I have an appetite for Käse-Schinkenbrötchen that borders on the unseemly. I’m not really sure why as it’s basically a lump of bread with cheese and bits of ham on top. What I do know is that as soon as I bite into one, it’s like there’s a party in my mouth and I’m the only one invited.
In my opinion, the best Käse-Schinkenbrötchen can be found at the Steinecke chain of bakeries. The only problem is that by the time I get there most days, they’ve sold out of this little piece of heaven and I leave empty-handed, hungry and dejected.
However, on Friday morning, I had a good feeling. I have an early-morning lesson so, by the time I get back to my little Kiez, it’s still only around 10.30. Halfway through the lesson, my students morphed into talking Käse-Schinkenbrötchen and I knew I was in a bad way.
Lesson finally over, I hopped on the train home and raced across the street to the Steinecke. Hands sweaty with anticipation (no mean feat in a Berlin winter), I pushed open the door and dashed to the counter.
There it was. The last Käse-Schinkenbrötchen. And not just any Käse-Schinkenbrötchen – no, this one was perfection itself. Smothered in cheese with evenly distributed chunks of ham, baked to perfection… I lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. This was it – the holy grail of Käse-Schinkenbrötchen. I was salivating just looking at it.
Unfortunately, there was nobody behind the counter. A note scribbled on a bit of card informed me that the errant employee would be “gleich für Sie da”. Harumph. The most delicious Käse-Schinkenbrötchen in the world was so near and yet so far away. I waited impatiently, jigging about and drumming on the counter. (I needed to keep busy so that I wouldn’t lick the glass.)
The bell on the door tinkled and another customer walked in. She had Käse-Schinkenbrötchenlust written all over her and I started to worry that the still MIA employee might serve her first. I decided that I was willing to resort to physical violence if that scenario were to happen.
After around five minutes, the comfortably-padded employee emerged from the back of the store. She didn’t look like she was in much of a hurry to get back to her customers so I thought I would jar her out of her semi-slumbering state by roaring “Käse-Schinkenbrötchen!” at her before the other woman could jump in.
I turned to give my competition a triumphant smirk but when I turned back I was surprised to see that my Käse-Schinkenbrötchen delivery system’s hands were empty.
Walburga: Es ist runtergefallen. (It has fallen down.)
Walburga: Ja, es ist runtergefallen. Tut mir leid. (I’m sorry.)
She didn’t look bloody sorry.
Me: Drei-Sekunden Regel! (Three second rule!)
Walburga: Wie bitte?
Me: DREI-SEKUNDEN REGEL!
Walburga: Drei-Sekunden was??
Me: DREI-SEKUNDEN REGEL!
I was pretty sure that the floor in a German bakery would be cleaner than the floor in my flat and I’ve eaten stuff off that before and survived so I was more than willing to take my chances. However, disappointingly, it seemed that Walburga was unaware of the three-second rule. She offered me two disgusting salty things instead at which point I wanted to leap over the counter and slap them from her meaty hands.
Me: I’ll take a raisin Brötchen instead.
Having paid – I noticed she didn’t drop the money – I left the bakery in abject misery, knowing that Walburga would probably eat the floor Käse-Schinkenbrötchen as soon as nobody was looking. For all I know, that could be why they’re never available in that particular store – she sits in her little back room eating them all before I get there.
Once home, I half-heartedly chewed my raisin Brötchen, every bite tasting like heartache. Would there ever be a replacement for that most perfect of Käse-Schinkenbrötchen? I’m not sure but I’m guessing that if there is, Walburga will probably get to it first. Her and her stupid butter fingers. But I guess that’s the hazard of working in a bakery…