Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

I never did get those french fries…

Sunday grocery store hours are a relatively recent phenomenon here, and the target of much protest from the trade unions. When I was speaking of it to Irene, she said that they couched the protests in “family values” language: “mom needs to be home, not working at the store.”

Some messages resonate the whole world over.

Because the previous day’s Kaiser run didn’t yield walnuts, I decided I would take my chances again around Ostbanhof station.

Galleria Kaufhof, behind the station, was closed up tight. But there was a small open-air antique market (“Antikmarkt”) in full swing. There were books, toys, furniture, and jewelry. The usual…but in German, and with German and Russian food vendors. What a wonder that my head doesn’t explode from all the new input.

On a side note, the word for jewelry is “schmuck.” That’s gonna keep me giggling for a while.

Below the train platforms in Ostbanhof, it was bustling with people and smelled just heavenly. I saw someone walk by with a donut… Dunkin Donuts at Ostbanhof! I was salivating, but decided on a fruit salad from a small fruit and vegetable stand instead.

Tell me where in the U.S. you can find a simple, fresh fruit and vegetable stand in the middle of a mall? What about a full bakery?

I didn’t have much time to linger, as I was meeting Marianne just a bit later. So I swooped into the grocery store there, asked a staff person for the walnuts (and actually didn’t sound like an idiot), and was back out with my prize in under 10 minutes.

I wanted to be on time to meet Marianne. But you all know that I am a chronically late type. For me to arrive on time, I actually have to plan to arrive early. That means, to actually get some place by 3, I need to shoot for 2:30. If gives me time to get lost, wander in and around other stores and just goof off.

That’s pretty much how it went too. I walked from Friedrichstraße station to Unter den Linden and, finding a nearby tourist shop open, wasted time looking at the typical pins, totes, shirts, hats and magnets that stuff the shells. All made in China, of course.

Mom, yes, you will get your bell and spoon. Good grief.

I wasn’t late, but Marianne was already there with a table. The reason for our meeting was that opening a bank account here requires, er, registering with the police with proof of tenancy.

Who knew?

It was very cold out, so my interest in doing any more walking around was loooooow.

Still, I left Marianne and headed over to Kreuzberg again to take a look at the second school I was considering: Akkusativ. I knew they would be closed, but I wanted to get a look at that part of the neighborhood and their building.

Besides, having fought off my donut craving, I was struggling with a new obsession for fries. Particularly, thick wedges with the skins still on and served piping hot.

Considering that I’d misplaced the address, it was a wonder that I found Akkusativ. But there it was on Mehringdamm, a long boulevard of (unfortunately closed) shops and quiet food counters.

At below 0 Celsius, the cold was really getting to me. I found a food place on the way back to the station. Yeah, they had fries, but I chose the “spinatteller” instead: a chill but flavorful spinach dish topped with caramelized onions and served with a cabbage side salad. Pretty tasty. Worth returning for.

I got home with an hour to spare. I made the side salad on my own. It was really simple really: cooked green beans from a jar, mixed with cooked beet from another and tossed with a chopped apple, olive oil and Apfel-essig.

That was the easiest part of the evening!

Irene and Seán arrived on schedule and I quickly put them to work. I had already tackled the chopped garlic and onions, but there was tofu to crumble, mushrooms to dice, walnuts to crush and peppers to core. We laughed our way through much of it (the two of them seem particularly tickled by the ultra-precise recipe)—and thank goodness for that, because the recipe didn’t quite work.

I was supposed to buy a white rice, but the brown rice I purchased as a more hearty substitute was a serious mistake. We had the rest of the tofu stuffing ready by 7:30, but finally gave up on the rice at 8. (I kid you not, when we finally got everything to the table at 9, the darn thing still hadn’t fluffed.)

Seán liked it anyway because it was chewy and super salty. Weird guy!

The rice really wasn’t important to the dish. The nut-tofu-mushroom combination was delicious, and the simple tomato and garlic sauce was outstanding. With the colorful salad and Irene’s yummy apple-chocolate crumb cake…FAB!

Honestly, I don’t know where the time went. They didn’t leave until after midnight, making for a 6-hour dinner party. Sure, we took our time cooking. But the rest? Okay, we talked everything from dogs in Berlin (they’re allowed EVERYWHERE here) to ghost hauntings in Scotland. But 6 hours?

I fell asleep, exhausted, within minutes of their leaving.

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