I always marvel at the mysterious buoyancy of a 747 as it lifts itself and all its passengers gently off the ground. Like a feather rising effortlessly into the night sky. Cutting through the San Francisco fog I am headed to Germany and Austria, land of my ancestors, beer and bratwurst, sauerkraut and schnitzel. I head east to the motherland to promote the trade of US organic food, working with the USDA and the OTA. It’s a mission I accept with great anticipation of the culinary delights of my ancestors intermingled with heaping portions of organic dialogue.
I stand at the ready to serve!
Why go to Germany to represent US Organic? According to a recent report from Global Agricultural Information Network, the organic market in Germany is simply booming! “After the U.S., the German organic food market is the 2nd biggest market of the world. Sales of organic food in Germany have steeply increased over the last couple of years and peaked in 2014 with organic food sales reaching over €7.9 billion ($8.5 billion). That’s nearly a third of the total organic food sales in the European Union and just about 4% of the total food sales in Germany. Since 2000, sales of organic food in Germany have more than tripled, but domestic production has failed to keep pace and the increasing demand was mostly covered by imports.” The German organic market offers scrumptious opportunities for U.S. exporters of organic products. I have come to promote organic and sample the local flavors.
I find the Frankfurt airport relatively calm this morning. As I exit the plane, the first thing that greets me is a sausage-stand replete with foot-long wieners, creamy dill potato salad, dill sweet pickles and of course schnitzels. My Germanic taste buds kick in and I savor one of the prodigious house specialties. The bursting wurst is laid gently in its Kaiser bun surrounded by relish, thick mustard and kraut. As I launch into the elongated beast, the juices burst forth almost running down my chin. Lilliputian paper napkins stem the tide.
Eating hearty fare such as this for many a century has produced a country of fine strapping peoples. Not heavy but big boned, bold robust in a flushed ruddy manner. The mighty surround me.
One last flight on Lufthansa and the snack they serve portends my journey. Organic potato chips, the likes of which I haven’t quite experienced before: diminutive crispy wafers of salt, vinegar and sun dried tomato. Pulled one by one from their foil pocket, we all crunch delightfully in unison.
As the plane arrives uneventfully in Berlin, I find myself weary from the transcontinental travel. Yet not too tired to grab a sight of the Brandenburg gate. A proud monument built in the 18th century, now a symbol of unity after the many divisions of the 20th century. In 1989 the wall that divided this city came down, mortar stone and concrete fell. As the division of East and West crumbled, the gate marked a place where a united people gathered with hope of a future with peace.
My hunger for the history of this place is now overtaken with a Germanic craving for a hearty meal. I walk down the Boulevard Unter den Linden (under the Linden trees) and search out a traditional restaurant with a table on the boulevard. A dry Riesling is set before me as I watch a myriad of sturdy German roller skaters whisk by.
The first course is a warm goat cheese and chanterelle salad garnished with seared tomatoes and flat parsley. The chanterelles are small velvety morsels, in high season at this moment, and they overflow with earthy flavor. A slice of midnight dark rye bread is punctuated with the creamy warmth of the goat cheese. Yet another sip of Riesling!
Finally, I settle into my first (of many) wiener schnitzel, pounded flat and breaded with a fine corn meal, pan-fried to perfection. I am suddenly rendered nostalgic for my grandmother. She served many a tender schnitzel in her warm inviting kitchen in Iowa. I relish this one with lemon and parsley nestled beside small red potatoes fried with onions and pork belly. The last of the Riesling is downed.
So begins this journey named “US-EU Organic Trade: High Standards and Big Opportunities.” I am eager to spread the word on US organic foods. I will also work hard to reach back into my culinary and cultural past and have a delicious trip.