“Chicken Soup, Perfume, and the Dunked Minister – Easters of Days Past”

Written by Henriette J. Runte

Oh, Easter is a special day in our family. It certainly has been a VERY special day, ever since I almost died on Good Friday when I was 5 years old! …

Oh, Easter is a special day in our family. It certainly has been a VERY special day, ever since I almost died on Good Friday when I was 5 years old!


My mother is the religious one in my family. She belongs to the Reformate church, which is the only branch of Protestantism that exists in Hungary and Romania. My father is a Catholic, but not a very good one. When asked by my mother to teach me the Lord’s Prayer in Hungarian, my father taught me a rated R version that resulted in my mother not speaking to him for weeks. For those who speak Hungarian, his version of the prayer began with, “Mi gatyák, aki a kosárban…”

My mother has always taken religious holidays very seriously, and Easter has always been second only to Christmas in her book. On Easter, my mother has always taken it upon herself to feed her friends and neighbors, as well as the poor and unfortunate. As a result, she has always cooked for days before Easter.

The year I turned 5, she decided to initiate me into this tradition, only everything went wrong.

My mother had prepared a gigantic pot of chicken soup and placed it on a wooden board under the window to let it cool off. She proceeded to further busy herself at the stove with the preparation of the other dishes. I went to the sink, which was right next to the window, to lick out some bowls that had been used to make the desserts. I took one wrong step, landed with my foot partly on the wooden board the chicken soup was resting on, lost my balance, and fell into the pot, with my behind first.

The pot was so huge, that I slipped in all the way to my waist and got caught. Apparently, I only let out one little scream and then fainted. My mother pulled me out of the soup as soon as she could, but my poor bottom still cooked into the soup for altogether too long.

What made matters worse was that I was wearing nylon panty hose that quite dramatically melted into my flesh.

The story turns funny in a second, so please keep reading.

The ambulance was called, I was taken to the hospital and saved, but my mother insisted on bringing me back home, trusting only herself to take care of me. Now, you have to know that in the late 1970s in Romania, the way they treated severe burns was to clean the wound thoroughly and press sterile gauze, dipped in iodine into the wound. As the skin grew back, the gauze pieces would slowly peel off.

So, you see, I returned home, wrapped from the waist to my knees in gauze dipped in iodine and could only rest on my stomach.

And it was Easter!

But it would turn into not only a memorable Easter, but also a joyous one.

My father, the not-so-good Catholic, has always been a very good father. And he was not going to let me be sad on Easter.

In Hungary and Romania, one interesting Easter tradition, for kids especially, is the practice of locsolás. On Easter Monday, excitement about spring and ancient fertility rituals mix into the religious celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Little girls and women paint eggs, mainly by attaching little flowers and leaves onto the eggs, tightly wrapping them inside old pantyhose, and cooking them in water with red onion peels or red beets. They also prepare obscene amounts of cookies and pastries.

On Easter Monday, little boys and men are supposed to go visit every woman they know. Men start early in the morning with the “less important” women in their lives, and mostly time it so they are with family and close friends for mealtimes. The evening visits are reserved for the most special women, and these visits tend to be a little longer than the others.

As a little girl, I kept a special diary of my Easter visitors, and compared how my list developed from year to year. The boys and men who came by our house would put their name down in my book and would maybe draw a little something, or write one or two lines.

According to tradition, the men recite a poem to the women and ask if they may water them. In the villages, the watering sometimes means throwing a bucket full of water over the head of the woman in question. But most of the time, a few drops of perfume are used instead. The gentleman callers are then rewarded with colored eggs. One of the best know poems that men tend to recite goes something like this:

„Én kis kertészlegény vagyok –
Virágokat locsolgatok.
Azt hallottam, hogy egy rózsa
El akar hervadni.
Szabad megöntözni?“

Translated, this means, “I’m a little gardener who is watering flowers. I heard that a rose was wilting. May I water it?”

Other poems are more humorous, or poetic, or personal. It is up to the man to decide on his particular poem. Some men write their own poems and come up with a new one every year.

How many different perfumes mix atop of your head on Easter Monday, and how long your list of callers gets is a particular point of pride, especially for little girls.

So, back to my burned behind (-:

As you may know, my father was the National Olympic Weightlifting Coach in Romania. On the Easter when I was burned, he had all his athletes come and call on me on Easter Monday. He recruited neighbors, friends, everybody he knew. There was a line of boys and men outside our house that year, which cheered up even the little girl in considerable pain, lying on her stomach, with her bandaged backside in the air.

