Friday, February 23, 2007

juices of the world

So I am reading "The Princess of Burundi" by Kjell Eriksson, yet another talented crime writer out of Sweden (is it the long, dark winters or is there a huge amount of crime there? Why does Sweden produce such a disproportionate number of amazing police procedural writers? And how many of them are not in translation and are lost to me?), and one of the characters "quickly made up a pitcher of rhubarb juice." Rhubarb juice? Rhubarb juice?? I have had a lot of rhubarb in my day (Iris Uber Alles's favorite thing I make is a rhubarb crumble, which she is continually haranguing me to bake), but I have never, never heard of anyone consuming rhubarb juice. Rhubarb is so stringy and fibrous that it wouldn't seem to yield much juice (although, of course, in its baked forms, including the dearly beloved crumble, it does become yielding and succulent).

Someday I will go to Sweden, and I will drink rhubarb juice. I should indeed visit sometime in the summer, as I have become fascinated with the idea (gained largely through the works of Henning Mankell) that it's idyllic there in the summer, with the almost unending days and a perpetual party atmosphere, interrupted only by the occasional ritualistic serial killing. I have a feeling (perhaps false) of being familiar with the rural south of Sweden, thanks to all the works of Mr. Mankell, which I think is not completely false as a Swedish person first placed this thought in my mind, remarking that after all the Mankells and Sjowalls I've read, I'd be right at home in Sweden (I note that although I have no Swedish heritage myself that I know of, I did once have a one night stand with a Swedish investment banker).

I put the book down, distracted by wondering about the juices of the world. In the Philippines, we drank kalamansi juice, the juice of a small citrus somewhat like a lime, but delightfully different, which was believed to cure the common cold. When I went to Malaysia, I recognized kalamansi fruit and happily squeezed my own juice. In Rome, our hotel had pitchers of fresh blood orange juice every morning, which was the best juice I'd ever had.

In Germany, I ran across something particularly loathsome, which I shunned: banana juice. For some reason, Germans seemed obsessed with bananas. When I was there, the wall had just come down (although at that time, most of the wall was still physically intact), and in that moment before it fell but after suddenly the intoxicating possibility was there, West Germans climbed the wall and threw bananas to the East Germans. "They weren't insulted?" I inquired of the Germans rhapsodizing about this to me. "It's treating them like monkeys, throwing bananas to them." The worst, though, was that I went to a vegetarian cafe in Kreuzberg and ordered a casserole which looked toothsome enough. It ended up having a top layer consisting of a loathsome puree of bananas. I ask you: what maniac would top a vegetable casserole with banana puree? Germans, Germans, Germans.

I have higher hopes for the Swedes. Give me a ticket to Sweden and a pitcher of rhubarb juice, please!

Addendum: I just finished the book, and towards the end, a character enjoys "hawthorn juice from the Finnish archipelago." Hawthorn juice: who'd have thought of that?


hughman said...

i assume you've read "smilla's sense of snow"? (not the misguided crappy movie).

the Drunken Housewife said...

No, I never read that because (a) the title is so offensively cutesy-pie and (b) my ex mother-in-law raved about it, and the surest way to kill off any fledgling interest I might have in anything is for one of my mothers-in-law to profess a love for it.

hughman said...

i have to say, the book is fab. sorry. maybe your in-laws were drinking. i can send it to you if you want. it really was good.

Susan said...

Funny, I've never experienced the banana thing in Germany! I'll have to pay better attention when we're there next year. I normally just see a lot of meat and potatoes -- but that means we're going to different places than you are probably!

Sweden is beautiful. Don't miss Norway either. Absolutely breathtaking!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Susan, I was really keyed in to the banana thing because I really, really hate bananas. Before I lost my sense of smell, the very scent of a banana would be disturbing to me. And I'd never been ANYWHERE where bananas were so popular before. Even in the Philippines, where bananas grow, you don't have banana juice.

2amsomewhere said...

I worked a couple summers in Germany in the early 90s. The first summer was spent in an internship with a company that made cardboard packaging for beer, soft drinks, yogurt, etc.

I became familiar with many different beer and soft drink brands. One of them was Almdudler, a product that described itself as a Kraeuterlimonade. Translated that means "herbal soft drink". Later on I would learn that it was a product of Austria.

Although I never tasted the drink myself, I somehow imagined it being a liquiefied version of the Ricola cough drop.

(no, I've never worn Lederhosen)

2amsomewhere said...

Susan wrote in regards to German food:

I normally just see a lot of meat and potatoes -- but that means we're going to different places than you are probably!

After a summer of eating at a cafeteria at Bayer's gigantamongous plant in Leverkusen, I made the following observation for their menu...

Schweinefleisch, Schweinefleisch, und noch mehr Schweinefleisch... ausser Freitags, dann gibt es Schweinefleisch, Schweinefleisch, und Fisch.

Translation: Pork, pork, and yet even more pork... except on Freitag when there is pork, pork, and fish.