Monday, September 1, 2014

80 years of LIVING LIFE

'Tis an important month here in Illmitz, because on the 22nd, last Friday, my grandma turned eighty. This is a big thing for her, for us - her family - and for everybody else who knows here; she's the kind of person you just have to love, so there's many people who do. Boy, do I remember the enormous jealousy I used to feel when kids' of our guests (we have a bed and breakfast aside from the wine business) used to call her grandma as well. Imagine me at the age of anything between four and thirteen, bright red face, yelling at some confused playmate of mine "SHUT UP YOU JERK, SHE'S MY OMI, NOT YOURS, GO BACK TO YOUR OWN!!!" I might have been a wee bit possessive...

My Omi and me at her party.

Anyhow, she's one of the people who have taught me the most in life, like the rest of my family, of course. I'm pretty lucky when it comes to that, family and stuff and what they're like, I must say. Where she taught me the most, her biggest and most important field of grandmaternal (is that a word?) influence is and has always been food. She knows how to make it, she knows how to eat it, she knows how to enjoy it. And all of it extremely well.

Whenever I'm asked about what to eat and where to eat it, for example, by friends visiting Austria for the first time, I refer to her knowledge to make sure they have the best (read: tastiest) experience. If somebody tells me they'd like to try a Schnitzel and they were told Figlmüller is good, I'll say that no, my Omi says their Schnitzel is too thin. They say they want to have some Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher, I'll tell them that that may be where it was invented, but don't, because my Omi says their cake is too dry. If ever anyone decides not to listen to the advice, they usually come crawling back on all fours (not always literally, but that would be appropriate) to tell me that they're so sorry, me and my Omi were right.

What I want to do, therefore, is show you what we had to eat at her big birthday bash in the newly renovated and very modern and elegant Nationalparkhotel. Because she liked it all - that means it was officially good.

The food was presented buffet style, so what I did was go once to each part and get a little bit of everything that I'd like to try (there was sooo much to choose from). Bear that in mind when you see the pictures of my plates, because the mix is usually way less "creative" and varied. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn't find these things mixed on a single plate, they're all separate dishes with their respective sides. This was just so I could show you as much as possible.

Some starters and salads: 

Smoked salmon, black olive wrapped in crispy bacon, a slice of Palatschinke with egg spread, baby mozzarella balls in cherry tomatoes, potatoe salad, pickled teeny tiny pumpkin, cucumber salad, roast beef, fried crab, raw ham, Schweinsbraten slice. 

Some main dishes: 

Pork Schnitzel with lemon slice, Illmitzer Mulzeit Grumbpian (potato), pork and beef skewer with onion and sweet peppers, baked zucchini and mushroom, veggie lasagna, apple sauce with horse radish, venison (stag, to be specific) in black pepper sauce, Spätzle (pasta-like dish to go with the venison), grilled zander. 

Some desserts: 

Brandteigkrapfen (choux pastry filled with custard, whipped cream and strawberries), Schnepfer (chocolate cake with sweet beat eggwhite and covered in chocolate), apple cake, caramel cheesecake, Linzer Auge, walnut Krapferl, regular tea biscuit dipped in dark chocolate, Somloer Nockerl (dark and light sponge cake drizzled in rum, with layers of custard, raisins, topped with whipped cream, ground hazelnuts, and chocolate sauce). While the food itself was provided by the hotel's restaurant, all the desserts were brought by party guests and made by them, the few things that were bought were bought from people who specialize in baking for weddings and parties in our traditional cuisine, not from any kind of stupid store. Nobody would ever dare bringing something storebought to something like this. Unless they want to never have to bring anything again, ever. 

You have now learned, thanks to my wonderful grandma, what good food looks like. She just knows what she likes and she goes and gets it. That's how you know this stuff I just showed you was truly delicious, because an expert at living life gave it her seal of approval.

No, I did not finish all I got onto my plates. Although I tried. Oh, try I did. And I paid dearly with a half sleepless night and a stomach that is still mad at me. But, again, worth it. 

I enjoyed my grandma's party very much, and seeing my family, and the way we celebrate. We have quite a unique way of celebrating each other's birthdays, which usually includes custom games made for the occasion or songs sung by the whole family, the lyrics of which were changed specifically to describe the person that's having their big day, in a loving as well as funny way. Stories and gossip and laughter and so much more, boredom is impossible at any one of our events. Yeah, my family is awesome. 

And if I weren't still stuffed from yesterday, this post would have made me hungry again.