Of course, stories tend to forget about my poor mother, who in light of my funny, heroic, extroverted father, gets ignored. So here are a few lines about my dear mother as well. You can imagine the feelings of guilt she was coping with that particular Easter. Nevertheless, she finished her cooking. She prepared hundreds of colored eggs. And, she set up a system to disinfect all the visitors’ hands and maintain hygiene around her severely burned daughter.

And to top it off, she served everybody a bowl of soup!

This cheered me up the most. Knowing that people were eating my butt soup just cracked me up inside!

Not the article about Easter you were expecting? Well, welcome to my world!

Once we moved away from the Carpathian Basin, my Easter experiences became less spectacular. But I do still have one or two stories about Easter that you might enjoy.


Skipping forward to the first Easter experience my kids had in the US, I will tell you about the year we visited my dear friend Deborah in Dallas.

My parents have been living in the US for over 40 years now, but Easter at their house is still more reminiscent of the Carpathian Basin than of anything real Americans do. So, one year, when our twins were 5 and our little one had not yet turned 1, we went to celebrate Easter with a childhood friend of mine in Dallas, so the kids would finally experience a real American Easter.

The part of Easter I was looking forward to the most was Sunday Mass at Sunrise, because that is something that I had shared with my friend Deborah when we were growing up. My parents felt a little estranged from churches in America when we first moved to Texas from Romania. There were too many branches of Protestantism to pick from and ceremonies were way too jovial and loud for their cultural taste. My parents have since found a Methodist church where they feel very welcome and comfortable, but during our time in Texas, my church experiences were limited to going with Deborah to her Presbyterian church. I particularly enjoyed Sunday Mass at Easter. The church always organized a lock-in on Saturday night. We watched movies, talked, ate junk food, and spent the night in the church. Then, on Sunday, we were expected to get up at the crack of dawn and go to mass. The services on Easter Sunday at Deborah’s church, with the sun coming up and the minister finding just the right words and sentiments, always appealed to me. These were some of the most religious moments of my early teens.

I really wanted my kids to experience Deborah’s church on Sunday, but with three little ones – four, actually, with Deborah’s son – we just didn’t make it that early. But the church was organizing an Easter Egg Hunt and many games and activities, so we headed out as soon as we could.

What struck me as different from the way I remembered things was that the eggs that were hidden were basically reusable plastic egg-shaped containers filled with various types of candy and chocolate. I found that quite progressive and environmentally friendly.

We used the choochoo train that was set up for the occasion. We blew soap bubbles and played the games.

Then, we wandered over to the dunking booth. In case you are not familiar with dunkin booths, they are big containers of water with a seat on top. The objective is to hit a lever on the side that makes the seat drop into the water. Different volunteers, some more prominent than the others, sit on the seat, and people try to dunk them, making them sink into the container of water. Often, dunking booths are used to raise money for a cause. In this case, it was simply a fun way of bringing the community together.

Many people sat on the seat and got dunked, but whenever the minister sat atop the dunking booth, somehow no one managed to make him sink. My kids took turns trying. Deborah and her husband and my husband tried their luck. I just watched. I’m not a particularly good thrower, so I just stayed out of it.

They announced that it would be the last round and the minister volunteered to sit one final time atop the dunking booth. I said that I would give it a go this time. I took the baseball handed to me. No one thought I could do it, but with my first shot, I dunked that minister good!

It was very funny. The minister, completely soaked from head to toe, came to meet us and to have a chat about the different ways Easter is celebrated around the world. It was all very light and pleasant and very comforting and uniting.

Afterwards, I had to think about how strange life is sometimes. Until that moment when I dunked the minister, Easter somehow always carried the gravity and drama of what had happened to me at Easter when I was little. But leave it up to the good ol’ US of A to add a little cheer to it all.


By the way, did you know that Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday are national holidays in Germany, a secular country. And yet, in the US, although “In God We Trust,” only Easter Sunday is observed, with very few exceptions like the White House Easter Egg Roll or days off due to Spring Break.

In Hungary and Romania, including the Carpathian Basin, where I was born, Easter is also celebrated and recognized nationally as a public holiday from Friday to Monday, both Friday and Monday being official days off from work.

In France, Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, is not a public holiday, because the day does not call for celebration. However, Easter Monday, which marks the Resurrection of Christ, and the end of Lent, is a day of rest, a day when all public offices are closed and the people are given the day off from work.

I have only spent one Easter in France. I spent 7 summers researching at the theater festival in Avignon, countless summers in Paris, studying, taking groups of students on university exchange programs, or just vacationing, and many summers traveling around the country, visiting my host family in the Nantes region, or enjoying the beaches of the Vendée or the beautiful landscapes of the Dordogne area or the South of France. But almost all of the time I have spent in France has been in the summer. But I did live in Besançon for a year and taught at the Université de Franche-Comté, and that is the only time that I experienced a French Easter.

