March 18.




What does a sausage toaster have to do with anything?


It means everything to us. Hope and pray that Germans will run out in droves and buy this thing! It is the key to our future!

Okay, I’ve calmed down now and can explain. We are (or, rather, I am) betting that one of the big reasons  so many young people shun the old village houses and prefer newly built homes is because they want a huge new kitchen with plenty of space for all their kitchen gadgetry. They have no interest in Oma and Opa’s little old house. They are all crazy for new construction: all blocky and modern, plenty of right angles and  lots of glass. Cubic zircona I call it.  It’s not because the Oma and Opa houses are three hundred years old. These old houses are usually very well kept and have modern heating, new windows, etc., but you can’t do anything about the low ceilings, the small rooms — especially the kitchen.

This is where the sausage toaster comes in. When Lothar showed me this latest odd-thing-in-the-weekly-flyer, a lightbulb went off, my heart skipped a beat….I saw a glimmer of hope that we might be homeowners again.

“That’s it!  I just know there’s some little Schnäpchen [fixer-upper] waiting for us. After all, people who would buy a sausage toaster and all these other gadgets, where would they store these things – if they had an old house? Really, where would they put this thing?”

“In the barn.” (He hadn’t even had to think, so damn logical!)

“Oh…I hadn’t thought of that. It could backfire, it could actually work against us…”

Sadly, the proliferation of household gadgets will not necessarily rule out the salability of old village houses. Many such houses have their own Nebengebaude [auxiliary bldgs.] There is the small barn built into the house, the old stable (if not falling apart, this is usually a beautifully built low brick building with plenty of light from the windows) and in  the courtyard often  a small workshop, just right for a handy kind of elf. All in all, plenty of space to stockpile equipment and novelties.

The take-home is we shouldn’t depend on the sausage toaster. It’s a pleasant theory, only. Lothar continues with his sobering reality check:

“Germans have been into this kind of thing forever–.”

“Yeah, I know, but…”

“Waffle makers go back to the middle ages,” he says rather sternly. “You can go to the museums and see them if you don’t believe me.”

He’s right. Although the consumerism we see running rampant in the streets of Kassel and on TV is astonishing to us and feels so recent, in reality Germans’ obsession with home gadgetry, especially kitchen gadgetry, is really nothing new.

“I grew up with a Syphon [sodamaker].” Lothar continues with his evidence. “Yes, my grandfather ran a bar, but lots of families had Syphons in the home. It was a normal thing. We had all kinds of stuff like this – and we lived in an apartment with a tiny kitchen.”

Yes, soda makers, instant hot water taps, space-age coffee makers, this kind of thing you see everywhere else too, but more emblematic of the German kitchen is the plug-in bread and meat slicer. A terrifying machine that if you ask me should be restricted to industrial settings and used only by trained professionals. I mean, the damn thing is actually a circular saw that runs at high speed! It was not surprising to find one on the counter in our rental. Our host had thought of everything in the kitchen. Of course she would put out a bread slicer, unthinkable not to. Even if no one uses it, the bread slicing machine is  expected to be there, like some household deity, a little neglected but not forgotten, still allotted its sacred space on the kitchen counter. It’s about bread, for heaven’s sake, and bread is next to sacred in Germany.

Still, I couldn’t look at the Slicer without imaging some horrible accident. One day I’d come home to find a trail of blood and Lothar nowhere in sight. I tried to get a grip. I tried to show both cultural sensitivity and trust in my husband. I discretely unplugged the thing but left it where it was. Eventually, however, when it was obvious that Lothar was just going to use the breadknife, I  carefully dismantled the machine and put it away.

We won’t be buying kitchen equipment any time soon, but in my mind I have replaced the image of the sausage toaster with that of the wiener kettle. The wiener kettle is any kettle. It’s just your ordinary plug-in kettle that someone has put a few wieners in. To see this happen is a bit off-putting at first but then it makes sense and has a weird comfort. I first saw someone do this on one of our favourite TV shows, SchnäpchenHaus, in which ordinary people with little money decide to buy true fixer-uppers and get into all kinds of trouble. Except for the occasional drama of crumbling walls and mold (!), the  actual work is not that interesting. It’s more about the human interest.

If you’re working every weekend on your Schnäpchenhaus and there’s no kitchen in it yet, what can you do to feed your pals but plug in a kettle and stick some wieners in it? Some rolls and beer from the corner and there you go. Commendable. Cosy. So very German.

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