25 May 2011

Things Austrian People Like

Single-Serving Pâté. This is something that Merlin wrote home about the first time he went to Austria with his father and brother. Every breakfast buffet would serve these meat spread cups alongside jam, honey and butter. What surprised me was the variety. Even in the most humble of breakfast settings, there would be more than one liver pâté to choose from: calf, goose, chicken and sometimes "meat," which I imagine was some combination.
Dirndls. It's true. Austrian people really do like and often wear them. Lederhosen are around as well, but we didn't see them nearly as often. At first, there was something unsettling about them to me. I think it's the apron, which seemed to scream "gender roles!" It was hard to understand choosing to dress like this, in a sort of out-of-date uniform, for non-religious purposes. In the end, I decided it was just like the cowboy hats and bolo ties and embroidered denim of American Western wear. Like the red carpet at the Country Music Awards, it's just a way of keeping some cultural traditions alive.
Apple Strudel. You can have it for breakfast, at lunch, for a mid-afternoon snack, after your dinner or at midnight. No matter where you are, be it a gas station or a fine dining establishment, it will not only be offered, but ordered by everyone around you. It made me wonder if the phrase "as Austrian as apple strudel" exists here. If it doesn't, it should. The one above had the surprise addition of rhubarb, a rare break from tradition. "Topfen" (cream) strudel was another popular pastry, but definitely played second fiddle.
Walking Sticks. I am purposefully not calling them "hiking poles," because in Austria that didn't seem to be their most popular use. Throughout Germany and Switzerland (along with anyplace that had German or Swiss tourists), we saw people using these folding poles along trails. On a few big hikes in the Alps, we wished we had them. Here, though, we would hear the click, click, click of people walking just about everywhere. Merlin came up with the explanation that it must be an exercise technique. The poles make you move your arms and the clicks help you keep pace with your partner. (Most stick-walkers came in pairs). Somehow, that reasoning made us like them even less.
Mozart Souvenirs We get the importance of Mozart and the national pride involved, but the sheer number of items bearing his likeness was astounding. Wolfgang Amadeus 'endorsed' chocolates from the grave most often, but items ranged from edibles to porcelain dishes to pocket books. Even outside of touristy areas, you'd see the red and gold border and white powdered wig on something or other.
Maypoles or Maibaum. The first time we spotted one, we had no idea what it was. I guessed it was a dried out leftover from Christmas, but Merlin correctly reasoned that it wasn't that dry. Then, we realized May Day had just happened. It's been German and Austrian tradition to erect a Maibaum on the first of May since the 16th century. Depending on the region, it can stay up for one month or one year. We saw a few Charlie Brown-looking ones, so I hope those were only one monthers.
Pumpkin Seed Oil. It's nutty, delicious, has health benefits and is used to cook just about everything in the Styrian region of Austria. Once heated, it becomes much more of a neutral oil, but uncooked it packs quite the flavor punch. We grew to like Kürbiskernöl just about as much as Austrian people do - even if it does turn everything slightly green.

No comments:

Post a Comment