There are only two things that seemed particularly interesting to me. One was the fact that all church bells seized to ring on Thursday before Good Friday. Out of respect for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, all church bells fall silent until Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection. The ringing of church bells in France is quite present, something you cannot easily ignore. There is almost an eeriness to when they fall silent. When they are rung again on Sunday, there is a sense of awakening, of rediscovering the sounds of Christianity. You have to experience it to really know what I mean.

My other observation about Easter in France is actually an erroneous one. The year I was there, Easter fell on one of the last days of March, and children were already getting ready to play April Fool’s jokes. French kids cut out colorful little fish, symbols of Christianity, and place them on the backs of the adults they are fooling. I was not familiar with the tradition and was fooled. When I discovered the fish that had been attached to my back, I didn’t quite understand. I found especially confusing why such a prank would be played on Easter Sunday, of all days. To this day, I find it strange how the Poisson d’Avril somehow mixes religious fervor and April Fool’s antics.

It is perhaps in Germany that I have had the most experience with Easter, because this is where I had my children and where I had to decide on the Easter tradition my family would observe.

Good Friday is a holiday here, and we use it to color eggs. We spend the whole day painting eggs and reading our favorite Easter books. My youngest daughter’s book, Magical Easter Eggs, is of course among them. (-:

On Saturday, in Germany, you are allowed to burn any access wood or shrubbery in your back yard. Some friends of ours have used this opportunity to organize an annual bonfire, which serves as an excuse to have a huge party. Over the fire, the kids roast Stockbrot, which is dough wrapped on sticks. Once cooked through, the little breads slide off the sticks and can be eaten. They are often dipped into butter. There’s also a barbeque and a potluck buffet, so enough to eat and drink for everyone. This party has become a part of our Easter tradition.

Easter Sunday is reserved for family. We set a table with ham and fish and cheese and bread rolls, the works. Of course, the highlight is on the colored Easter eggs. To begin the breakfast, we each select an egg. Then, in pairs of two, we take the pointy part of our egg and try to break our “opponent’s” egg with it. The winning egg then goes on to the next round. The person who selected the egg that breaks last is the winner. This is called Eiertitschen, and the King or Queen of this family Easter egg battle boasts about his or her victory all year!

The way we eat our Easter eggs is also special. The eggs are pealed, cut in two, and then the yolks are removed. You put a little bit of the following ingredients inside the two egg-white halves: oil, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, as well as salt and pepper. And then, you carefully squeeze the egg yolks back in. All this is done with your hands, no particular etiquette to follow here. The final bites are also placed in your mouth by hand.

After breakfast, the kids go out in the yard and look for hidden chocolates. Traditionally, neighbors also place chocolates and little bags of goodies into each other’s yards, so the “hunt” is always worthwhile. Older kids sometimes find a book or another small present hidden as well.

On Monday, we always go for a long walk. Otherwise, we spend the day at home, together, doing nothing in particular.

And those were my Easters of Days Past and Present. I guess the only two traditions I miss are Easter Sunday Mass at Sunrise from the US and the Easter Monday tradition of men reciting poems and watering women in exchange for colored eggs from the Carpathian Basin.

And with that, I wish you all Happy Easter, wherever you are and however you are celebrating (or not).

Written by Henriette J. Runte

Language and Science

Written by Chad Cowan

As humans, we have always been drawn to stories, whether around the campfire, in print, on the stage or on the screen. It is no different, in science. The scientists I admire take our limited understanding of the world around us, craft a story and tell it. In a way, they are like poets and playwrights for the natural world.

T.S. Eliot begins the “Wasteland” with a line that has always stuck with me, “April is the cruelest month.” Now a resident of the cold northeast where he lived, I understand better than ever the sentiment. Although, I would argue it is March that has proven cruel this year by reminding us of winter’s doldrums. The last two months have been filled with work and colds and dark mornings and dark afternoons, but I see the beginnings of spring. At work, we are busy making plans for more social outings, including a company-wide event. At home, we are packing to go away for two weeks of glorious vacation in the Bahamas. Together these efforts combine what I seek in life, purpose, and joy. It has taken me years to realize that joy is not a private matter but found amongst those we love and those we live with and are together with. A hard truth to come by for a dedicated introvert. So, let’s hope some fun together will bring joy and make April seem less cruel.

As I have been reminded, this blog should speak about how my career path uses writing and language, so to business then. I am a scientist by training and now by mindset. In science, our greatest hope is to discover something worth communicating to others, be it a simple innovation or a deeper truth. As a native English speaker (if we as American’s can claim this), it has been my great fortune that the language of science is English, otherwise I may never have made progress in my chosen profession given my lack of facility in any other language. The reasons for English becoming the language of science are many and not worth re-hashing, but as of today, most if not practically all scientists communicate in a common language. We seek to share our insights and the problems we set ourselves against with the likeminded and learn from those who tilt against their own windmills but have inadvertently solved some of the riddles we seek to puzzle through.

