Hello January !

As one gets older, years seem to race by at ever-increasing speed, leaving you baffled and wondering where the days have gone. Not that I mind speed, I’ve had a passion for speed all my life. But a different kind of speed. Experiencing the rush of acceleration has always been thrilling for me, either in real time or vicariously through the broadcast media. I remember when we got our first television cabinet in time for the 1956 Olympic Games. That was one fancy piece of furniture. The high gloss mahogany finish was matched by its fancy technology: the [tiny] TV automatically turned on when you opened the cabinet’s folding doors. Imagine that! I still remember vividly the Eurovision broadcast symbol with its associated jingle. In my memory my father bought this, our first TV set, so we could watch the broadcast of the Olympic Games in Rome. Since that didn’t happen till 1960, though, it must have been either the Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Games in January of 1956 or the Melbourne Summer Games in November 1956. Since I was only five [Cortina] or six [Melbourne] years old, I hope, I can be forgiven to be rather muddled on the actual sports content of either Game. Subsequently, we enjoyed many speedy athletes, like the slightly shady German ace Armin Hary and naturally Uns Uwe, a fair and honorable sportsman. But what I remember most is watching a lot of motor racing on that fancy TV cabinet and its less polished successors.

At the ripe old age of 19, I got my driver’s license, which was a whole lot harder and much more expensive to obtain in Germany than, let’s say, in the USA. The minimum driving age was 18 and you had to pay a fully licensed driving school for a minimum of 6 or possibly even 10 hours to teach you how to drive. The schools used funky cars with two sets of operating pedals but only one steering wheel for their lessons. The instructor could slam on the breaks, but couldn’t prevent the students from steering into a deep ditch. Students had to practise inner city, freeway and night time driving, each traffic situation was practiced for a prescribed minimum amount of time. A complete eye examen by an ophthalmologist was also mandatory. I remember that part especially well because my father used to do these exams on a regular basis and was well acquainted with the driving school proprietors in our town. When I settled in the driver’s seat of one of these double-pedaled driving school cars for the first time, the instructor told me to go around the block and then turn right on Mainaustraße. And how do I do that? I asked him. I had never started a car, nor put it in gear, nor driven “around the block” or anywhere else. My instructor was flabbergast. Knowing my car aficionado father, he had simply assumed that daddy dear would’ve taught me how to drive at age three the latest. In Germany back then it wasn’t legal to practice the art of driving outside of driving school. So during my instructional period, my dad took me across the border into Switzerland to teach me the tough stuff of car handling, like parallel parking on steep hills, driving backward along a serpentine one-lane road and how to change a tire at night during a driving rain storm while stranded on an incline. He actually sat dry and warm in the car while I labored outside! Despite my late arrival on the playground, I took to driving like a duck to water and passed my test after the minimum required sessions. I really liked driving and enjoyed its challenges immensely. Double clutch downshifting to pass on a narrow curvy road made my heart sing in my far-off younger days. Conquering a stretch of Autobahn at 225 Km/h or 140 m/h in my uncle’s Porsche Carrera that one, precious time, oh, what a cherished memory!

These days, in my dotage, my driving speed has slowed down in an inverse relationship to the acceleration of my time perception. And how all of this relates to the intended post about the transition from the Holiday Season into the New Year is a mystery to me. This typically happens when you start a post and then let yourself be seriously sidetracked. The world turns upside down and loses all focus. So sorry.

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A much more appropriate title for this post would be ‘Good Bye, January !’ since the entire month of January flew by while this post languished in the drafts box. Therefore, I would like to propose wrapping this up in a hurry to conclude January without further delay.

By the second week of the new year, rides and attractions were dismantled and Santa’s city works crew had safely stored the Christmas decorations in his secret Northpole warehouse for another year.

Soon the long Holiday Season with its festivities and rituals shifted to the mundane in the shape of the great Winter sales called ‘Soldes’. And we, as reported earlier, took a quick vacation visiting our friends in the Minervois, where we experienced a truffle market.

We brought back a small truffle as a present for a friend here in Saintes, who then surprised us with a very special meal he prepared just for us. This Brouillade à la truffe noir or scrambled eggs with black truffle is quite a bit more sophisticated than you might think. An important preamble for this dish, or any other egg-based truffle dishes for that matter, is to store your fresh eggs with the truffle in an airtight container. The eggs will thus be infused with the peppery, earthy truffle scent. One also wants to first make truffle butter in which to cook the eggs to further enhance the truffle experience. Many cooks will not scramble eggs in a pan over direct heat because that could dry out the scrambled delight and kill the flavor. Instead, you scramble the eggs very lightly in a water bath, gently adding some cream to achieve a very soft, creamy consistency. Our friend managed to make his brouillade even more flavorful by enhancing the dish with freshly picked mushrooms thus turning it into a Brouillade Quatre Fungi with chanterelle, morels, milk-cap and, of course, truffle.

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This wonderful meal was also a goodbye event for me because I was about to say adieu to my husband and the Arc of Germanicus,

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to cross the Atlantic and the frozen North on my way to Texas,

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where we’re soon expecting our first grandchild. Maybe tonight.

One thought on “Hello January !

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