It's a shame because the food here is cheaper than anywhere i have lived. Paying more than about 8€ for a meal feels outrageous, and most lunch places are little over 5€. Of course, there is great schnitzel, fabulous döner kebab, and even the Italian food is better than i've ever had overseas. Unfortunately, that isn't what i crave. Herbs and pickles and salt and mother sauces just don't excite me. I crave spice and heat and food that makes me quiver and sweat. Never was that more pronounced than last week where i spent almost 6 days in bed with a flu. I now know better than to hope for bold Thai flavors here, so i stuck with pho, since at least there is a small Vietnamese population on the east side. It was more comforting than pumpkin soup or minestrone or whatever bland food Europeans like to eat when they are sick, but by Saturday i was so dejected i wrapped myself up and made a trip across the road to buy ingredients to make it myself.
I've never made pho before. I also have no idea how to do it, especially not with the woeful selection of ingredients available on the Asian shelf of my local supermarket (note: there is no aisle). But i figured i could make a stock with ginger and garlic and bones and basil and at least it would have some flavor. I guess it started out like a consommé prepared by a deaf, dumb and blind kid, but with enough fish sauce and chilis and limes and things it burned my throat and my nostrils and i felt better. Sunday i felt well enough to walk to a recommended Vietnamese place in my area. It was okay. It's so sad that within a stone's throw from my house there are countless Indian, "Asian", Turkish and other ethnic restaurants, none of which make food that tastes wildly different to the steak and pasta joints.
I do like schnitzel, you know. It takes me back to my childhood, especially with mushroom sauce and pommes. I don't even mind all the other European cuisines, but they're just sustenance to me, like the industrial cafeteria slash slop hall on the corner i sometimes go for lunch with my colleagues. The more adventurous among them also hit up the odd Asian place and of course the one Mission burrito joint in Berlin, but God i never thought i would miss my old standbys so much. Melbourne just fucking killed it for food, it's probably the best food town i've ever lived in. Yeah, the Mexican was woeful, but the Malaysian, the Cantonese, the Indonesian, the Thai, the Singaporean, the Sichuan, the Thai, oh my beloved Shanghai Dumpling House... Or the Indian in Toronto, practically a religious experience. Oh God, the burgers. And if i hadn't had pho in Toronto i might still be mildly impressed with the Berlin incarnation. And without a doubt, i choke up with fernweh when i think of the Mexican food i left behind in California, Nevada and Texas (not to mention, well, Mexico). All the tastes i love, the things that make me so excited about food, now i can only find in a tiny packet of salty plums, Indomie and a bottle of sriracha from the Asian grocer.
The other night i cooked up my favorite krapao gai, or my local approximation of it, expertly seasoned with a salty tear of regret. I mean, i wouldn't leave Berlin for the world. The bar and club scene here just destroys everywhere else in the world, and the thought of living somewhere where i can't drink for 24 hours straight, wake up on strange couches listening to techno, or paddle in the river with a 50 year old guy in a top hat... These bizarre and wonderful experiences here are worth a million boring rustic gnocchis with capers or pork knuckles with mustard and sauerkraut. And i know if i traveled to this hip restaurant here or that hip restaurant there i would quite probably be able to eat as well as anywhere. But i don't want to travel for food. I want it right here, on my corner, where i can grab it stumbling home from a bar, or shuffle out on Sunday morning with the flu and feel satisfied. And while a crusty fresh brötchen with a few slices of gouda and salami is a true delight, sometimes i really miss the stuff that turns my face into an emoji.
In short, i am hungry and uninspired. I have sometimes contemplated visiting Asia, mostly for the food, and although i really hate the idea of traveling somewhere where i can't speak the language and therefore will miss the interaction i so enjoy when visiting a new place... i am getting very tempted to take a trip soon. Be that godawful tourist who can barely communicate with the people around him, blitzing through the highlights between projects in the office. It seems like such a waste of money if i'm not going to actually stay around a while. But i guess that's what vacations are for when you are living in Europe. To boldly go where man makes delicious food.
And probably experience explosive diarrhea over squat toilets.