As a result of our common language, I have travelled the world as an academic scientist and attended conferences on almost every continent (Antarctica is missing from my travels). It has been my pleasure to exchange information freely with scientists everywhere I’ve gone because we’ve agreed to communicate in a single language. Science and the community it fosters, transcends nations, cultures and creeds. In a way I have never witnessed in any other endeavor, except sports, it unites us. In my lab at Harvard, we had people from all over the world working together on a common problem. The same was true in the lab next door and the one across the country in California. In the company I’ve founded, it is the same. People from all walks of life gathered around a common purpose and united in their ability to exchange information in a common language.

A final digression, I have taught many scientists over the years how to ask questions and design experiments that will help them understand the answers. The most important lesson I have imparted to those I have worked with the longest is that the best scientists are often also the best at telling stories. As humans, we have always been drawn to stories, whether around the campfire, in print, on the stage or on the screen. It is no different, in science. The scientists I admire take our limited understanding of the world around us, craft a story and tell it. In a way, they are like poets and playwrights for the natural world.

My last words of wisdom for my students, is that whether we tell others stories or not, we are always telling ourselves a story. To make sure the facts as we have collected them agree with the story, we tell ourselves before we tell others. In other words, be willing to rewrite your own story rather than fall in love with the first draft. Otherwise, you may do the world a disservice and communicate a fiction versus a description of the wonderful world around us.

Written by Chad Cowan

Integration, Emotionality, and my Name Day

Written by Henriette J. Runte

In Germany, in public life, I am always on my toes, always second guessing myself, never allowing myself to fully relax. I always question my instincts first, count to ten, and then react in order to make sure my reaction is culturally appropriate. […] But where does my emotional identity come from?

Last week, while dropping off my daughter at school in the morning, I overheard two fathers speaking. The conversation was in German, but the men spoke with strong accents. One of the dads, we’ll call him Dad #1, appeared very upset and was telling the other father, Dad #2 about how his lawyer had asked him not to be so emotional in court. Dad #1 explained how his lawyer thought they had a solid case and that they were likely to win, but the attorney also advised his client to please tone down his emotions, to speak less loudly and less fast, to gesticulate less, and to appear altogether calmer and more unemotional. Dad #1 seemed very frustrated by this request from his lawyer. He said he was greatly angered by the injustice that had been committed and that he felt it would be appropriate to express his anger in court, instead of trying to suppress it and be fake. In fact, he continued, he thought his emotions would show how genuine and honest he was. Dad #2 tried to convince him that he should follow his lawyer’s advice. The two men walked away before I could hear more without actually following them and eavesdropping.

I was deeply troubled by what I overheard, because I could relate to this need to be emotional and expressive. I have no idea what the conversation was actually about, or what the case at hand pertains to. Nor do I personally know either one of the gentlemen in question. But I can understand the frustration that comes with being considered overly emotional. I have often been told here, in Germany, not to take it personally – “Nehmen Sie es nicht persönlich!” – when the situation, comment, or conflict, was most certainly personal, at least from my point of view. I have often been advised to go into certain delicate situations with less emotion, even though my instincts would have been the opposite. I have slowly learned not to show hurt or disappointment. I have learned not to express disagreement or doubt directly and bluntly. In one particular situation I was told, just like Dad #1, that the only thing that stood in my way, the only thing that could be held against me was my emotionality.

Through my line of work and by having lived and worked around the world, I have developed quite a strong sensitivity for communicating effectively despite cultural differences. I feel I can empathize with many different cultures and understand where people are coming from most of the time. I also speak several languages fluently, which allows me to actually communicate with several groups of people in their native tongue. Yet, when it comes to feeling understood, to feeling at ease and being able to be myself on an emotional level, I have a little more trouble.

In Germany, in public life, I am always on my toes, always second guessing myself, never allowing myself to fully relax. I always question my instincts first, count to ten, and then react in order to make sure my reaction is culturally appropriate. And I don’t think this is necessarily wrong. I chose to live in this country. I admire the way of life, the convictions, the ethics and beliefs held by the people here. And again, I’d like to point out that, although I have traveled extensively throughout the county, I have only lived in northern Germany, in Hamburg, so my views are based mostly on experiences in the Hansestadt Hamburg. I speak German fluently. I have a job here. We have lots of dear friends and neighbors. I even have a German family through my husband’s relatives. Our children are fully integrated. Yet, emotionally, I do have to keep myself in check.
Otherwise, I tend to speak too loudly, I tend to crack inappropriate jokes and make too many funny comments, I tend to greet people too openly and laugh too much and too loudly, and the list goes on and on.

