Fire and booze are the backbone of any German celebration. Christmas? Fire and booze! New Year’s? Fire and booze! Easter? Fire and booze! I’m not complaining, mind. Most things are more fun with some fire and booze added. In fact, maybe we should start an “Every Day that Ends in Day” fire and booze tradition.
During the week, I was telling one of my students about my first Easter Fire (and booze) experience. The conversation moved from there to fire in general and then on to smoke alarms and fire drills. Yes, a lot of my conversations are rambling.
Germans are nothing if not safety-conscious so it didn’t surprise me to hear that he had a plethora of smoke alarms in his house, all interconnected so that if one goes off, they all go off. However, you can have all the nifty technology in the world but people are, unfortunately, still people.
One night, when all of the smoke alarms went off, he watched as his wife and two young daughters ran around like headless chickens, unsure of where to go or what to do.
As it turned out, there was no fire and everyone was fine but still, this simply would not do. NEIN!
Luckily, as a German, a plan is never far away. All the better if that plan involves scaring the bejesus out of your loved ones – in a fun and educational way, naturally. I like to think that he started formulating his cunning plan it as he stood there in his manly German Hausschuhe, though I can’t be sure.
After drilling a fire escape plan into his hapless female family members, he went out and bought some dry ice. He put it in bowls in various strategic locations around the house and added hot water to it. Then he set off the smoke alarms. His newly-educated wife and daughters had to find a way out, avoiding the “smoke” that was now billowing around their home.
Once they made it outside, they encountered a fire raging in the garden. With the help of teamwork (and a garden hose), they managed to put out the fire. Fortunately for them – God knows what kind of a plan B he would have come up with.
In keeping with the German love of paper, each of them received a certificate, and a medal, as proof of their now bad-ass fire-escaping abilities.
I think my dad, a habitual smoke alarm-checker, would be rather impressed by this approach to family safety. If he reads this post, I predict some dry ice in Mammy O’Grady’s not-too-distant future…
I just hope she wins the medal. I’ll be rooting for you, Mammy O’Grady!
It’s not the start of a bad joke but, rather, the beginning of an excellent Friday evening. You see, the Germans have regulated the hell out of most things but, thankfully, they haven’t got around to stopping foolish foreigners from trying to make very dangerous German drinks.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Feuerzangenbowle…
I had my first FeuerverylongGermanword at the Christmas market at Schloss Charlottenburg last week and, as with most things German, I instantly fell in love. I mean, it’s got wine, rum, sugar and FIRE – what’s not to like? So, when Young Germany posted a recipe, I just knew I had to try and make it myself.
Now the thing about making Feuerzangenbowle is that it’s rather dangerous, so the last thing you want to do is make it at your own apartment. Instead, you put the suggestion out there and wait for an innocent friend to invite you round to their place. This is where brave, wonderful Brahilde (Brazilian Hilde) stepped in. She invited Norhilde (Norwegian Hilde) and we were all set. A new Facebook chat group was born.
Me: OK, here’s the recipe. Brahilde, what have you got?
Brahilde: Um, I’ve got cups…
(Finally, a woman after my own heart.)
Me: OK, so we’ll split the ingredients and bring everything around to your place. Norhilde, I’m shit with things like spices so you can get those and the rum. I’ll get the wine, fruit and Zuckerhut (sugar loaf).
Me: Brahilde, do you have a big saucepan?
Brahilde: I have little saucepans…
Me: (for once feeling “kitchenly” superior) OK, I’ll bring a saucepan as well.
I popped over to the local supermarket, obviously located the wine easily, picked up a few oranges and lemons and went on the hunt for the Zuckerhut. Damn, where was the Zuckerhut? I found a jolly German lady who works there.
Me: Excuse me, do you have Zuckerhut?
Shophilde: Yes, I think we have it somewhere…
Me: (Babbling like a lunatic) You see, I’m going to try and make Feuerzangenbowle this evening but I think it’s going to be a bit dangerous.
Shophilde: For your head or just in general?
Anyway, we found the Zuckerhut, I paid up and jauntily left the supermarket. I had very sensibly decided that three bottles of wine was probably too much so I told the Hildes that we’d only use two.
I crammed everything into two plastic bags and headed for the station. This time, I was almost hoping I’d get groped as I couldn’t wait to see the expression on the guy’s face when he got walloped with a massive saucepan and three bottles of wine. Luckily for Berlin’s gropers it didn’t happen.
I clanked my way through Neukölln and arrived at Brahilde’s apartment where everything was looking rather festive. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought it would be a shame to watch the place burn to the ground.
Norhilde showed up soon afterwards with the rest of the ingredients. She did admirably with the spices thanks to a lot of help from Google Translate. And the rum…
Tip: Do not let a Norwegian buy the rum for Feuerzangenbowle. You need the cheapest, nastiest, strongest rum you can find and a Norwegian will only buy the finest, most expensive, ridiculously non-flammable rum.
Tip: Choose a friend who owns a CORKSCREW.
After an emergency dash to the supermarket, I poured the two bottles of wine into the saucepan, added the crushed fruit and proceeded with merry abandon to throw in the spices I’d never heard of as well.
At this point, we realised that we didn’t have a sieve or tongs or anything that would be particularly useful (normal) to hold the sugar over the saucepan. Brahilde gamely suggested her cutlery-drying utensil and we were back in the game.
We placed the cutlery-drying thing upside-down in the pot and put the Zuckerhut on top of it.
I poured a shitload of rum on top of it and Norhilde lit a match.
The match went out.
I poured on some more rum. Norhilde lit a match.
The match went out.
Thankfully, I’d had a message from my German friend earlier that day saying that if the rum wouldn’t light, heat it up and try again. We poured half the bottle into another (little) saucepan and warmed it up. I gently spooned some over the Zuckerhut and Norhilde lit another match. WHOOSH! WE HAD FIRE!
I continued to spoon and Norhilde continued to light matches and I only set the saucepan of rum on fire a couple of times. Soon, all of the Zuckerhut had dissolved into the saucepan and we were ready to taste it.
I’m not one to brag but I really think I have a talent for making Feuerzangenbowle. I’m not particularly gifted in the kitchen, but this, this was amazing.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain