So I’m not sure if everyone knows about my living situation in Austria, but I DEFINITELY no longer live in the apartment that I lived in last year with the volleyball girls. It was nothing against the girls, but it was so hard to make that house a home. With so many restrictions: do not move furniture or rugs (rugs that were so slippery on the wood from being so old, that I almost killed myself), do not stick or hang pictures, no friends or other teammates are allowed to sleep overnight, no celebrations, no boys allowed. Oh and my personal favorite, our coach has a key and can come into the apartment unannounced at any time, especially when you are gone on Christmas vacation. I guess you can imagine why I wanted out. So now, Stefan and I live in our private apartment that is attached to his parent’s house. Wait… what? So, when Stefan’s dad built this beautiful home 20 years ago in the southern mountains of the Innsbruck valley, he added an apartment or office for himself so that he could work at home. This apartment is attached to the house, but it has its own separate entrance and it is equipped with an upstairs bedroom and bathroom, a full sized kitchen, and a living area. Little did his dad know that he created a perfect living situation for his only son and the love of his life.
Although small and quaint, it is perfect for a young couple looking to save money and living comfortably in the Innsbruck high end suburbs. Perks living in an apt attached to a big house: all the perks of living in a house, but still having your own privacy. Perks: a washer AND dryer (a rarity in Europe), a dish washer, a garden, family, a family dog to take care of when the other ‘tenants’ aren’t home, a HUGE cellar to store all your stuff (aka winter clothes to summer clothes, suitcases, SHOES, etc), random supplies that moms always have, a parking spot, and the list goes on! Ps. I told Stefan’s mom that when my mom visits, she will love the house, but will fall IN LOVE with the cellar, it’s like another house just to store stuff- every wife’s dream JHowever, my personal favorite perk about living attached to a house: homemade meals! Now, as an American kid growing up, a homemade meal was oven ready lasagna, pre-cooked soup, sandwiches, and every once and a while: mama’s famous artichoke and secret sauce, or papa’s homemade chili. Now that may sound a little harsh, but in their defense, it was hard organizing a dinner with the family’s crazy schedules. My brother being almost 7 years older, he was pretty much off doing his own thing by the time I could remember homemade meals, I had too many sport/dancing/tutor/lessons events to have a decent sit down meal. My dad worked late and had a pretty harsh commute. And well my mom: she was more of a Coco Chanel than a Coq au Vin, and I am quite the same- so she didn’t complain much that we couldn’t have a normal family dinner. And my dad never said a peep about it, which was so cute, because he would be happy with a bag of marshmallows for dinner. She even pokes fun at herself always exclaiming that she cooked another wonderful home-cooked meal after we’ve finished our dinner at Finbars or some other frequented restaurant. But I know no other way, and I’ve never complained, I love the way I was raised.
However, if I want to keep the love of my life, then I best be starting to domesticate myself, or hire a cook. But with our budget, I’ll suffice with option 1… for now. Reason I must feed this hungry boy with home-cooked meals: the cultural differences between Americans and Europeans. They do meals quite different over here in AustriaLand.
Now, I’ve learned my manners from various etiquette classes and of course from my ancient 50’s-raised parents, but sometimes you lose them in the shuffle- the “I’m too busy to deal with that stuff” American shuffle. Stefan’s mom prepares 3 square meals for her family. Every. Day. And if she is too tired to prepare all 3, she feels bad. And unlike in America, you cannot go shopping at Costco once a month and freeze everything, and any extras, you make a quick stop at Albertsons or Pavilions. Austrian’s shop EVERY day, and only for their meal that day. So Stefan’s Mama goes food shopping and cooks every day. Did I mention she has a full time job? And since she cooks already for her family, what’s adding 2 more cooking-inept souls to the dinner table. So for the past year, I have had more home-cooked meals in this year, than I’ve had my whole life. And this is nothing against my family, because they have given me so much, and I definitely miss dinning out. And also, in Europe, you just can’t get it at the store/restaurant like you get it at home; but in American, you can, and sometimes better. But who could turn down scrumptious homemade meals, and not just Austrian dishes- ranging from Italian to Asian, French to Mexican, and desserts galore! And since she hasn’t perfected her sushi, we go out for some good ol Japanese every once and awhile. (Yes, although Austria is nowhere close to a body of water, we still have sushi restaurants, come on people it’s the 21st century! I live in Austria, not under a rock.) So with that all said, what is my new (Ad)venture? Because this will be a new venture and adventures for me, with successes and failures.
