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Showing posts from November, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last week a friend here in L.A. asked me whether Austrians celebrate Thanksgiving too. At first I was stunned because I thought of the origins of this day  and the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. But then I reconsidered. Doesn't everyone have something to be grateful for? Why shouldn't all countries recognize a  national day of giving thanks? I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in a small café in Prague, Czech republic, which was called Red Hot & Blues. The place unfortunately closed very recently but it used to be a  favorite hangout for American expats. It was there, in 1996, that I ate my first sweet potatoes, my first pumpkin pie, and my first pecan pie. I remember the food as good but most of all I recall engaging in lively conversation with the two strangers at our table and that the café was filled with laughter and happiness. It was like a giant family party. Thanksgivings since then - one at the home of friends in Prague, another in a cabin in snowy Big Bear (a two h

ATM Fees: How to Save the Bank Money and Pay for It

Use an ATM in the U.S. and it might cost you. If the ATM is out of network for your card the ATM owning bank and your own bank will probably charge you. Between entering your pin code and retrieving your money you'll lose a couple of dollars, maybe even five. The whole thing is called convenience fee. You are paying for not walking into a bank, taking up a teller's time, and costing the bank money. Use any ATM in Austria with any Austrian debit card (i.e. a maestro card) and the transaction is free. Why the difference? Are Austrian banks not business savvy?

Bread Equals Life. How Important Is the Recipe?

Does anything taste more of home than the bread we ate as children? I miss it: I miss the hearty, slightly sour taste of the dark, moist Austrian Roggen - and Vollkornbrot, the whole mealy texture of the lighter colored Grahamspitz, the crisp crunch of a fresh, golden  Semmel. (Sorry, no translations. They would not denote the same thing.) Other countries and regions make good bread too of course. I think of the unsalted white breads in the area around Orvieto (Italy), hard crusted baguette in Normandy, Paris, and Beaune, and slightly bitter tasting pumpernickel slices in Northern Germany. They are delicious in their own way and always pair perfectly with whichever food is produced and eaten locally. It's just that to me these foreign breads are not the real thing. Here in L.A. I often find bread too soft and too sweet, but there is a German bakery not far from where we live, which produces a rather nice kind of Mischbrot  and Whole Foods Market sells some bread types that

DIY Till You Die: Building Caskets for People and Pets

Americans are a crafty people. Home Depots and crafts stores sell DIY (do it yourself) books for every task in the world, be it minor or huge; TV shows supplement by offering tutorials on how to scrapbook, trim trees, and fix that nasty bathroom leak; and in a woodworking catalog I recently saw advertisements for a plan for a wood casket and for a manual titled Do-It-Yourself Coffins. DIY till you die! To be honest the ads surprised me. The one for the book promises instructions for creating "three coffins for pets and three for people". In Europe I had never heard of people constructing caskets for themselves or their loved ones, may they have two legs or four. I searched the internet for German entries regarding building plans for coffins but nothing useful came up. Austrians and Germans seem to prefer for pros to work on theirs. Would I want to build my own last box? Definitely not. I have two left hands and little patience for the details of handicraft and might just

A Radio Host Asks: "Overconsumed America?" (Pile On 3)

"Overconsumed America: are we big, fat, gluttonous jerks?" Patt Morrison asked this question today on her show on Southern California Public Radio. Her guest was Gayle Bessenoff, assistant professor of psychology at Southern Connecticut State University. Go to "overconsumed"?  to hear the interview and comments from listeners.