Friday, 24 April 2009

The Beast of Donnybrook Castle

One of the things that you notice quite quickly in Germany is that a German baker (a Backerei) is considerably more skilled than their English counterparts. Not only will you find a bewildering variety of different cakes and biscuits, ready-made sandwiches etc., but you will find that there are a staggeringly-large variety of different types of bread. Where as our bakeries fixate on white bread, with brown bread as a more racy alternative, and granary only really in the way-out, risk-taking, wholefood, rock-and-roll rebel bakeries, and the occasional french stick (which is just white bread made thinner), Germans have hundreds of different varieties : Vollkorn, schwarzbrot, bauernbrot, Laugenbrot, Heferbrot, you name it, they've got it. Having a sandwich made over here can be a major undertaking.

The converse, of course, applies to Germans overseas, who rarely find that they can get the bread they like. Especially, when, like "Her Maj" - my German other half, they are resident in Dublin for two years. Irish bread is almost exclusively soda bread, made with baking soda instead of with yeast, which is reserved for the far more important task of making beer. This means that the bread in Ireland has a horrible powdery aftertaste, but everyone has wonderfully white teeth. Unfortunately, after about a month or so, Her Maj got really, really sick of Irish bread, and insisted that I bring her some black bread. This meant that I had to stuff my luggage with sufficient german bread to last her until at least the next time she came over or I visited her, which lead to some very funny looks when they X-rayed my luggage, never mind the time my luggage was not loaded on the plane and got left at Düsseldorf, right next to a nice warm radiator. I didn't get my luggage for a week, thanks to Aer Lingus. I smelt like a bakery for a fortnight, and was followed home from Mediapark by a bunch of rather persistent ducks.

The best was yet to come, though. One week, she was over in Cologne, staying at my flat . Her Maj decides that her suitcase just isn't going to contain enough german bread, and so hits on the brilliant idea of posting a huge packet of it to herself in Ireland. So, she goes down to Aldi, buys a load of bread, puts it in a parcel and sends it.

Big mistake. Most german bread is made fresh, daily, and will keep, at MOST for a week. The Irish Postal service is also not noted for it's speed.

Two weeks later, the package turns up. During it's journey it had evolved somewhat, and managed to crawl the last hundred metres under it's own power, leaving a yeasty trail. Her Maj opened the package, beat the contents into submission, and then took it straight out to the bin. Nothing more was heard of the package, but, on my next visit, I noticed that the once bird-filled park the flat was situated in was curiously silent, and a number of posters for missing cats had gone up in the intervening months.

I eagerly await the first sighting of "The Beast of Donnybrook Castle" in the Irish press.