But where does my emotional identity come from?
I have been molded and influenced by several cultures, so what made me pick and choose to feel comfortable with the set of behaviors and feelings that I call my own?

Recently, while shopping for a new T-shirt, I came across one that started a whole line of discussions with my family and friends. The T-shirt said something to the effect of: “I am not yelling. I’m just Hungarian. We speak this way!”
Certainly, Hungarians tend to be loud and very emotionally expressive, if compared to Germans or the Japanese, for example. But to everyone who has been in a restaurant in Barcelona at lunchtime, on the other hand, Hungarians must seem a very quiet people. In fact, it always depends on the register, doesn’t it?

Allow me to generalize for just a second: Hungarians are loud when speaking with friends and family, and they tend to gesticulate a lot and to speak with feeling and spice. But Hungarians are rather shy and reserved while using public transportation or while eating out at a restaurant or during cultural activities. To continue with some of the other cultures I know, the French, and I am including French children in the bunch, will not speak loudly in restaurants. But have you ever been to a puppet show in the Jardins de Luxembourg? Not even American children scream louder at puppet shows than the French kids do. The event is reminiscent of Shakespearean times when the audience threw onions at the actors to express dissatisfaction, or hooted and hollered if the performance was good. Similarly, French children yell at the characters on stage, try to get involved in the action, express all of their thoughts and emotions during the show, and they are encouraged to do so by both parents and the organizers. In other situations, however, French children have always struck me as “bien élevés,” as very well raised, polite, considerate little beings.

In comparison, Americans, adults and children, tend to add volume to any conversation or event. There’s a confidence and assertiveness that comes across in most situations, even during church ceremonies. Actually, every time I’m in an American church, it strikes me how light, merry, communal, and loud it is. I guess this is because I was socialized in the Carpathian Basin, where going to church is more of a somber and contemplative affair.

But what about Germans? I have experienced Germans to be almost paranoid about disturbing someone. I find this to be true when it comes to how loudly they speak, or how closely they stand to one another, or the noise they make both in their homes and gardens, and in public spaces. But there are situations that call for volume in German society as well, for example, in Bavaria during Oktoberfest (where everyone dresses in traditional garb and drinks lots of beer), or in Köln during Fasching (celebrated in February by dressing in funny costumes and taking to the streets to sing and dance and be merry), or in Hamburg during Schlagerfest (the festival of Schlager music, which is a popular form of pop music in Germany), or during Hafengeburtstag (the yearly anniversary celebrations in May, commemorating the port of Hamburg, Germany’s largest).

When living in a culture other than the one you grew up with, it is difficult to know when to contain your emotions and when to let them loose. It is even difficult to know what occasions and celebrations call for just what amount of joy or cheer. Growing up in the Carpathian Basin, one of the biggest celebrations at our house was my mother’s name day, névnap in Hungarian. Unlike her birthday, which was celebrated only with members of our family, her name day brought neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and friends of all kind to our house. My mother used to take the day off from work to be able to welcome all her guests on her special day.

My mother’s favorite flowers are freesias and carnations. On her name day, the house would be filled with these flowers in every color imaginable. According to tradition, people simply came by to pay their respects, brought some flowers and stayed for a quick coffee or refreshment and some pastries or a small bite.
In Hungary and Romania, name days are generally known and often announced on morning TV and radio programs. It is a common courtesy to acknowledge the name days of the people you know.

This week, on March 16th , is my name day, but it will be an ordinary day for me. My mother will send me flowers, and I will thank her for them. She will express a degree of sadness that no one else remembered, and I will try to console her. My name day doesn’t mean that much to me. Even stranger, my birthday is quite an annoyance as well.
As a child, my actual birthday was only celebrated very serenely with my parents. Set for a later date, there was, of course, a larger party, that, organized in a fashion suitable for an only child, included many guests, at least two or three cakes, games, presents, music, the works.

In Germany, birthdays are a big deal as well, but somehow differently. The German way to commemorate a birthday resembles, for me, more the name day celebrations in the Carpathian Basin than the birthdays I have known. In Germany, everybody calls and congratulates you on the day of your birth. People keep meticulous records of all their family members’, their friends’, their friends’ children’s, their colleagues’, and their neighbors’ birthdays. It is baffling. The birthday child is then expected to take muffins to school, or cake to work, or to invite friends and colleagues out for a drink.

I have not yet been able to bring myself to adopt the German way of relating to birthdays. I’m a bit of a birthday Grinch, I’m afraid. I do follow the traditions as far as my children are concerned, but when it comes to my birthday, a bombardment of phone calls does not appeal to me, so everyone who cares about me knows that I prefer a brief text or video message instead. My colleagues know not to expect any cake at the office from me on my birthday and that I truly do not wish to have my birthday acknowledged.

