June 15, 2004

The Little Things

While cooking dinner last night, I found myself speculating on the really small differences between Germany and the US. For example, every onion I've bought in Hamburg has been extraordinarily potent: I can usually only last for a few minutes of cutting before I have to run away and daub a wet towel over my eyes. After that, I have to open the windows to get some fresh air into the kitchen before I can start cutting again. Every onion that I haven't used right away has been extraordinarily short-lived: while it seemed like I could keep onions around for weeks before I used them back in the States, here it usually only takes a week before the rot sets in.

And then there are the eggs. Eggs here have radioactively bright orangey-yellow yolks. How do they get this unnatural-seeming color? Maybe this is the way eggs should look -- too bad I'm a city boy who can't remember what the last farm-fresh egg he ate looked like before it was cooked. And while American supermarkets all have their eggs in a refrigerated section, the last store I bought eggs from here just had the cartons stacked in the open air, on a table in the middle of the fruit-and-vegetable section. What about ... salmonella? Or spoilage? Eek! (Actually, spoilage is never a worry; the eggs I buy here always seem to have expiration dates much farther into the future than their American counterparts would.)

I wouldn't be surprised if it's all due to genetic engineering or hormones or something: that all onions grown in the US now have the patented Nev-"R"-Cry gene sequence spliced in (using the same secret formula as Johnson-and-Johnson's "No More Tears" shampoo!), which also happens to give the onions extraordinary shelf life. No doubt the egg yolk mystery is due to American chickens being pumped full of hormones and the eggs being stored forever after they're laid.

[After some quick internet research: I can't explain the onions, but it seems that egg yolk color is a function of the chicken's diet and the age of the egg. So the less vibrant yellow of American eggs -- and their shorter expiration dates -- could indeed be a matter of sitting around forever before they get to market.]

Posted by Kevin at June 15, 2004 07:49 AM

And what about all the products that are sold in toothpaste-style tubes! Mustard? Mayo? Condensed Milk?

There's one thing you can be sure of, it's that most products in Germany will be of higher quality than the American equivalents. They will also be more expensive. Cheap and crappy is just not an option.

Speaking of crappy, what's up with the toilets? I sure hope that they are more water efficient, because I'm not such a fan of the dry-dock style.

Posted by: ryan at June 15, 2004 03:58 PM

Well, if we've started talking about packaging, all I have to say is: Milk. In boxes that you can keep on the shelf (and not on a shelf inside a refrigerator!) for months. Milk is not a drink I'm particularly drawn to, but I find the indestructible, everlasting German version of milk to be pretty cool.

As for those famous toilets, I don't run into them very often -- both our apartment and my office have 'conventional' toilets (of course, both buildings are pretty recent construction) -- and, being a guy, I'm fortunate in not having to see the sit-down side of public toilets all that often.

Posted by: Kevin at June 15, 2004 05:54 PM
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