Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Friday, June 14, 2013

a dandy-lion of a day

My new favourite thing is a warm croissant topped with goat cheese and dandelion gelee – it’s seriously good…even better than Nutella!

A few weeks ago, before our onslaught of rain and highwater, I went on a krauterwanderung (a herb hike) with ladies from the local immigrant women’s group. I’m not technically an immigrant woman (and I count my blessings for the privileges I have in Germany and Canada), but they were nice enough to let me in!

It is a lovely cauldron of personalities, cultures and accents who come together to make this culinary support group. I felt a wave of nostalgia, a familiarity, listening to the melancholy in their voices as they talked of their experiences ‘back home’; of being separated from loved ones for long periods of time; and of the challenges they still experience even after decades of living in their new country. Their precious stories reminded me of the people I used to work with back in Canada; brave, courageous men and women who left ‘home’ (for various reasons) hauling that insurmountable hope for a safer, more peaceful future.

So, at 9:00 I made me way through a field of lush green along the Rhein; cherry blossoms exploded on rows of trees, creating those romantic Anne-of-Green-Gable lanes to walk through. Big smiles, warm words and hearty handshakes greeted me; and I tried desperately to understand their heavy-accented German. In the end it didn’t matter because I just smiled as they talked and told and pointed and gestured; through open grass and bush and flowers.

I spent most of the morning with one, elderly German lady in particular, “Inge von Binge”. As she would say this (more than once) her dried-apple face crinkled and wrinkled in round happiness. She was a tiny woman, but I could tell that she could and would cook and kill (not in that order) any creature if she needed to feed her family. She was a green thumbed, herbal genius; regaling me with information on how to make cough syrup (bury a jar of herbs under the ground for six months, when cold season arrives, uncover and drink the rotten syrupy goodness), teas, and juices; guiding me through brush and thistles to show me wild water mint and edible flowers; and helping me to pick just the very best part of each dandelion.

Ah, the dandelion. Who knew that it was such a little power paket (auf Deutsch)? Well, you probably did, but not me. After a sunny, light breezy morning, our backs sore from all the dandy picking, and my basket and notebook overflowing, we headed back to town, meeting up in the kitchen of the Catholic girls’ school.

Now the magic…we all sat around a huge table, and began picking apart the dandys. Yellow heads were scattered in heaps all over the table, while yellowed fingers worked swiftly, plucking and ripping. A few aproned ladies stood at the ovens, stirring the simmering dandy blooms with huge wooden spoons, re-telling old tales and, can I say, even letting out a cackle or two. While others ripped apart the tender, young dandy leaves to eat fresh.

About two hours later, the long table was laid, baguette was sliced, and the finishing touches were made on the dandelion potato salad. Tiny gänseblümchen (wild daisies) were plucked and scattered atop the salad, making it look as pretty as a new daisy crown on a pony! I thought of the hours I spent as a seven-year-old, braiding daisy strings into horse hair, with my best friend. Who knew we should’ve been snacking instead of decorating!

As we began to dig into the various dandelion salads, sweet gelee, herb butter and schafsgabe (soft fern) dip, mason jars were filled for each of us with steaming, pee-yellow, dandelion aufguss (strong, bitter tea). This will clean your liver and refresh your kidneys, one wise woman said. I drank it all up.

1 comment

  1. I think you may need to send me a recipe for those dandelion blossoms - how did you use them in the KArtoffelsalat? I will think of this every time the girls ask me to make a dandelion crown for Pepper now :) Sounds like a really awesome outing and how wonderful to have such a varied group of friends to learn so many neat things from!


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