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Showing posts from December, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas here and there: In the US people put up their trees as early as Thanksgiving; in Austria they wait until the day of Christmas Eve. Children are ushered out of the house (go play! go skiing!) while their parents - or one of their parents - decorate the tree and get out the gifts. In the US Santa brings the gifts; in Austria it is the Christ Child. In the US presents are opened on December 25th; in Austria on Christmas Eve. In the US people eat roast turkey, prime rib, or ham; in Austria the traditional meal is goose or carp. The differences are many and yet - here as there Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus by attending masses and services; here as there people gather to share a meal, to be with family or friends; and here as there the joy of Christmas is felt the same. Merry Christmas!

Kind of Blue: L.A. Mystery, Austrian Angle (Book Review 1)

I rarely read mystery novels, but this post is about one:  Kind of Blue  is a new piece of crime fiction by L.A. author Miles Corwin. The reason the book features on Across the Pond? It has an Austrian angle. Kind of Blue revolves around the deeds of a couple of dirty cops and their efforts to cover up their trails. So far, so L.A. but the protagonist of the mystery, Ash Levine, is a Jewish police detective, and this is where Austria comes in. Ash's family (the first name is probably no coincidence) was murdered in the Holocaust. Ash is tormented by his family's past, by images of Jews being stuffed into cattle waggons and rolled off to death camps. What haunts this detective also motivates him: Ash's almost obsessive drive for solving homicide cases and for bringing killers to justice is rooted in his family's history, in the crimes Austrians and Germans committed against his aunts, uncles, grandparents. Miles Corwin started his writing career as a journalist. He

Saumagen, Tafelspitz, Jicama: The Diplomacy of Food

If you were a head of state and a foreign leader came to visit - what would you serve for dinner? Germany's official international cultural institution, the Goethe Institut, recently posted an article on this topic on its homepage. From it we learn that "it is part of international diplomacy nowadays to strike up personal friendship between leaders, to invite them into your home – and to give them a sense of national cuisine". In the case of Germany, national fare tends to be on the heavy side. Chancellor Helmut Kohl treated his foreign counterparts Francois Mitterrand, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan to Saumagen (pig's stomach) and Blutwurst (blood sausage); Japanese Princess Hisako Takamado got to eat Schweinshaxe (leg of pork) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. I tried to find information on what other countries' leaders put on the table for guests of honor and am happy to report that Austria likes to show off its national cuisine too. In 2006, when it wa

Fall in December (No Seasons in L.A.? 1)

They say there are no seasons in L.A.... Here are two pictures I took as the sun was setting yesterday. (The forecast for Vienna says snow.)   Images: Early December views of the San Gabriel Mountains and of our neighbor's backyard trees