The limits of good taste (Part 1)

My grandmother was an interesting woman. Whenever I think of her, experiences from my youth and her words of wisdom come to mind. In every situation in life, for every circumstance, there was – if necessary – a suitable saying. For her, these were fixed guidelines, almost commandments. There was no discussion, it was just the way things were.

Metaphors and proverbs about children playing together can probably be used all day, because visiting grandma was pure adventure for us. Fishing and playing on the Weser, campfires and feeding ourselves off trees and bushes were the order of the day. It may have happened – please forgive my youthful exuberance – that I took more pudding at lunchtime or had more bread rolls for breakfast than the other children at the table. That was enough to launch the biggest squabble!

Grandma’s wisdom par excellence in such situations, for us cheeky and quarrelling boys, was therefore often: “Yes, yes, the grass is always greener on the other side!” So in that sense: be content with what you have and don’t be interested in (don’t be envious of) what others have.

Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten most of the situations from back then, but what has remained is the concentrated memory of my grandmother and “her” proverbs. And in the meantime I use this metaphor myself, but I see the world behind it completely differently from grandma back then.

I have long been firmly convinced that borders (including garden fences) are there precisely to allow us to look at the other side. So, don’t just look, but try it out, question it – take a proper interest in what the difference is between one side of the boundary and the other.

It’s absolutely amazing what you can learn in the process – if you’ve found the fence beforehand, of course. Because many fences/boundaries are not registered by us, they are not necessarily obvious. Customs barriers and border guards are not everywhere, controlling entry. What I mean are borders in our minds, barriers of thought – something like gaps in our consciousness. Not exactly a taboo, but you ignore the necessary information or it just doesn’t interest you. The phenomenon exists on various topics. Where hardly anyone actually expects it, I would like to put on my little show as a harlequin today.

My focus today is culinary boundaries – of which there are an astonishing number and no one has ever consciously drawn them. No kitchen “colossus“ has defined or conquered them. They were (and still are) created by climatic restrictions and man’s ability to adapt to local conditions. Many of these boundaries are blurred and their creation is part of legends or the retrospective interpretation of historical events. You can believe such explanations, but you don’t have to. After all, hardly any of the know-alls who today report on the emergence of these boundaries of good taste – were there! So I too make no claim to historical accuracy. I report exclusively on the basis of freely available knowledge (preferably WIKIPEDIA) and my interpretation of things.

Most people don’t know where to look for taste boundaries, and even if they did, they wouldn’t always recognise what really distinguishes their side from the other. Holidays, the internet and the countless cooking programmes on free TV have undoubtedly made the subject more accessible, only there, too, the focus is on the level of “filling your stomach” and much less on “expanding your mind.”

For the simpler minds, this tricky question is quickly revived for YOUR national team’s next game. Because, how does it go again? Oh yes, WE are playing against cheeseheads, limeys or frogs. And that’s right, we’re called ” Krauts” by the others, because real Germans are known to exist on sauerkraut, beer and knuckle of pork. Note the order. The Germans are a nation of latent vegetarians.

But enough of these culinary, national digs, the more interesting borders stretch across entire continents or are more regionally defined.

As in real life, you should never lose your curiosity in the kitchen. In the culinary world, there is always something new to discover. Rediscovered or still unknown foods, recipes and spices from foreign countries, but also regional variations and customs. One source of my inspiration here are memories of times as a child at my grandmother’s, the allspice aromas in her kitchen and the taste of the dishes she served.

The other part is based on an experience as a teenager during my school years.

As is well-known, I, as a man, former consultant and harlequin, have little idea about anything, but that has never stopped me from trying everything. Sometimes you fall flat on your face, but every now and then (actually most of the time) you discover interesting new horizons.

So of course I didn’t have a plan when I volunteered for the girls’ cooking class at school, as the first and then only boy in my class. The implementation of this basically sensible plan was not at all easy at the time and is worth a separate article in our blog, but it worked out in the end. I became the first boy in a cooking class for girls at the Jahn mixed secondary school.

For a better understanding, however, it should be briefly mentioned that the others – the real guys – were kept busy during this time in the school’s parallel universe with “handicraft”. This consisted mainly of woodworking, milling aerated concrete bricks or handling a drill. After the 3-4 hours of the respective compulsory optional subject, my buddies were always dirty and hungry, while I was full and happy all over. Decisive for this moment of happiness was also the fact that I was the only boy among 13 girls, i.e. the “cock of the roost”.

A maths lesson could not produce so much attention and emotional care. I became an enthusiastic cooking student and on the basis of this successful experiment, the gender-specific dissemination of knowledge was discontinued from the following year. Interested girls were allowed in the handicraft lessons and more and more boys went to the cooking classes on the basis of my enthusiastic reports.

And just like in the film “Forrest Gump”, over the course of the next decades cooking – originally the tiresome duty of the housewife – became a hip leisure activity for me and many other amateur chefs.

As soon as You have found the entrance to the topic of culinary arts/cooking/cuisine, a complex subject area opens up with predominantly practical, but sometimes also theoretical aspects. Anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about here should whip cream with a whisk once and then explain conclusively why and how the original liquid milk is now a stable cream – without having cooked it in the process.

More about the limits of good taste with regional examples in the second part next Friday.

Original text: UTO
English translation: BCO

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