Last year, it was easier to manage eating all together with not such hectic schedules. And they’re pretty strict about the whole ‘eatting together’ bit. Meaning we plan our meals for the week, when we will be eating, what we will eat, and when Mama needs help. Then when meal time approaches, we all come to the table, wait till everyone is sitting down, especially the cook, we say “Mahlzeit” (meal time aka bon appetit) and then begin. I guess this is the normal way a family dinner should be. But Stefan did love “Stewart” family dinners too: Steaks, baked potatoes, steamed artichokes, and Mai Tais- with Dad in his TV chair, the 3 of us squeezed on the couch with our TV trays in front of the TV watching the newly arrived Netflix: ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, and all the condiments spread across our trays. “Can you pass me the butter” “Sure! Go long!!”
However, I’m still not fully adapted to the whole “plan your meals a week in advance” part, and now with our more convoluted schedules: University, work, night shifts (that’s what I call my work since I don’t get back from practice till after 10), we’ve decided that Stefan and I will have to start cooking on our own. Gabi (his mom) has taught me her stuff, showed me the tricks of her trade, and I showed her some of mine (thanks mom!), I guess we’re going to take on this new obstacle and venture out into domesticated territory! Starting with today’s lunch time!
Stefan and I were pretty enthusiastic about our new job today. And we immediately scoured our cook books, AKA the WORLD WIDE WEB! I eagerly downloaded a new App on our iPad (My Recipe Book) and it was TOTALLY worth the €1.59! We searched on Pinterest and found some cool new recipes to start trying. Day one: creamy chicken taquitos. But we impov’d with the ingredients: instead of cream cheese we used Mascarpone (the best cream cheese ever, where it’s abundant here, it’s damn expensive in America- the perks of living 30 minutes from Italy.) And instead of chicken, we used turkey. And the last final necessity: Wine! Well… not for the food, mostly just to drink while I’m cooking. Always a necessity.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I think, like everything, when it becomes a job, it’s not as enjoyable, but let’s see how long it lasts. And hopefully we having a balance of both worlds it will improve the longevity: home-cooked meals more than usual and every once and awhile dinning out, take out, and easy peasy sandwiches. Although Stefan loves “American” food or the fact that you can get anything, anywhere, at anytime, this will also give me the opportunity to learn how to cook Stefan’s favorite Austrian meals if/when we ever move to America. His 3 favorite cooks are his grandmothers, his mom, and maybe Wolfgang puck. But since we have Wolfy in America, I need to bring the rest to our future home too- it’s the least I can do.
So since this blog was dedicated to the new experiences and adventures I will have living abroad, I can start blogging about my funny Fail and Success stories of cooking. I thought it would be good too since when Stefan and I cooked an Austrian meal for my mom’s book club, the woman wanted our recipes. So this blog can serve as a way to get our some of the best kept secrets of the Menghin, Federspiel, and Schwaighofer women out to America, and encourage some to experience them on their own! And, not surprising, their recipes cannot be found in a book or on the internet, but kept safe in the mind of these brilliant women. And even so, Gabi has also added some of my (taken from my brilliant mother) recipes: easy artichoke and spinach dip, Mexican burritos/tacos, Thanksgiving dinner, and chicken parmesan (which is hilarious because it’s found in almost every Italian restaurant in America, but it’s completely American born: nowhere in Italy or Europe exists chicken parmesan).
The necessities of an inexperienced cooker: ipad, mascarpone, and wine!
Last comment, this past weekend we had the weekend off, AGAIN, so Stefan and I went to the land of enchantment: Erding Thermal Baths in Deutschland. Basically the Disneyland of Wellness, spas, and saunas Mmmmm. But without the 300 dollar price tag. See my other blog that describes it Erding Blog.
It was perfekt!