But allow me to get back to this day last week, when I overheard the two gentlemen at my daughter’s school, talking about some legal trouble and how being emotional would not help their case. That same day, when I arrived at the school for pick up, several parents were already standing outside, some talking, others busy on their phone, or just staring into space. I went to stand with one of the fathers I know. We’ll call him Dad #3. We engaged in some social chit chat and then just stood there, awkwardly waiting. Another father, Dad #4 arrived, came up to us, smacked Dad #3 on the back, and said, “Na, du Sack!” To explain, both Dad #3 and Dad #4 are German. They know each other, but are not close friends. They are both educated and respected members of our community. And yet, Dad #4 greeted Dad #3 by saying, “Hey, you testicles!” And that was perfectly acceptable.

Straight off, they found the right tone, laughed, and chatted away effortlessly. And that is the big mystery of integration, that no one can teach you. The social morés and celebrations, the actual emotionality behind daily life, the tone of voice, the nuance of interactions is the hardest thing to understand and adapt. Dad #1 and Dad #2 in this story found common ground by both being “foreign,” but they felt great frustration in their interactions with the “natives.” Dad #3 and Dad #4 engaged in what would seem, at first sight, as socially inacceptable, controversial, vulgar, even. Yet, Dad #3 and Dad #4 were seen as perfectly appropriate, funny, and cool. You bet Dad #3 and Dad #4 won’t be celebrating any strange name days, but I’m pretty certain they will bring cake to work on their birthday and will remember to place a birthday call for all their friends and acquaintances!

I guess my point today is that true integration is very difficult. It is not enough to have linguistic and educational integration programs. For a society to truly become one and grow together, there has to be a platform of sharing. Feelings and personalities have to be respected. Perhaps Dad #1 should not have been advised to try and hide his emotions. Perhaps emotionality should not always be regarded as negative. Perhaps there could be room created for this man to be able to say, “Look, I come from a different culture, and I apologize if this might seem inappropriate in your culture, but I am angry. I feel frustrated. I accept the rules, but feel certain aspects make no sense, or are unnecessary, or unfair.” Perhaps Dad #4 should dare slap the two “foreign” dads on the back as well, and call them “testicles.” Perhaps that would break down more walls than any specific, organized integration program. And perhaps I should actually let people know that, although I try to suppress the feeling,
I am always sad on my name day, because it makes me feel detached from my
parents’ culture and confused about where the heck I actually belong.
Be well everyone, and never stop trying to connect!

Written by
Henriette J. Runte

One pig – one year – so many mouths fed

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

Traditionally, we process a whole pig in my organic restaurant at the beginning of the year. For us, this is pretty much the most exciting part of our work when it comes to processing animals. The variety of products that can be prepared from the whole animal is pretty unbelievable, as is how much yield we have from one animal and how many people eat from it. …

Traditionally, we process a whole pig in my organic restaurant at the beginning of the year. For us, this is pretty much the most exciting part of our work when it comes to processing animals. The variety of products that can be prepared from the whole animal is pretty unbelievable, as is how much yield we have from one animal and how many people eat from it.

Pork has a catastrophic image due to the slaughter industry, discounters, various scandals and contemptuous forms of husbandry and production. Of course, this is not the path we follow. We select a farm from the area and insist on exceptional quality.

For us, it is worth looking at the pig and the task entrusted to him on the farm. As an omnivore, the pig is responsible for using up leftovers on the farm – unused vegetables, unbackable cereals, catch crops, maybe even whey from the farm’s own cheese dairy. In return, the pig produces offspring, fertilizer for the fields, and of course, the entirety of his/her body, which we then process into food. The farms from which we obtain pigs have entrusted their animals with these tasks, in contrast to factory farming, which is about producing meat in the most effective way, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

In general, we only use old breeds of pigs, which, in contrast to industrial animals, offer significantly more fat and are in much better health. This year we processed a field pig for the first time. These animals are on the pasture all year round and can pursue their natural behavior, such as wallowing in the mud. I visited the farm last year with my daughter to get an idea of the ​​animal husbandry and to get to know the people who are responsible for the farm. We exchanged ideas extensively, got to know each other and learned a lot about farrow-to-finish pig farming.

We agreed to take over an animal in January.

