herb of choice. 

Friday, June 8

Rosemary Shortbread

When life gives you a balcony, grow an herb garden.  Our balcony is far from our home in US, in many ways. We’re an ocean and some miles away but the size of this balcony is peanuts compared to the backyard in our old home.  We miss the green space that looked out to the preserved area past the fence.  After moving into our apartment last August, with peak planting season behind us, I was certain I’d plant herbs this year.  Thankfully the local farmer’s market had all the herbs I wanted.  Basil, Cilantro (Coriander), Chives, Thyme, Oregano and Rosemary.  Thus far, Basil and Rosemary are growing a lot, really fast.  Last week I made Basil Pesto for Risotto.  This week I used Rosemary for shortbread.

I loosely adapted Melissa Clark’s shortbread recipe.  I probably won’t be doing that again because her recipe called to bake the shortbread in a pan and then cutting into squares.  Instead I made rounds and baked them individually.  I formed the dough into a log, refrigerated it and then sliced into rounds.  While it was baking, it spread and I freaked out so I removed the baking pan from the oven a 1 minute sooner then I should’ve.  I didn’t let the cookies rest long enough thus yielding soft, droopy cookies.  Thankfully, I managed to get some decent looking ones for a picture.

I also followed my own method to making the dough.  So really, I just used her recipe as a guide for the ingredients and then created my own method. 

Don’t make the mistakes I made for the shortbread and you’ll have a winner.  This is also why I dislike baking, everything is so precise and it HAS to be this way or that way because Science says so.  blah.  And it doesn’t help that I’m world’s most impatient person.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, unless you know what you’re really doing (in baking), follow the recipe and don’t make up methods. 

Rosemary Shortbread
Yields 12- 16 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold butter

Heat oven to 325F degrees. In a large bowl combine flour, chopped nuts, sugar, rosemary and salt.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers or a fork.  Don’t overwork the dough; it should resemble coarse wet sand.   Place the dough, crumbs and all, on plastic wrap.  Wrap the plastic wrap over the dough and shape the dough into a log.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the log from the fridge, unwrap the plastic wrap and slice into 1cm rounds.  Place the rounds on a cookie sheet and bake for 8- 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Let the shortbread rest, 20 minutes, before moving the cookies.  When cool enough to touch, place the cookies on a wire rack for further cooling down. *

Here’s her method:

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, pulse together flour, nuts, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter, and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don't overprocess. Dough should not be smooth.

Press dough into an ungreased 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan or 9-inch pie pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.

Even with all the provisions, the cookies were delightful.  After 30 minutes of resting on a wire rack, I tasted them and the rosemary flavor was spot on.  Of course, many were broken but that’s part of learning that I need to stop straying off the recipe path.  The husband tried them after dinner and liked them as well, which is saying a lot since he doesn’t like cookies or any form of sugary goodness except chocolate cake, coconut cake or mousse. 

*Something I just read (and overlooked) from Melissa Clark’s recipe, use cold butter! That was an important detail I ignored and had so-so results.  None the less, if you try my method with rolling a log and sliced rounds, I’d love to hear about it.

Sunday, June 3


In the dreary winter in January I was at the Hauptmarkt (main market) shopping for my weekly produce and eggs. I’ve frequented this farmer’s market (because it’s so close, 4 minute walk) more than any other in the area and prefer it to the grocery stores. I have my favorite farmers that sell produce grown in Knoblauchsland, translated to garlic land. (Garlic land/county is 10 kilometers from here, local and seasonal vegetables and fruits are grown.)

As I was browsing through the vegetable bins, I heard an older gentleman greet the vendor “Good afternoon.” Perplexed by what I had just heard, I paid no attention. When I was done picking out my produce, I asked the vendor if she had Parsley. I asked in German but said Parsley because I couldn’t remember the German word. She didn’t know what I was asking for and suggested I ask the older Gentleman because he knows English. A-ha, I did hear him say something in English. I politely asked him and he reminded me, Petersilie. Unfortunately, she didn’t have it.

After we bought our veggies, he and I made small talk and he asked me to coffee.This may seem really odd now but it was very innocent. We had a great conversation at the city library coffee shop. CT moved here 7 years ago from Boston to be with his German wife. He is a counselor (namely Therapist but because he is not licensed in Germany he can’t say Therapist). I shared my frustrations with learning the language and he suggested tips on learning and speaking German. At the end of the coffee meeting he suggested I meet someone he knows professionally. He said this would be good for both of us because she wants to practice English.

CT introduced me to my tandem partner, S. S is from Bremen and works for the city. Her boyfriend, family and life are in Bremen so she jokes she lives two lives. She is friendly and approachable. She lived in the US for a semester in high school as an exchange student. Sadly, her host family wasn’t nice and often talked about the war with her, leaving a bad taste in her mouth of the experience.

Since our initial meeting, S and I have met multiple times. It’s pleasant to speak German with a native. And she’s really helpful when I have trouble remembering words or explains in other words when I don’t understand. She’s patient with my German and I am thankful. We rarely speak in English, maybe because she hasn’t suggested it and I am fine with this arrangement.

She doesn’t cook much because she works long days but wants to learn a thing or two. We’ve planned a cooking date in the future and I hope to share some recipes.

This vegetarian Moussaka is one.  Moussaka is a Greek dish made with ground lamb. To make it lighter, healthier and leaner I used Bulgur in place of lamb.

Moussaka with Bulgur

Inspired by CookingLight Recipe
Serves 4, generous portions

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large Italian eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups organic vegetable stock (or water)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and arrange eggplant slices on the skillet. Cook for 1 minute on one side and turn over and cook for 1 more minute on the other side. Remove the slices to a plate and season with salt. Repeat the same process until all the eggplant slices are browned on both sides. It took me 3 time to cook all the slices.

In the same skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, swirl to coat and add chopped onion. Sauté 5 minutes. Then add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add bulgur; cook for 3 minutes or until bulgur is lightly toasted, stirring frequently. Add salt, ground allspice, cinnamon, and cloves; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in oregano and tomatoes. Add stock (or water) and bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, accordingly.

Preheat oven to 350°.

For sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk flour into butter and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk so no lumps form. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese, salt and black pepper. Remove from heat, and cool slightly.

Coat an 8x8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with olive oil. Arrange half of the eggplant on the bottom then spread the bulgur mixture evenly over eggplant.Arrange remaining eggplant slices and then finish with another layer of bulgur mixture. (There should be 4 layers, eggplant-bulgur-eggplant- bulgur). Finish by adding the sauce over the top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and return the dish to oven for 10 more minutes or until the top is browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Ground lamb is very good in anything, especially Moussaka, however we didn’t miss the meat here. I am certain this will be tastier when the eggplants are in season but it’s still scrumptious rest of the year.