Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mad Cow

The past few days, I've really been craving Chinese food, and, this being Berlin, if you want Chinese food, you'd better learn how to make it yourself, because the so-called Chinese restaurants here all suck. So last night I went to the store and bought some flank steak, properly battered into thinness and rolled up for the German delicacy Rinderrouladen, as I have many times
before. This is good stuff for turning into Chinese beef dishes because it shreds into nice little matchsticks which are thin enough to stir-fry quickly. Plus, I was in luck: this was the use-by date for this package, so it was half price!

So around dinner-time, I pulled it out of the fridge to start preparing it and when I opened the plastic box they entomb their meat in at this supermarket, an odd, but not unpleasant, odor reached my nose. I checked the package: "Prepared ready to cook," it said. "Ingredients: 95% beef, marinade (water, iodized salt, glucose syrup), stabilizer: trisodium nitrate, flavor
enhancer: E 621 [aka MSG], antioxidant E 3013."

What on earth?

I couldn't use this for Chinese cooking. In fact, I can't use it for anything: I'm sensitive to MSG, and I certainly don't cook with it. Plus, what's with the glucose syrup and all? If I'd wanted Sauerbraten I'd have bought it, although my guess is that the pre-prepared Sauerbraten there also has MSG.

Okay, maybe this preparation makes it easier to make Rinderrouladen, which I've never made, but even if that were what I was trying to make I'd be angry. I'd want to season and treat it my own way.

So tonight I thought, well, I've got all the other stuff I bought -- I've had to pitch a full pound of beef, which really, really hurts, considering all the nights I've had little or nothing to eat around here -- so maybe I just made a mistake and I'll go back and buy untreated flank steak.

No way: every piece of beef in the supermarket is now treated with this crap, except for the hamburger.

What are these people thinking? Or is this just because Germans tend to regard beef with deep suspicion? But stewing beef, steaks (to the extent they actually have steaks: something called Rumpsteak which looks tough as leather and contains no fat whatever), soup bones...all treated with this mass of chemicals!

So beef's off my diet now until I can either find another source (unlikely) or until I move.

German food retailing: you'll take what we give you and like it. The customer is always wrong. We reserve the right to poison you without warning you first. There is only one way to prepare any given foodstuff. And who cares what it tastes like: pass the salt.


Marie Javins said...

95% beef? That's revolting.

Daniel Rubin said...

Mr. Ed: Why is there some decent Thai food in Berlin, but not any form of Chinese? I know that everything is stepped on for that famously spice-sensitive German palate - and how, to get the right taste at Calcutta, a favorite Indian restaurant, we'd have to ask for "good hot." Is it just that Thai is so much hotter to start?

Ed Ward said...

Dan, the answer is sex.

Seriously: Germans will eat authentic food back home once they've been to a place and had it in situ. This is why there aee so many great Northern Italian restaurants in Berlin.

Germans are by far the biggest consumers of sex tours of Thailand, and this is where they discover authentic Thai food. When I first came here in 1988, there was a great Thai place on B├╝lowstr. Food totally authentic, as good as anything I'd had in L.A. And there was a back room for banquets and so on that the staff used for things like folding napkins. You'd go in there and there'd be 15 girls around the big round table sorting silver or folding napkins, the phone would ring, the lady in charge would talk for a while, go into the back room, yell at one of the girls, and she'd get up and go out. Always dressed to the nines, which you don't need to be to sort silverware, if you see where I'm going.

Germans don't go to China. There are also no sex tours of China. Germans for years have been eating Chinapfanne and thinking it's Chinese food. (See my Chinky the Chinaman post for more on this).

Now to figure out another Mystery of the Orient: why do the Thais in Berlin have the monopoly on sushi?