When the time comes and we pick up the slaughtered animal, the kitchen is on high alert for a week. It is an enormous challenge to process a whole animal in so many different ways while still keeping the restaurant open to our guests. We are talking about almost 150 kg slaughter weight and well over 15 different ways of preparing and preserving the product. For example, we process blood and offal into blood sausage, black pudding, and coarse liver sausage. The head is boiled and made into jelly and baked pralines. We salt a large quantity of ham, to use over the next few months and especially during the asparagus season. Then ham is also cold or hot smoked, air dried and cured. We make sausages for lunch, cook rinds for sauerkraut and prepare many pieces for main courses. Then rillette, lard and other sausages are boiled down. All in all, it is a lot of work and also a technical challenge. It requires a lot of organization and impeccable teamwork.

Once the work is done, we are eager to taste the products ourselves and are very proud to serve them to our guests at the restaurant. It is an absolute rarity to work with such exceptional quality and to prepare dishes from it.

I have acquired the tools of the trade over the years by reading specialized literature, attending internships with butchers, visiting slaughterhouses and participating in trainings digitally. Then came the time to try out what I learned, in practice, on actual products.

We at Wolfs Junge process the animals whole, because when we consume meat and take the life of a living being for our food, it is our responsibility to make sure it is treated with respect and used fully.

“Nose-2-Tail” is not a marketing strategy for us, but an integral part of the concept behind our restaurant. There is so much waste in the industrial slaughterhouse and in the wholesale trade, and the animals are treated anonymously and with such lack of dignity, that I would find it repugnant to use such products. Were we to order from these providers, we would know nothing about the origin of this meat, who raised the animal, where the animal was raised and what it was fed, where it was slaughtered, and and and … For us and our restaurant, it is essential to know the animals we process and to have a relationship with the people who raise and slaughter these animals.

By now, we have completely processed the pork in our kitchen and are in the process of serving it, little by little, much to the delight of our guests. We serve it in a variety of ways: at lunchtime we have the bratwurst described above, in the evening we roast coarse black pudding with olives and raisins as an intermediate course, and for the main course we grill the neck and combine it with beetroot from the surrounding area.

We are absolutely committed to the high-quality of the food we serve. We wish to educate our guests and to explain why we think pigs are important on farms, how diversely they can be processed, and what cultural background these processes have.

What actively moves me personally are the moral and ethical foundations and problems that come with the consumption of meat. But to write about this here would go beyond the scope of this blog entry. At the moment, what I can say is that I take on this responsibility for myself and for my restaurant and that I look forward to the time when we can cut and taste our self-smoked ham in a few weeks, right on time for asparagus season.

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

Ein ganzes Ackerschwein für das nächste Jahr

Geschrieben von Sebastian Junge

Traditionell, wenn man davon im 5. Betriebsjahr sprechen kann, verarbeiten wir am Anfang des Jahres ein ganzes Schwein in meinem Bio Restaurant. Das ist für uns handwerklich so ziemlich am spannendsten, wenn es um die Verarbeitung von Tieren geht. Die Vielfalt an Produkten, die sich aus dem ganzen Tier zubereiten lässt ist schier unglaublich, ebenso, wie viel Ertrag wir aus einem Tier haben und wie viele Menschen bei uns davon essen. …

Traditionell, wenn man davon im 5. Betriebsjahr sprechen kann, verarbeiten wir am Anfang des Jahres ein ganzes Schwein in meinem Bio Restaurant. Das ist für uns handwerklich so ziemlich am spannendsten, wenn es um die Verarbeitung von Tieren geht. Die Vielfalt an Produkten, die sich aus dem ganzen Tier zubereiten lässt ist schier unglaublich, ebenso, wie viel Ertrag wir aus einem Tier haben und wie viele Menschen bei uns davon essen. Schwein hat ein katastrophales Image, zu verdanken der Schlachtindustrie, Discountern, diversen Skandalen und verachtende Haltungs- und Produktionsformen. Mit der ganzen Schiene haben wir naturgemäß wenig am Hut, sodass wir natürlich auch in diesem Bereich auf Ausnahmequalität ausgewählter Höfe zurückgreifen.

Hierbei lohnt es sich das Schwein und seine ihm anvertraute Aufgabe auf dem Hof zu betrachten. Das Schwein ist nämlich als Allesfresser auf dem Hof für die Resteverwertung verantwortlich. Soll heißen es wird ausgeputztes Gemüse, backunfähiges Getreide, Zwischenfrüchte, vielleicht sogar Molke aus der hofeigenen Käserei verfüttert. Im Gegenzug produziert das Schwein Nachkommen, Dünger für die Felder und schlussendlich natürlich auch den Schlachtkörper. Die Höfe, von denen wir Schweine beziehen haben ihren Tieren diese Aufgaben anvertraut im Gegensatz zur Massentierhaltung, in der es darum geht aufs effektivste günstig und schnell Fleisch zu produzieren.

Wir benutzen generell nur alte Schweinerassen, die im Gegensatz zum industriellen Tier deutlich mehr Fett ansetzen und eine sehr viel robustere Gesundheit vorweisen. In diesem Jahr haben wir das erste Mal ein Ackerschwein verarbeitet, das bedeutet, dass die Tiere ganzjährig auf der Weide stehen und ihrem natürlichem Verhalten, wie bspw. das Suhlen im Schlamm nachgehen können. Den Hof habe ich bereits im vergangenen Jahr mit meiner Tochter besucht, um mir selbst ein Bild von der Tierhaltung zu machen und die Menschen kennen zu lernen, die für den Hof verantwortlich sind. Wir haben uns ausgiebig ausgetauscht, kennengelernt und viel über die Ackerschweinhaltung gelernt.

Für den Januar haben wir die Abnahme eines Tieres verabredet.

Wenn es dann so weit ist und wir das geschlachtete Tier abholen, steht die Küche für eine Woche Kopf. Es ist eine enorme Herausforderung ein Ganzes Tier im laufenden Betrieb so mannigfaltig zu verarbeiten. Wir reden hier über beinahe 150 kg Schlachtgewicht und weit über 15 verschiedene Zubereitungs- und Konservierungsarten des Produktes. Wir verarbeiten bspw. Blut und Innereien zu Blutwurst und grober Leberwurst. Der Kopf wird abgekocht und zu Sülze und gebackenen Pralinen, wir salzen eine ganze Menge Schinken ein für die nächsten Monate und vor allem die Spargelsaison. Dann wird Schinken kalt oder heiß geräuchert, luftgetrocknet und gereift. Wir machen Bratwürste für den Mittagstisch, kochen Schwarten für Sauerkraut und bereiten uns viele Teilstücke für Menu Hauptgänge zu. Dann wird noch Rillette, Schmalz und andere Würste eingekocht. Alles in allem eine Unmenge an Arbeit und auch handwerklicher Herausforderung. Das erfordert eine ganze Menge Organisation und zahnradmäßiges Ineinandergreifen unseres Teams. Ist der Großteil der Arbeit geschafft, erfüllt uns das Probieren und Servieren der Produkte mit großem Stolz, ist es doch eine absolute Rarität mit solch einer Ausnahmequalität zu arbeiten und Speisen daraus zu zubereiten.

Das Handwerkszeug habe ich mir über die Jahre dafür angeeignet, über Lesen von Fachliteratur, Praktika bei Fleischern, das Beiwohnen von Schlachtungen und die Fortbildung über Videos etc. Danach geht es ans Trainieren mit den Produkten in der Praxis.

Wir verarbeiten die Tiere in der Regel im Ganzen, denn wenn wir Fleisch konsumieren und einem Lebewesen das Leben nehmen, um es zu essen, ist es unsere Verantwortung, dass dieses respektvoll behandelt wird und gänzlich benutzt wird.

„Nose-2-Tail“ ist bei uns kein Marketingbegriff, sondern wird durch unser Konzept gelebt. Im Industriellen Schlachtbereich, sowie im Großhandel fällt dermaßen viel Abfall an und die Tiere werden völlig anonym und fern jeder Pietät behandelt, dass es mir zuwider ist, solche Produkte zu verkochen. Bestellen wir so etwas, wissen wir quasi gar nichts über die Herkunft dieses Fleischs – wer es wo aufgezogen hat, was es zu fressen bekommen hat, wo es geschlachtet wurde oder oder oder … Daher ist es für uns unabdingbar eine Beziehung zu den Menschen und den Tieren zu haben, die wir verarbeiten.

Zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt haben wir das Schwein komplett verarbeitet und servieren es nach und nach. Es kommt großartig bei unseren Gästen an, wir servieren es mannigfaltig, mittags gibt es die beschriebene Bratwurst, abends dann grobe Blutwurst gebraten mit Oliven und Rosinen als Zwischengang und im Hauptgang grillen wir Nacken und kombinieren es mit roter Bete aus dem Umland.

Wir brechen eine Lanze für dieses hochwertige Lebensmittel und leisten Aufklärungsarbeit, warum Schweine in unseren Augen auf Höfen wichtig sind, wie vielfältig sich diese verarbeiten lassen und welchen kulturellen Hintergrund diese Verarbeitungen haben.

Was mich persönlich viel und dynamisch beschäftigt sind die moralischen und ethischen Grundlagen und Problemfelder des Fleischkonsums. Darüber hier zu schreiben, würde aber den Rahmen sprengen. Zurzeit kann ich das für mich und mein Restaurant in der Form verantworten und freue mich auf den Zeitpunkt, wenn wir in ein paar Wochen zum ersten Spargel unseren selbstgeräucherten Schinken anschneiden und verkosten können.

Geschrieben von Sebastian Junge